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Learning disabilities in West Berbice being addressed

A section of the gathering at the launch of the Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme.

Educational under-achievement in schools mainly among boys in West Coast Berbice is being addressed through a project being undertaken by a former student of one of the schools in the area.

The “Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme” in the Trafalgar/Union Community on the West Coast of Berbice was launched on Tuesday.

The project is  the brainchild of Mr Sherwin Fraser, a recent scholar under the Australian Leadership Programme and alumni of the Number 29 Primary School. The project represents a community based intervention to address the learning difficulties and disabilities as well as general underachievement amongst boys.

Project Coordinator Fraser, in his address to the gathering present, stated that the project is designed as an intervention programme to assist children between the ages of 5years to 11 years with learning difficulties and to enhance their capacity for learning by equipping them with vital skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Fraser said such an initiative is relevant to any sustained effort at improving education in Guyana, since research and statistics have shown that a large number of students in Guyana and at the Trafalgar /Union community are suffering from dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia that all either separately or collectively retard their reading, writing and numeracy skills.

“Evidence of this can be seen in the inability to read, spell, write, listen, reason and count in satisfactory manner at that age group. Learning Disabilities it was noted that if not detected at an early stage of life can become a life-long problem,” he said.

The project is expected to last for eight weeks in two phases. The initial phase being the training of eight (8) teachers from the No.29 Primary School in current strategies and techniques used in literacy and numeracy. These teachers will then be utilised in the second phase of the project to assist in the administration of the programme through direct instructions and teaching. Approximately 120 students are expected to benefit with 67% being boys and 33% girls.

Mr Fraser stated that the programme is the “first of its kind in Guyana that will be utilizing a three tier model of whole school approach to intervention which has been adapted from the education system in Queensland, Australia. This model will see the use of explicit teaching in response to achievement data, targeted teaching as well as intensive and collaborative teaching in critical areas such as reading, writing and mathematics.

Additionally, students’ critical thinking skills, self-awareness, social interaction skills, cognitive, meta-cognitive as well as coping and resiliency skills will be developed” Monitoring and evaluation is expected to be done daily and progress reported on a weekly basis. At the completion of the project, it is expected that 95% improvement in students’ performance will be achieved.

This programme has been funded mainly by the Australian Agency for International Development- AUSAID, with local support from private sector entities. The initiative is being undertaken with support from the staff and students of the Number 29 Primary School, PTA as well as the Trafalgar Union Community Development Council.