Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has pledged to identify funds for the establishment of a special diagnostic centre at the Sam Sharpe Teacher's College in St. James.
The facility, he said, complemented by a special education unit, will prepare teachers to address children with special needs within the education system. “They must be reached where they are and I support the idea that there is need for a special education teacher in every school across Jamaica,” Minister Thwaites stated.
He was delivering the main address during the opening session of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Summer Institute held on July 16 at the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Granville, St. James.
The Education Minister pointed out that the resources are not available to have students with special needs removed from their present schools, therefore, the burden falls on regular teachers and those who were specially trained, to engage and equip themselves, in order to diagnose and refer students for therapy.
"It is, therefore, the principle and focus of our investment and attention to ‘do it right the first time’… by engaging the child, wherever possible, to deal with whatever cognitive, social or spiritual difficulties emerge, rather than to have them fester into full blown pathologies, which cause so much waste, trouble and disappointment later in the system,” he stated.
According to the Education Minister, there are many well-trained special education teachers, who are not deployed in special education, and “we need to be able to re-assign and re-involve these teachers, who are presently under-employed and under- servicing in several hundred Jamaican schools."
"We need to be able to attract them into those schools without a loss of position, tenure and whatever benefits they have. They must be able to ply their trade where they are in greatest need,” he contended.
He said the Ministry hopes to encourage a system of voluntary re-location, which “will encourage those teachers and have them placed where they can do best in the field of special education. This is of great importance if we are going to meet that need."
The JTA/CTF Summer Institute is being held from July 16 to 27 under the theme: ‘Reaching every Learner'.
It is aimed at equipping teachers to effectively meet the needs of students, who have been left behind or overlooked due to their varying education needs.
By Glenis A. Rose, JIS Reporter