Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn announced in the House of Assembly on Tuesday that his Ministry will soon be hiring a Special Needs Officer to assist differently-abled students.
During his budget debate contribution on 11 February, Hon. Walwyn disclosed that the education specialist is being sought and will be hired soon: “We are now going to be advertising for a special needs officer that will help us to pull the programme together and also to work very well with health to get the issues so that the needs of the differently-abled students and people can be met,” he told the House.
The Education Minister explained, “When we took over as government we made a sub heading in education for a special needs progamme to assist those students who were differently-abled. We have done a lot of things to help those students who are differently-abled.”
Hon. Walwyn explained that the Territory lacks a lot of the expertise that the differently-abled require and students and parents had to be sent overseas.
Last February during a House of Assembly sitting Hon. Walwyn announced that his Ministry discussed a short-term consultancy geared at reviewing the current special education needs in the Territory and to advise on the way forward.
The Minister told the House that at present, parents of children with special needs are challenged to provide their children with the required assistance. He also noted that during a meeting with the parents he was informed that some have had to relocate in order to have their child’s needs met:
“I met quite recently with the parents of children who are differently-abled and it is high time that we begin to properly address the needs of these children. We will need various expertise such as Diagnosticians, Occupational therapist and the like within the ambit of the Ministry of Education to provide the much needed services to these students. I am calling on all members of the House of Assembly to join me in getting this issue fixed once and for all. It can no longer be accepted that parents must relocate to get the help needed for their children,” the Minister disclosed.
Hon. Walwyn stated that within recent years the Territory has had a number of students being diagnosed with various behavioral problems. “Instead of – sometimes – casting these children aside as just being rude, our system has to be better developed to properly diagnose behavioral issues such as ADHD and provide the necessary support to students so that they too have a positive experience matriculating through our school system. But Madame Speaker, we must first build this system and that is what we are now trying to begin,” he declared.
The Minister added that the general aim is inclusion for persons with special needs: “At this juncture in the development of our Territory, we need to ensure that all Virgin Islanders and residents have opportunities to utilise their God given skills and talents to be part of our society and contribute to its development. It is my intention to have the Ministry of Education and Culture spearhead the exploration of inclusive education to allow our differently-abled residents the opportunity to advance as far as they wish in our formal education system,” he announced.
Hon. Walwyn also told the House that the journey to inclusive education will not be an easy one, but he said that it is a journey that the Territory should have started years ago. Additionally, he said that it is a journey that Government now owes to the many differently abled Virgin Islanders.
“This issue is particularly vexing to me because for decades we have kept differently-abled Virgin Islanders on the outskirts of our community. As a developing Territory, we must summons the courage to face the opportunity to mature as an inclusive society, with all Virgin Islanders striving to be their best and advance our country, regardless of their abilities.”