Home Letters Kudos to the Government for its SEN initiatives
That “SEN (Special Education Needs) classrooms will be accessible in every region” across Guyana is news to get all of us excited. We are all aware, and as emphasised by Education Minister Priya Manickchand, that “disability is one of the most serious barriers to education across the globe.” So, these SEN classrooms that will be accessible in every region are a necessary and most welcome step.
Let me remind the nation that SEN is of global concern, and according to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), “… children’s education is built upon our strong commitment to ensuring that all children, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or circumstances, realize their right to a quality education.” And UNICEF has always been at the forefront of issues such as the one that is now touted by the Education Minister.
Currently, there are some 240 million children with disabilities worldwide. And like all children, those with disabilities also have ambitions and dreams for their futures. Like all children too, they need quality education to develop their skills and realise their full potential. This, I guess, sets the basis for what is about to unfold in Guyana. More so, too many times and in too many places, children with disabilities are often overlooked in policymaking, thereby limiting their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic and political life.
Worldwide, these children are among the most likely to be out of school. They face persistent barriers to education stemming, from discrimination, stigma, and the routine failure of decision-makers. But now I can safely say that Guyana will not be trapped in a neglecting and denial mode.
I note that the word from Minister Priya Manickchand is that the People’s Progressive Party Civic Government is committed to improving the quality of life of persons with Special Education Needs in schools across the region. She stated in her 2023 Budget presentation that, “We plan to put an SEN classroom accessible in every region.” And to cater for this kind of infrastructure, the planning is wonderful, as she explained that, “We also started, for the first time, a specialisation at CPCE [the Cyril Potter College of Education] where, for the first time, they have teachers specialising in Special Education Needs.”
Editor, I can go on to such things as the more-than-300 teachers already registered under the programme, as well as the current 13 SEN classrooms in the region, but I think I have made my point; and by way of reiteration, it is that Guyana, under its current leadership, is manifesting unprecedented maturity in being an all-accommodating nation. No one is left out or behind, and everyone is being treated with dignity.
In closing, I point our people to the fact that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines living with a disability as having a long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment that, in interaction with the environment, hinders one’s participation in society on an equal basis with others. So, this must always be catered for at all times. It will do all of us well to take cognizance of the reality that children and adolescents with disabilities are a highly diverse group with wide-ranging life experiences. They live in every community, and are born with or acquire distinct impairments that, in relation to their surroundings, lead to functional difficulties like seeing, walking, communicating, caring for oneself, or making friends.
Yet they are full-fledged human beings. Thus, when it comes to them, nothing must be left to chance in ensuring that children with disabilities are able to function, participate in society, and lead fulfilling lives. No matter their story, every child has every right to thrive, and not merely eke out a living.