JIS: The Special Education Policy, which seeks to fulfil the academic requirements of students with special needs, is expected to be brought to Cabinet for approval within another month.

 

This was disclosed by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, who said it is “urgent and important” that this policy is implemented to cater to the diverse needs of this cohort.

 

“It has been drafted and we are doing some final editing. I am hoping that within another month, I can get it forward,” he said.

 

The Minister was speaking to JIS News following a tour of the Genesis Academy in Kingston today (May 11).

 

Mr. Reid said that the policy will complement the Disabilities Act, which makes provision to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica.

 

“As an Education Ministry, we are following on the requirements of that Act (and we) need to have a policy in place that complements and gives life to the aspirations of that particular Act.

 

“We need to accept that we have a cohort of special needs children and that the education system must be so designed to take care (of) and serve the entire population, whether you are special needs or regular,” he pointed out.

 

The Policy, drafted by the Ministry’s Special Education Unit, will provide a framework for treating with or meeting the educational needs of special students.

 

Its two main goals are for equity and access to educational opportunities; and to promote a system of inclusive education where possible.

 

It also seeks to protect the rights of children and youth with disabilities against discrimination in educational settings; and it will also promote awareness of students’ right to quality education. In addition, it will ensure that students are provided with the necessary accommodations they need in the educational setting.

 

The policy will also speak to how children will be placed, how they will gain access to schools, and provisions that should be available for them, including qualified staff, and the required student-teacher ratio.

 

The framework, which will also provide guidance for assessment procedures and standards, will not only focus on students with disabilities but also cater to gifted and talented children.

 

Additionally, it will take into consideration the role parents need to play in the education of their children as well as collaboration with other stakeholders.

 

Pointing to an important aspect of the policy, which outlines guidelines for school-to-work transition planning, Mr. Reid told JIS News that it is crucial that students with disabilities are empowered so they are able to live independently.

 

He stressed that the Government will be putting in place the necessary plans and programmes to make them equally employable.

 

“We need… to better manage this cohort of Jamaicans, so that they are properly taken care of (and) their welfare is provided for. We have to assist them in transitioning to independent living, because if we don’t, not only are they going to be a further burden on the State, but we know from our own experience from the past, they are vulnerable to abuse,” he said.

 

Genesis Academy is a skills-training centre that caters to students with learning challenges. It conducts speech, music and art therapy and operates a life skills curriculum for persons 12 to 25, and a HEART Trust/NTA-certified vocational skills training programme.

 

CAPTION: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (centre), speaks with Principal of Genesis Academy, Donna Lowe (left); and Chairman, Caryl Fenton, during a tour of the special education institution on South Camp Road in Kingston on Thursday (May 11).