‘Special needs’ education…national database to be implementedBy Jarryl BryanThe Regional Centre for the Diagnosis of Special NeedsAn inaugural Regional Centre for the Diagnosis of Special Needs is expected to open its doors this year, the fruition of a partnership between the governments of Guyana and Cuba; with local authorities announcing plans to formulate a national database of such students.On Monday, a pioneering batch of special needs educators graduated with certificates. According to Education Minister Nicolette Henry, the event was a significant one, more so as there were two male educators in the batch of eight.The minister also stressed the need for more males to step up in the education system. Here she saluted the two male graduates. Henry noted the importance of tailoring education programmes to suit individual needs. To help in this regard, she spoke of a national database as part of her Ministry’s strategic special education plan.“That plan has six broad areas, and among those areas there’s focus for the creation of a national database for students with special education needs. In other words, once a student would have been referred to the centre, subsequent to a minimum of three interventions, the student would have a specific classification.”According to Henry, the national database would help to formulate special intervention plans for these students, in addition to providing numbers that the Ministry can then use to shape its hiring practices.The graduating batch pose with Government officials. Front row, (from left): Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson, Permanent Secretary within the Public Health Ministry, Collette Adams; Education Minister Nicolette Henry; Cuban Ambassador to Guyana, Narciso Socorro; and Education Ministry Permanent Secretary, Vibert Welch“They would have an officially drafted, individualised, education plan. It is with this data that the number of students would inform the Ministry of the numbers of special needs (students). Therefore, the numbers of teachers and support services would be contingent on that. Our plan is to have the centre open for the next academic year, which starts in September.”She revealed that an individual education plan officer would be employed with the centre, serving as a liaison with the ministry. Recommendations would also be made, if so determined, for placements into mainstream education facilities.The official opening took place at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) on Battery Road, Kingston. However, the centre itself will be located adjacent to the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE).The centre is a partnership between the governments of Cuba, Guyana and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Dr Jorge Duvalon of Universidad de Santiago in Cuba is understood to be the project coordinator.Cuban Ambassador to Guyana, Narciso Socorro, also delivered some remarks. He noted that his government remains committed to advancing special education needs in Guyana.“The idea of creating the regional centre for the stimulation of the development of children, adolescents and young people with special needs arose from the heads of state and government who participated in the (summit) between the Caribbean Community and Cuba in Havana. Since then, progress has been made,” he said.“At present, the diagnostics process is expected to begin in the school, based on the condition created with the opening of the centre. In my opinion, this graduation is an important step forward in the future.”The batch of trainers who graduated had been a part of a three-month session undertaken by trainers from the Government of Cuba. They were offered training in psychology, physiology, occupational therapy and speech therapy.