A few days ago, the results of the infamous SEA examination came out. Parents with tears in their eyes were hugging their children so tightly that they could hardly breathe. If I didn’t know we were in Trinidad, I would have sworn that these children just returned from fighting a long, difficult war in Afghanistan.
Instead, it is the picture of families overjoyed because their children had to pass a very long and brutal 3 hour exam in order to have the opportunity to receive a place in a secondary school. Obviously, we cannot even create a system where all the schools in T&T are equally “good”. So instead of focusing on the WHY this is the case and fix it, we send the sacrificial lambs to the slaughter to pay the price for the ineptitude of past and present governments.
Sometimes I feel Trinidad is stuck in an almost Amish-ambience. We seem to be stuck on time and we are not progressing with regards to certain mindsets. When many countries are focusing their energies and resources to try to cater for the needs of a variety of learners, we still measure intelligence through memorization.
What about the forgotten children who did not place in any school? Ah, I forgot that year after year they get a sympathy cookie from the Ministry of Education stating how concerned they are that some of these children could not perform as expected but that they are putting things in place to cater for these students. So thoughtful.
In one of the many meetings I had in the past few months, I was told by a high official that we have a great Student Support Services Division that are working tirelessly to ensure ALL children with Autism and other conditions are taken care of. In which planet? And yet, no one was interested in hearing the feedback from Autism Parents about Student Support Services or even hear the stories that hundreds of Autism families here in T&T have to go through because their children are unable to attend school.
It is so easy to pay lip-service and pat yourself in the back (Arrogantly) thinking that you are doing a good job. I think it is perhaps the number one hobby of most government officials. “We are so sorry”, “We feel so bad”, “We feel for the parents”, “We are putting things in place” like if saying *that* will make you stop your advocacy and activism.
It certainly does not stop this woman so until CONCRETE measures are put in place, I am not going to remain quiet. Stop telling children and families how sorry or bad you feel for YEARS. And START DOING YOUR JOB. You are being paid to do it and you are paid with OUR TAX MONEY to do it PROPERLY.
We are the ones paying the salary of these officials so don’t think for a second that we should allow ANY of them to think that we are begging. We are NOT. We are demanding what is the right of our children and of every child in T&T. A system in place where ALL children regardless of their condition can receive a proper, free public education in this country.
Most people do not know that a lot of children on the Autism Spectrum in T&T never put a foot in a school before. They do not know what it looks like; they do not know what is to have a teacher or be a student. They watch all of that through television. They do not know because they NEVER experienced it. No, we are not in the year 1818, we are in 2018. And still, there are no proper, free public schools that can cater for their needs. And yet, the parents are paying taxes to support an educational system that their own children are NOT benefiting from.
Why? Simply because we never had ANY government with enough guts to say: “You know what? Enough of this. This is not right. Time to put these families in the front burner! We will put X in place right now.”
The sad reality is quite different. It is cold, hurtful, crude but true: They simply do not care if our children suffer. When you truly care about something or someone, you simply do whatever it takes.
But there is no heart, and when there is no heart, there is no action.
But plenty words.