JIS News

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has commenced the restructuring and reclassification of some schools to increase and improve learning facilities for disabled children.
Education State Minister Noel Monteith, who was speaking at yesterday’s (Nov. 30) Disability Awareness Conference held at the Caenwood Centre in Kingston, said that mainstream schools were also being made more accessible to these special children.
“We intend to make primary and secondary school fully accessible in every parish. We have already commenced this process and to date, Eltham High in St. Catherine and Mona High in St Andrew, are fully accessible to any student with a disability,” he informed.
The Education State Minister further called on Jamaicans to strive to create and provide an equitable, accessible and inclusive environment for persons with disabilities. “We recognize the fact that these individuals are amongst the most vulnerable in the society. They are capable, brilliant and independent and what they require is an opportunity to demonstrate their potential,” he said.
Continuing, he noted that empathy rather than charity should be shown to disabled persons and highlighted the recommendations of the Ministry’s Task Force on Education to expand the special education provisions.
The recommendations include: embarking on a ‘child find’ to ensure that special needs children are identified and referred for testing and appropriate services; implementing a system for the early detection of children with special needs to begin at the early childhood level; transference of the Special Education Unit to a regional body; introductory training in the nature and needs of special children; and embarking on public education programmes for awareness and understanding of special needs.
Organized by the Special Education Unit under the theme: ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Action in Development’, the conference was held to sensitise and educate service providers on a range of special education issues; facilitate discussion on the rights of persons with disabilities, including emotional and behavioural disorders; and to showcase and celebrate the contributions made by persons with disabilities to the society.
In her presentation, Dr. Maureen Samms Vaughn, Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, commended the World Health Organization (WHO) for its International Re-Classification of Disabilities, which she said was more inclusive and comprehensive. She noted however, that a glaring omission was the non-categorization of disabilities along the lines of behavioural disorders.
“Disabilities due to behavioural disorders should never have been left out of the WHO’s reclassification as a number of children worldwide suffer from disabilities due to behavioural disorders,” Dr. Samms Vaughn said.
She noted that 36 per cent of Jamaican children between 11 to 12 years old, suffered from a behavioural problem, due to a loss or grief from violence.
“These children witness the murder of their parents or friends or hear of their murder and suffer from various behavioural disorders as a result,” she explained.
In respect to catering more to the needs of persons with disabilities, Dr. Samms Vaughn indicated that the problems of limited early childhood identification of disabilities and limited services and facilities, were posing the most serious obstacles.
“We need more schools and services catering to the special needs of persons with disabilities including increased therapy and we also need someone with a multifunctional role in not just Jamaica, but the region, who caters to the rights of disabled persons. If we can do that then we can then start to prevent the secondary effects of these disabilities,” she argued.
The conference included presentations on ‘Emotional and Behavioural Disorders’ and the ‘Rights of the Child with Special Needs’.