The Ministry of Education said 25 teachers countrywide have completed initial training in sign language while another set has undertaken training in Braille, as it seeks to provide education for all groups of learners.
According to a press release from the ministry, the training was organised by the Special Needs Education Unit and the Deaf Support Group. On completion of the session four schools, two nurseries and two primaries in Region Four and Georgetown have said they will accept learners with hearing impairments.
Allen Neece, a Peace Corps volunteer who is deaf, and who holds a Master’s Degree in Special Needs, has been working with the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) to train special schools teachers to deliver their lesson using sign language. In addition, NCERD is currently offering a non-graduate course in special education for special and other school teachers.
The Cyril Potter College of Education also provides training in special needs education through its Associate Degree in Education programme. Recently too, some teachers at the Resources Centre for the Visually Impaired in Georgetown and Wismar have completed initial training in Braille.
The School Health Unit has been screening early grade learners for vision and hearing impairments and parents have been trained to conduct initial screenings. Children suspected to have problems are referred for diagnosis to the relevant health authorities. This exercise is being conducted in Region Two, through collaboration between education and health professionals. In addition, Volunteer Service Overseas volunteers with experience in special needs education have been assigned to regions One, Six and Seven and training is ongoing at schools where some children have been mainstreamed.
The ministry said it is collaborating with several agencies to enrol children with disabilities who have not previously been enrolled into schools.
In Region One, in the Mabaruma sub-region, 10 children have been enrolled and a few teachers have been trained to tutor them. The Special Education Unit said one child from the group scored 210 marks out of 300 in her last test. “This is a good example of collaboration with family members as some 135 parents, grand parents and siblings are also being trained to work with the children at home,” the Unit said.
The ministry plans to undertake similar activities in the Moruca sub-region and in regions six and seven later this year.
Special needs education is an integral part of the ministry’s 2008-2013 Strategic Plan.
It aims to provide an inclusive education system that enables all learners to fulfil their potential through improvement in access, adoption of relevant teaching approaches and the establishment of support networks. There are seven special needs schools: two units for children who are visually impaired and a vocational training centre managed by the Ministry of Health.