JIS: Several projects are being spearheaded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) aimed at strengthening capacity in the special education sector.
These initiatives, which are scheduled to be completed by December 2020, include infrastructural work and the training of teachers and school administrators.
The projects are being undertaken through grant funding under the ninth cycle of the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF 9), and involve partnership with the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, whose mandate is to ensure that children with special needs receive quality education.
Speaking in an interview with JIS News, JSIF Project Manager, Kemeisha Batchan, said that the objective is to provide support to the Ministry in addressing gaps at the special education level.
She said data from the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) indicate that there are 7,835 registered children living with various disabilities, including intellectual and physical challenges “so we must ensure that their needs are addressed”.
“Our specific intervention in special needs represents our thrust to be more inclusive, because development has to be inclusive and you have to take into account the [special needs] community and the needs of Jamaica,” she noted.
Outlining the projects to be undertaken, Miss Batchan said that these include rehabilitation of the Jacks River Primary School in St. Mary. The JSIF Board approved more than $30 million for the works in May.
“We will be doing work on the classrooms, sanitation facilities and roofing in order to make the school environment more conducive for students to be able to learn and improve the educational outcomes,” she said.
She explained that the school will serve as a hub for students, particularly from the communities of Mason Hall, Free Hill, Boscobel, and Albion Mountain.
JSIF will also facilitate construction of a sensory inclusive playground at Hope Estate in St. Andrew. The facility will have sensory activity walls, inclusive swings that can accommodate wheelchairs, and other amenities to stimulate the senses.
Meanwhile, Miss Batchan informed that the JSIF has allotted some $40.1 million to support special education training.
Under the initiative, 30 school administrators, particularly principals, will be certified in Inclusive School Leadership.
The Special Education Unit will create content and deliver materials for the course, with the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) providing coordination and quality assurance.
The training is aimed at strengthening the capacity of principals to create an inclusive school environment to ensure children with disabilities can be successfully enrolled in mainstream schools.
In addition, some 20 teachers, selected from various regions across the island, will pursue the General Certificate in Introduction to Special Education at The Mico University College.
“We are also supporting the Advanced Programme for Exploration (APEX) and the Teaching Children with Exceptionalities initiatives, which are geared at teaching educators how to identify and support gifted students and those with exceptionalities,” Miss Batchan told JIS News, noting that some 60 teachers will benefit in each case.
“We recognise that there is a shortage of trained and certified special education teachers islandwide, and so, the aim is to bolster the Ministry’s capacity to provide improved educational experience; better address the learning challenges and to market specialist areas to potential teachers,” she outlined.