Implement changes immediately for the education of Special Needs children in T&T
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On March 12th 2019, Independent Senator Paul Richards raised a private motion in the Senate, acknowledging the work done by the Ministry of Education, but highlighting the need for much more. He focused on the dearth of policies, inadequate funding and lack of support for children with special needs. His motion sought to build on the present infrastructure and ensure that ALL children with special needs are provided with equal educational opportunities by immediately initiating and implementing a comprehensive strategy to assist these children.
The response from Education Minister Anthony Garcia was a dismissal of Senator Richards’ concerns claiming that the needs of ALL children are being met across the education system.
The parents of Children with Special Needs and adults with disabilities paint a very different story. Stories range from
- being denied entrance into the mainstream school system when attempting to enroll
- being asked to leave the school with no direction for options
- having to wait over five years for aides that never arrived
- the unaffordability of special education schools and the unavailability of Allied Health professionals to meet the needs of students who have special education needs.
There are not enough schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities and the Private Special Education schools are still waiting over three terms for their subventions payments to be made.
These testimonies do not provide supporting evidence of a fully functioning system.
We call on the Minister of Education, the Honorable Mr. Anthony Garcia (MP) to acknowledge that there are significant gaps and systemic deficiencies in the current public education system as it applies to special educational needs and disabilities, and to make the public commitment that these issues will be rectified with the highest degree of urgency by the Ministry of Education.
The following issues need to be addressed and urgent actions taken:
- The development of a distinct differentiated policy for Special Education that ensures universal access to education for people with special educational needs and disabilities, using appropriate and adequate supports, services and accommodations.
- The Ministry and the Central Statistical Office to collaborate and conduct a thorough and comprehensive data collection and focus group exercise throughout the country, and to publish the findings for public comment and analysis.
- The current policies and procedures which the Ministry employs to govern the management of Special Education in Trinidad and Tobago must be made readily accessible to all citizens and civil society organisations. Information accessibility must be transparent, cohesive, comprehensive and available to families of all abilities and all socio-economic groups. It must be broad enough and responsive enough to allow parents, teachers and civil society organisations to make informed and timely decisions that affect education options, supports, services and accommodations for persons with disabilities.
As of 2015, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A key principle of these conventions and the Ministry of Education’s Education Act is the fundamental right of a disabled child to access appropriate supports and accommodations in order to participate in free primary and secondary school education.
Your support can be added to our voices at Autism Spirit and those of other Autism Organizations across Trinidad and Tobago to help influence the changes needed in the education system for our Children.
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