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Say It Ain’t So

Posted on: September 13, 2012

My response to comments made in this article 

I find it quite unfortunate and totally unnecessary; the Hon. Minister’s attempt to change the tone of the message to give the public the impression that I have been dismissive of the contributions of everyone in the field of special education or her defensive posture. Again, I encourage everyone to go and read the article which appeared in the Sept. 3rd issue of the Daily Observer. Everything the Minister mentioned that the Ministry has done was highlighted in the article. The intention was very clear. The state of affairs as it relates to special education is unacceptable and for too long all the ministry has been saying is that they’re working on a plan.

Would it be fair for me to interpret what the Hon. Minister has said re: “… persons who have only recently taken up special education as an interest” to mean that if I start a domestic violence interest group today that we should have nothing to say about the lack of adequate support services available because we’re a “jus come”? And if I do say that, it means that I’m being disrespectful or showing disregard for everyone who has ever done or is doing anything in that field? Farfetched don’t you think?

If a group says that we need to put a proper juvenile system in place so that when we expel our 14, 15, 16 year olds from schools that there’s a safety net to catch them because if we don’t we’re setting ourselves up for an even bigger problem because these kids don’t just fall off the face of the earth or die, they become adults – And if we’re ever to believe any stats or study that has ever been done anywhere we will know that not having a proper juvenile system in place will lead to (potentially) more criminals, over-crowded prisons; a bigger burden on society. Does that mean they’re being disrespectful or that they disregard the work that the parents who’ve tried, the teachers, the counselor, the neighbor, the community, the police have done? Am I the only one who thinks that even those same people (may) want more and are (probably) just as equally disappointed about the progress being made?

When the Minister says that issues such as a lack of parent involvement and teacher quality which tops the list of contributing factors why public schools are under-performing in the Common Entrance Exams. I’m sure the Minister hardly expects that the parents who are “involved” to feel that she’s being disrespectful and disregarding “their” efforts.

Whether or not ABILITY started last year or yesterday is a non-issue. The discussion is about the lack of any substantial progress being made in special education in Antigua & Barbuda.

So yes; I don’t expect everyone to agree with my sentiments and that is not always a bad thing but please don’t change the tone of the discussion to anything other than what it is – A campaign for improved educational provision for those children who have been excluded from or marginalized within our education system because of their apparent difficulties. I was under the impression that we had all acknowledged the importance of parents in matters relating to education and that we all agreed that we play an important role. Well, I. Am. A. Parent. An “involved” parent…

Here’s the Ministry’s current record:

Talk of a Diagnostic Centre: I’m not against this at all but as I’ve said before – After diagnosis then what? Plus it suggests a sort of narrow interpretation of our educational difficulties which to me only prevents progress in the field. It still does not answer the question why our schools are failing to teach so many children successfully.

Special Education Council (an advisory council): I have quite a few concerns with regards to the setup of this council. This isn’t an attack on the competence of the individuals who sit on this council. Absolutely not! But consider as I have that the Chair of this council is a senior executive within the Ministry of Education. How can/does this person now play the role of advisor? More than likely they are already a part of the decision-making process within the Ministry of Education – How do they then play the role of advisor? I’m just unable to see the reasoning behind this. Also, keep in mind that the Minister of Education is under no obligation to accept the advice of the council. So I will agree that the council is a step in the right direction but my concerns remain with regards to the structure of it, which is probably why we’re not seeing any real effects since its establishment. However, an advisory council is not answerable to anyone but the person/office it advises and the buck has to stop somewhere – And I say, that’s the Hon. Minister of Education and by extension the team (Ministry) which carries out their policies. 

Offering Scholarships in Special Education: I’m all for getting more qualified teachers! But it’s great to offer scholarships but they need to fit into some larger plan. 

Adele School: As I’ve said before; the Adele School is overcrowded and under-resourced. They are doing the best they can with what they have. However, I do not agree that the building of an additional classroom is the answer to what are systemic issues. It’s just adding to the problem.

Some recommendations were made in the September 3rd article. To recap, they focused on: 

Legislation: We need to make sure that our educational act emphasizes the responsibility to respond to student diversity. Antigua & Barbuda has signed onto the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2007. What meaningful steps have we taken toward ratification of this convention? 

Do – Let’s “Try” something: I believe that pilot projects are usually a great way to start. It gives you a chance to work on the model, to seek out the innovators, gives you the opportunity to prepare the people who can then be used to lead the implementation process. 

Education and Training: Teachers will need the skills and the self-confidence to take these new proposals into the classroom. This is how improvements will take place – And confidence comes through experience and training. They will need this so they can support each other and encourage experimentation with new ways of teaching. Currently the lack of flexibility and the rigidity in the methods of teaching does not favor the participation of children who might experience difficulties in learning. But a lot of this depends on… 

Support: If what is going on now is any indication of how important a role support plays when attempting to bring about change, I don’t know what is. Community participation is important, especially parent involvement. And finally; 

Data Collection (Research): Put simply; it’s an important quality component. The better you get at collecting relevant and accurate data the better decisions you make. Year after year we hear of an education budget but it’s difficult to say whether there is any correlation between the amount spent on the education system and its ability to be effective in responding to diversity.

I’m an ordinary mom. The only special interest I have is for my son and others like him to have equal access to an appropriate and adequate education. Actually the more I learn about this, the more I realize how reasoned changes would improve education for all kids. I’m proud to be able to speak up and out for them and even more determined not to stop, not even when change comes – After all change is constant. This is how things continue to evolve and get better. I hope I can get more people to join me.

So yes; there are folks who have contributed a lot to special education in Antigua & Barbuda.

And yes; I’m thankful for their contributions and the assistance they’ve given to so many children including mine.

But if anyone wants to know; yes; We. All. Want. More!

Hon. Minister of Education; thanks for all you’re about to do.

Salma Crump (Involved Parent)

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3 Responses to "Say It Ain’t So"

It is really interesting but not surprised of the Minister’s misguided remark. I have been saying the same thing over and over, they think that am a trouble maker. When ever you hear the budget for Education, 99% is geared to general education. Numerous times I have called the ministry and all i hear, we working on, like our children doesn’t even exist. The Adelle school, it nothing but a day care. That school been in existence for at least 30 years. Since then, I doubt the kids has been properly diagnosed, or have an IEP. Such a large school, not even a nurse on hand. The yard space in inadequate, now they add a new class to decrease what they already had. It appears, that most of the parents has more loyalty to the principal, than the advancement, of their child’s education and after school life. The school seems that have all students on one level, when these kids has individual needs. There is no therapeutic classes, community classes, Learning for independence etc, in their minds, when they are done from the Adelle school, they shift them to the Rehab Center.

In reference to the Council, I do agree with you Selma, the Council is not set up right. Everyone from that Council is from the Ministry of Education, these same individuals have been in Ministry for some years. The Council should have Rep from the Ministry, A lawyer, a Pediatrician, Psychologist, Rep from Social Transformation, Counselor, one or two trained Special Education Teachers, Speech & Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Sports Adviser, and Two/three parents. Our country signs all sort of agreements concerning the rights of persons with disabilities which have not been ratified to this date. They have chaired the international Human Rights Committee, and we are still behind on this issue. The Embassy in Washington DC sits on these committees at Organization of American States and what. It seems as though these agreements signed by our country, and the involvement on these committees at its highest level, is a matter of status quo for the country, and an addition to the representative’s resume.

I like the way you put it Maylene, re: Adele School – They’re decreasing what they already have. For some reason there are some folks who think that our kids should accept “whatever” is being dished out to them – And we (as parents) shouldn’t say anything. So they build another classroom at Adele – And I you notice something – Just the timing alone of project tells you that it was a last minute decision. And that’s how I see their planning to date… LAST MINUTE! How does adding another classroom change anything? How will a (planned) diagnostic center change anything in the classroom? Like anything else it has a role to play but it certainly can’t be “the plan”.

Thanks for your comment Maylene.

your most welcome, we are our children’s advocate,

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