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Teaching disabled children in regular schools requires more preparation

Former Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar

Top Guyanese educators on Tuesday called on authorities to pump resources into equipping teachers to deliver education to disabled children in regular schools and help parents play more meaningful roles.

Former Chief Education Officer, Edvertus Caesar and outgoing President of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Colin Bynoe issued the calls at the opening of the union’s 4th Biennial Delegates Conference being held from April 22 to 25. The theme of the conference is “Enhancing the Professional Attributes Amongst Teachers Whilst Promoting Inclusive Education”.

Caesar said the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) and the University of Guyana should train teachers for different learning styles and preferences according to the students’ sensory inputs. “Teachers would have to be grounded in the integration of technology- assistive technology such as computers can allow a child to circumvent his weaknesses. Carefully selected technology can enhance certain children’s independence and encourage their active participation,” he added.

Caesar also recommended that all schools should be constructed for the “highly challenged” including appropriate play-area equipment. Students, he added, should be provided with “assistive” technologies such as computers to boost their chances of learning.

In terms of administration, the former CEO advocated the establishment of a central Special Education Unit and each of the 11 Departments of Education should have a Special Needs Officer to be part of a multidisciplinary team to include disabled children in regular schools.

The laws, he said, should facilitate the Ministry of Health informing the Education Ministry about the birth of children with disabilities. He explained that such information could be placed in a database  to allow such children’s challenges to be addressed at an early stage. “We have got to face this thing pointedly. Too many of our young people who are disabled or highly challenged are escaping through the cracks because parents feel embarrassed. We must cause parents to understand that these are our children and these children have to play a role in society and, therefore, they must willingly provide information so that the educators, the professionals or whomever can play a role,” he said.

The former CEO identified planning as a critical component of inclusive education, adding that meetings with parents of disabled children would require a different agenda. Overall, he urged the GTU Executive to play more meaningful roles in educating teachers about inclusive education. “Members of the GTU Executive have to stop waiting to out fires and contribute actively to the education of the membership,” he said. “Standards for each discipline must be carefully established and guidelines for appropriate teaching must be available,” he added.

GTU President Bynoe, for his part, said inclusive education would require thorough pedagogical skills, a good personality, patience and tolerance of people regardless of their physical features. “In this regard, teachers require to be exposed to and learn about inclusive education during teacher training as well as be given opportunities for continued professional development throughout their career,” he said.

Bynoe said Inclusive education would require teachers to upgrade themselves throughout their career to effectively engage disabled children.