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.