JIS: The draft Special Education Policy, which seeks to provide access and equity in education for all students with special needs, has been submitted for Cabinet approval.
Education Officer, Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Christina Addington, said the policy acknowledges education as a fundamental right of every child.
“According to the  Charter of Rights, which we relied on to develop this policy, every child is entitled to publicly funded tuition in a public education institution at the primary level. The policy stipulates that children identified as having a special learning need shall be provided with appropriate special education in the least restrictive environment,” she noted.
Mrs. Addington said the policy is focused on the promotion of inclusive education, but acknowledges that some children may be best served in specialised facilities.
She noted, for example, that the School for the Deaf provides the best environment for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
“That is because that is where the personnel is, that is where the accommodations are to be granted, modification of curriculum, and that is where the student will have all he or she may need to develop at their optimal potential,” she pointed out.
Mrs. Addington was speaking at the ‘Reach to Teach’ forum on Deaf Education at the Mona School of Business and Management (North), University of the West Indies (UWI), on Thursday (May 30).
The session, hosted by the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) in collaboration with the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), brought together key stakeholders from the education and health sectors, business and civil society, to develop strategies for the inclusion of deaf children.
Discussions focused on access to primary and tertiary education, as well as vocational training opportunities. Also addressed were gaps in the education and health sectors as well as the social system.
Speaking with JIS News, Executive Director, CCCD, Tashi Widmer, highlighted the need for more early detection and intervention services for persons with hearing impairment.
“We need audiology services in Jamaica to help to identify children who are deaf or hard of hearing and place them in the correct schools. Right now, Jamaica only has one audiologist for the entire island. This impacts their enrolment in school. We are trying to address that, and we want to see more deaf and hard-of-hearing children having access to quality education,” she said.
CAPTION: From left: Jamaican Sign Language Interpreter, Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), Hughen Spencer; Professor, Speech, Pathology and Audiology, Calvin College, United States of America, Dr. Brian Kreisman; Education Officer, Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Christina Addington (centre); and Ministry of Health and Wellness official, Dr. Richard Musaazi, pay keen attention to Executive Director, Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD), Tashi Widmer, who is communicating using sign language. The occasion was the ‘Reach to Teach’ forum on Deaf Education on Thursday (May 30), at the Mona School of Business and Management (North), University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Andrew.