The Education Ministry is considering looking at “fostering” schools in districts where students with special needs can attend and where the Ministry might be able to provide additional resources.
Mario Villarroel Lander
The Ministry’s Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan indicated this before a Parliamentary committee yesterday.
He said that idea was being examined as a transitional means to deal with the situations concerning students with special needs.
The Human Rights, Equality and Diversity committee examined the Ministry and stakeholders on provisions for special needs students in schools.
Seecharan was responding following concerns from stakeholders.
Consortium of Disability Organisations’ (CDO) Bhawanie Persad said the organisation was seeing many more children with multiple disabilities now and queried what was in place at the Ministry for expanded services to deal with this.
He said an assessment should be in place from cradle to grave and not just at the primary level since children and parents have to be prepared from an early age
CDO’s Tracy Hutchinson-Wallace said T&T only has 18 registered occupational therapists when international standards require 250 since this was necessary in order to test children to get them the type of support they need.
She said there are children in T&T who cannot access secondary education because of their type of testing—and they can only transition into the system via the SEA exam—not because they are not competent but because it was a test of how well they can handle it
“I don’t believe that’s the minimum standard of what we want. We want to ensure all children show competency and thrive also,” she said
Seecharan said the Ministry was trying to move the system along to the “fostering” idea. But he said it could not be done overnight due to the necessary resources and support needed
Seecharan admitted the Ministry needs to relook the resource allocations.
He said while public schools get resources, there are also requirements for resources in particular disability streams and the Ministry was “some way” off from this since some children do not get the required benefits
There are ongoing discussions with the Health Ministry and Education is currently doing a series of surveys in communities through non-governmental organisations to find out what is being delivered, therapeutic services and occupational therapy for disabled people.