Let me start by saying that we seem to approach major issues in T&T with a “bandage-like approach”. What do I mean by that? Instead of searching for the root issue of a particular problem, we go around in circles placing bandages and temporal fixes to try to alleviate a particular issue without making any serious attempt to solve it and in this way, stop once and for all the constant need of “fixing”. This is what I seek: A proper solution.
The recent news about the possible closure of fourteen private special schools in our country that are funded by the government, seem to have raised many questions from members of the public who are not familiar with the pledge of special needs children, their needs or resources available to them.
There is a perception that children with autism particularly, have schools they can go to and can be easily accessible. I have been trying very hard to fight this wrongful perception by providing facts on national television, newspapers and radio. Imagine the shock, the surprise of many members of the public upon discovering the reality.
There is a constant outcry of why “X” school or “X” organisation did not receive any funding or is not receiving any funding, but the question is how does it meet the needs of ALL special needs children nationwide and not a selected few? As president of APATT I speak to parents regularly, and let me tell you the reality is beyond brutal. There are countless children with special needs in T&T who are unable to access any educational opportunities (Let alone, therapy) and because most of their parents are home-bound, they are invisible to the system.
I have three children on the spectrum but I do not think about the needs of them only but of ALL children with special needs in our country. It is very hard to hear a grown-up man crying over the phone because his child is unable to go to school due to horrible experiences, it is very hard to hear a broken voice of a single parent who is trying to make ends meet and does not know what schools are out there that can meet the needs of her child.
It is extremely hard to listen the details of physical abuse towards a teen with autism by the hand of those who are supposed to know better. It is frustrating to contact authorities to deal with some of these issues and see that the whole system simply does not care and keeps failing them over and over and over again and there is no accountability whatsoever. I hope I gave you just a little glimpse of why my goal is help for ALL children and not just a few.
As I have stated many times in the past, the responsibility of fulfilling basic rights of all citizens lies in government. This isn’t my opinion, and I certainly do not believe in a “give-me give-me” mentality. I am clearly stating what the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 23 and the UN Convention of persons with disabilities Article 7 clearly say as to who are responsible for the educational needs of the population.
Private special needs schools are funded partially by the government, they also charge parents school fees for the services they provide, they do fundraising and some receive donations from organizations or from good Samaritans. Funding through the government seems to be a slow and lengthy process. How different things would be if the government establishes public special needs schools that can cater for ALL children in our country and mainstream those who are able to cope?
How different it would be if the system used is the same as regular public schools. Funding will be available and qualified teachers would be paid directly from the Ministry of Education as they do in regular schools, salaries will never be an issue. Most importantly, ALL children nationwide could benefit. When will the government see the bigger picture?
Now before you tell me but Maria, I agree with you but all of those things take time. Yes, I understand. I have shared some ideas with those in government as to what can be done at the mean time until a proper system is put in place. However, the issue here seems to be a willingness to approach this with the urgency that it deserves and that’s why… here I am, once again blogging about this for the millionth time.
I have a dream…proper public schools for ALL children with special needs in T&T. A proper system in place, all those tears wiped away…only smiles knowing your child is going to school without you having to worry about where you will get the money to pay for school fees… going to work happy knowing your child is properly taken care of and being taught… I cannot believe I am asking for these things in 2017… I hope it is clear now why the government is the only body who can make it happen because they are the only ones with the necessary resources/funding to make it happen. Like the song “Imagine” by John Lennon says …
“You may say I’m a dreamer.” Perhaps.
But I am not the only one.