When Credit Is Due
Life is a test. Indeed for some persons it is quite challenging, being filled with setbacks and obstacles. It also varies in length and the amount of assistance received to help us pass this test. The unfortunate, the slow, the handicapped are in some places deemed as losers and are the marginalized and forgotten in society.
Anguilla, the isle of sunshine, resilience and jollification is increasingly doing the opposite for the mentally and physically challenged young people in this society. Government upon government, charity upon charity, teacher upon teacher have been working ever harder to decisively address the needs of our special needs students.
Classrooms are well prepared at most primary schools and offer a blended experience with main stream students, which is commendable. Students are individually assessed and given an Individual Education Plan which is a tailored plan for their unique needs. Students are assisted academically and physically by teachers and students which is truly heartening. It is good to see young students at Alwyn Allison Primary School willingly, joyfully and carefully push students in wheelchairs to classroom or assembly. This has definitely improved attitudes towards people with special needs compared to about 15 years ago.
Just as nice is to see teachers taking students for a walk along the corridor on schedule and as needed. Teachers, the backbone of delivering educational excellence deserve kudos here. They work hard in a field that by its nature is always a hard days’ work. They lift students, push wheelchairs, go at a slow pace and repeat a learning task, wipe noses, wipe tears, wipe off desks and give help in the rest room. They fill out communication books each day for parents to know exactly what transpires in class and parents do the same each morning when students arrive to class.
Make no mistake for most of these teachers are well trained in special education and are doing a splendid job. Their expertise and the available physical facilities are producing a level of special needs education that will soon be more than enough with plenty to share. Take a look at this improving segment of our education system and I bet you will see likewise.
Early morning, Teacher Carol at Orelia Kelly Primary School will be reviewing each student ensuring that books and supplies and lunch boxes are in place for special needs class. At lunch you can find Teacher Violet and Teacher Sue at Alwyn Allison Primary School transitioning from class where they work on cognitive and motor skills to sharing out meals and assisting in feeding those who require help. Beautiful.
Teacher Rhonda Connor at ALHCS who studied special education in Barbados works hard like her older namesake to maximize student ability. She goes well beyond the call of duty to call parents promptly with academic concerns, she takes students on permitted excursions and to lunch to enhance their social skills. Teachers Celestine and Avis at DOVE 2 will call if a student is late for class, will help them to bed and ensure they participate in group classes.
Further up the command chain the likes of Teacher Jackie Connor, CEO Rhonda Connor, Permanent Secretaries Chanelle Petty-Barrett and Dr. Bonnie Richardson have demonstrated well their unwavering commitment to special education. This was felt recently at the opening of the DOVE 2 center in the Auckland Building in The Quarter where parents, civic groups, several schools and government departments celebrated such a facility. It has air-conditioning, beds, adequate space, parking and a beautiful garden.
In recent years we have shared this positive outcome with our neighbors. A group of teachers, parents and students from St. Maarten visited DOVE 1 center and were very impressed. A group of teachers also came from St. Eustatius to the WISE center at Crocus Hill where this education model has lifted the skills of challenged students significantly. I predict we can start doing some special needs training and certification right here if we stay on track.
This is no small task. This is planning, commitment, caring and vision to embrace those who need it most. I am not guessing or speculating on this issue, I know. My son attends DOVE 2 having gone to DOVE 1. He is doing better and is happy as are his parents. We are convinced that the special education deliverables in Anguilla compare well with those in Europe and the USA.
This can pay off bigger than we ever dreamed. Albert Einstein had to wear a dunce cap in class. Professor Stephen Hawking (current famous theoretical physicist) is unable to speak and is in a wheel chair.
Caring for the least among us is a metric of social development. We are doing well and Gods’ willing grow. Our government must be commended for putting people first. It only helps to benchmark the new standards to which our society will rise. Well done good and faithful public servants.