Access to education
DR RADICA MAHASE
LAST week 19,139 students who wrote the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam in May were placed in secondary schools.
In the midst of all the celebrations, special congratulations go out to Jahdiel Duncan, a 13-year-old boy, born with cerebral palsy. Duncan attended the Hermitage Presbyterian School and based on his exam results, he successfully gained a place in La Romaine High School.
Duncan’s academic success gives hope to so many parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Although the numbers are not properly quantified, there are so many parents who will tell you their children understand everything; they can communicate with their kids in their own special way; and all they want is a safe place where they can take their children; and where they will be taught in an individualised manner by understanding teachers and aides.
Each individual with a different ability should be taught in a way that will help that individual to achieve his or her fullest potential, whatever that might be. Some people might be able to excel academically, some might not. This doesn’t mean that the education they receive should be any less in any way. It simply means that the entire education system needs to be rejuvenated and modernised.
The Education Act clearly states that the education system should be organised so that “there may be provided special schools suitable to the requirements of pupils who are deaf, mute, blind, retarded or otherwise handicapped.” Regarding the establishment of schools it notes that there must be “special schools for the education and training of children who are handicapped in such a way as to require special educational facilities for their best development.”
Theoretically, this has been done in our country. Presently we have government and government-assisted special schools but these are overcrowded, with too few teachers, not enough resources amongst other things. The entire system is not as effective as it could be. However, a more concerted focus on public special needs education can lead to the creation of very effective special needs education system in our country.