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Minister Walwyn dialogues with special needs providers

Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Myron Walwyn. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Minister for Education and Culture Honourable Myron V. Walwyn has met with the parents, caregivers and teachers of children with special needs to gain a first-hand understanding and appreciation of their concerns, a press from Government Information Service (GIS) stated.

Approximately 50 persons came out to share their views at the meeting held at the Central Administration Building on November 29. Acting Chief Education Officer Ms. Beverlie Brathwaite was also in attendance.

Minister Walwyn commented on his initial thoughts of the meeting. “I was pleased to meet with the group and I am glad that they had the opportunity to voice their concerns.”

The Minister stated, “The group is an important support system in the community and as Minister, it is now part of my responsibility to ensure that their concerns are addressed,” he said, adding, “Much of it can be done in Education but I will be liaising with the Ministers of Health, Works and Labour as they too will have a role to play in improving the lives of our fellow citizens living with disabilities.”

The Minister also voiced his concern regarding the fact that several parents had to leave the Territory to access facilities that cater to the educational advancement of their children. “None of these children should have to leave this country to be educated. Our education system needs to take care of the basic needs of any citizen and it is time for us to do the work to really become an inclusive society and provide the path for children with disabilities to live out their full potential at home in their country,” he exclaimed.

Minister Walwyn added, “Immediately we need to look at our capacity to manage the educational needs of children with disabilities.”

He added, “We simply need more trained individuals in the public system because much attention is needed to care for those children. It is expensive and all parents cannot afford the cost to have their child live a full life.”

President of Parents and Caregivers of Children with Special Needs Ms. Einstein Samuels said they were delighted to accept the invitation to meet and discuss their concerns openly with the Minister.She said, “Our children need a proper education and to be gainfully employed like other citizens so they can be productive and contribute like everyone else. They want to go to college and have careers and should not be kept back because of unfortunate health issues.”

Areas highlighted at the meeting included the need for testing and educational facilities on island for early detection, intervention and diagnosis, the need for more qualified special education teachers in the Territory, the need for a support system to be in place, education curricula that better caters to the children’s unique learning capabilities and more handicap accessibility areas.

Relocation of some parents and children in search of better coping mechanisms, a different form of testing for those with special needs and more equipment were also areas highlighted by the group.

Ms. Samuels said based on the meeting, she is hopeful that more will be done to address the needs of the students as they strive to secure a brighter future. A follow up meeting will be scheduled where suggestions on the way forward and plans will be decided on as a group.

The Ministry and Department of Education is responsible for providing special education programmes to compulsory school aged children who by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioral, physical and multi-exceptionalities are in need of special education.

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