SEN Officers reaffirm commitment to improving the quality of life of persons with Special Education Needs

The Special Education Needs Officers and theTechnical Staff of the Regional Diagnostic Centre at Turkeyen, today reaffirmed their commitment to improving the quality of life of persons with special education needs within the school system and by extension Guyana.

National Special Education Needs (SEN) Officer, Ms. Savvie Hopkinson

National Special Education Needs (SEN) Officer, Ms. Savvie Hopkinson said that from the onset of the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, the Officers within the SEN Sector of the Ministry of Education have been compelled to revisit the way they function and engage in their various capacities within the Ministry.

She said that after the Ministry’s SEN Conference yesterday it was recognized that the SEN Sector could not continue to utilize yesterday’s strategies to undertake today’s tasks and expect to effectively meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Deputy Chief Education Officer (Administration) (Ag), Mrs. Fazia Baksh

Ms. Hopkinson told the SEN Officers present that the changes occurring in the environment and institutions must cause them to revisit their work, review strategies and counter the new environmental factors.

Further, for 2021, she expounded on some of the activities and areas which will be given attention in 2021 such as virtual training, SEN awareness campaigns, blind and deaf education, adopting acceptable measures during COVID, coping with home-schooling, mental health and stress management, sign language and parent education.

Director of National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD), Mrs. Quenita Walrond-Lewis

As it relates to parent education, Ms. Hopkinson said that this had been an important area in 2020 when the pandemic started since parents had to take on the role of classroom teachers. She said that efforts must be accelerated in this area and this will be done through virtual forums, home visits while observing public health guidelines and using the Guyana Learning Channel.

She said that the SEN Sector has been adapting and embracing change as a way of progressing. “We are set upon finding ways of maintaining and eventually accelerating the development of students through the departure from old forms and pedagogy to boldly embracing those principles and practices that yield expected results for personal fulfilment and national goals,” Ms. Hopkinson remarked.

Coordinator of the Regional Special Education Needs/Disability Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, Mr. Keon Cheong

The Director of the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD), Mrs. Quenita Walrond-Lewis told the Officers that the vocation that they have chosen is a blessing. She said, “Not everyone can answer this particular call. Your hearts are big, your minds are focused and aware and you have a consciousness that taps into everything that is good and right in humanity when you can see our most vulnerable as deserving, see our most challenged as capable and able and commit your life and work to levelling playing fields, breaking down barriers and building bridges every day.”

She said that advocacy is important to the work done by the Officers because issues of access, equity and quality fall on deaf ears if no one is pushing for change. She told the Officers that collectively their voices become a ‘thunderous roar’ for those who are silenced or disenfranchised.

Ms. Walrond-Lewis said that NCERD will support the Officers’ walk through advocacy, access, equity and quality as they continue to make a positive impact in the education sector and the country at large.

Deputy Chief Education Officer (Administration) (Ag), Mrs. Fazia Baksh during her remarks said that educating a child is not just about writing examinations but to moulding the child and equipping them with the skills that will enable them to lead very successful lives.

She said that though some persons take education for granted, it is the right of all students, regardless of their background, ability or disability. “The inclusion of students with special education needs and disability is a process of meshing general and special education reform initiatives and strategies to achieve a unified system of public education. All children and youth should be active and participating members of the school community that provides quality education through effective teaching and support,” she added.

She encouraged the SEN Officers to continue to use existing resources and tools in new ways to develop systems and practices that will provide benefits in the future. She said that the Ministry of Education will continue to support their efforts and provide the resources needed to sustain this period of online interactions.

According to Coordinator of the Regional Special Education Needs/Disability Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, Mr. Keon Cheong the initiative to have the event was planned to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020 that was observed on December 3, 2020, under the theme “Building back better toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid world.”

He told the Officers that Guyana has come a far way over the past few years as a result of their work which cannot be ignored. During today’s session, the Regional Officers from Districts three, four, five, six, 10 and Georgetown shared on the work done in their districts and the plans for 2021.

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