BGIS – When Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, took the salute yesterday during a march past of over 1 700 students on parade from Queen’s Park to Bridgetown, he did not do it alone.
He was joined by his regional counterpart, St Lucia’s Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labour, Dr Robert Lewis. Dr Lewis was part of a delegation, sponsored by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB,) that undertook a week-long study tour of special needs education arrangements here.
Following the parade, he explained the purpose of that visit to the media saying: “What we really wanted to do is look at some of the institutional arrangements you have, as well as some of the policies that guide special needs education. I think Barbados has done a good job in that regard. And, I first want to say thank you to Dr [Idamay] Denny [of the CDB] for this initiative; for accommodating us in terms of the schedule and doing all the logistics in terms of the institutions.”
Describing the tour as successful, Dr Lewis noted that his team was able to see the arrangements in terms of special needs education, and was now able to sensitise its own Ministry of Planning and Development on that area.
“I think the Government of St Lucia needs to move in the direction to make better preparations for students with special needs in our country. The third thing would be for CDB itself to be in a position where when we come to them for funding, they would already be more amenable to it,” he pointed out.
Asked why St Lucia chose Barbados as a model, he replied: “Barbados is only 30 minutes away and the Government has put certain structures in place; it has done certain things that we can learn from. It makes no sense for us to go out of the region to look at facilities when we can do it right in our own backyard.
“I think Barbados must be commended for what it has done in terms of special education centres. But what really impressed me was the fact that they have tried different models, so that any parent could really be in a position to choose what he/she thinks is the best fit for his/her child who needs special attention.”
The St Lucian delegation visited The Edna Nicholls Centre, The Ann Hill School, The Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre and Deighton Griffith Secondary School.
Thanking his counterpart and CDB and acknowledging that Barbados was an interesting place to look at special needs education, Mr Jones added: “We have a very excellent mix of private and public special needs institution, those of longer vintage than others. Whatever we can do within the context of ‘each child matters’, because every child is important, regardless of whatever that need is – special or regular or otherwise – we try as much as possible to satisfy.”
The Education Minister noted that retrofitting of some schools to accommodate special needs students had been done, and where new structures had been constructed, access for special needs was incorporated. This factor, he said, would allow those students to go on to secondary and tertiary level institutions.