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Inclusive Classroom Opens at Bethabara Infant School

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Maureen Dwyer, has welcomed the retrofitted inclusive classroom at Bethabara Infant School, in Manchester, which was handed over on July 6.

“Given the Ministry’s Transformation in Education focus at this time, we welcome the project,” said Mrs. Dwyer, in a message read by Education Officer for Region Five, Janet Shaw Gooden.

Mrs. Dwyer noted that several special education classes have been established in the region, and the addition of an inclusive infant classroom is phenomenal and groundbreaking.

She said that the classroom will address a demand that is expanding dramatically and for which services are needed in different parts of the island.

“The Ministry salutes the effort of the Digicel Foundation and the Early Childhood Commission (ECC). We could not ask for more, and today we are thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking activity. Special education services for our children is one of our policy directives through the child and youth development initiative. It is our hope that through continued partnerships like this, we will continue to provide for our children in a meaningful way,” Mrs. Dwyer said.

For her part, Senior Operations Manager for Digicel Foundation, Jodi-Ann McFarlane, said they have a long-standing relationship with the ECC, and with one of their pillars being education they are deeply invested in seeing that children have access to primary education in Jamaica.

“We are also very invested in special needs education and this project was brought to us by the ECC as their Jamaica 60 Legacy Project to bring inclusive classrooms to Jamaica. So, we did a major investment in this space.

We renovated the entire classroom space and created a specialised stimulation sensory space for children who have mild to moderate intellectual and physical disabilities,” Ms. McFarlane said.

She said they also built a ramp and gave them additional storage, so that they are able to integrate their teaching and learning activities in the space without being too disruptive, and this will give children with different abilities and skills a chance to interact with each other.

Sector Planner for the ECC, Paula Shaw, said they worked with the Digicel Foundation to put the space together, noting that the sensory area allows for one-on-one interaction between an individual or small groups and their teacher.

“It’s good to have a quiet place for the child who has a difficulty focusing, so the use of the sensory room will depend on the needs of the child. It is important for activities to be child-led in the early-childhood classroom,” Ms. Shaw said.

She noted that the ECC is working to have four such classrooms islandwide in the first phase but, eventually, they hope to have one in each parish.

There are facilities in St. Ann and in Kingston, and the ECC is in the process of establishing one in St. Thomas.