Plaudits for the Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud, who is at it again. This time, in continuing to tread unchartered and ignored territories, she is talking about the “Safe Space” facility to accommodate children living with disabilities. The good news is that services will be available 24h daily, so that parents and guardians of children living with disabilities, “… can rest assured of their children’s safety while at work … (Why? It’s because of) … the extension of the Government’s “safe space” day and night care facility. This is big and must be heralded.
You see Editor, the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report summary on disabilities and education is an insightful read. It speaks to issues related to children living with disabilities and education. And I am happy that Guyana is addressing the matter. In fact, what we need to internalise is that any failure to address inequalities, stigmatisation and discrimination, linked to wealth, gender, ethnicity, language, location and disability is holding back progress towards quality education for all. Overall, the report states that “Disability is strongly linked with poverty and marginalisation (and) children and youth with disabilities are among the most marginalised, excluded people in the world.”
I remind all Guyana that it is a mark of progress that the new education goal in the Sustainable Development Agenda contains a reference to disability in two Targets; first, “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations,” and second, “Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.”
I repeat, based on what I have just stated, that all commendations are in order as the “safe space” care initiative was conceptualised by the Human Services and Social Security Minister, “… to protect the nation’s children while creating avenues for women to be gainfully employed”. So, it is a double blessing. I am glad to note too that the initiative is also part of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s 2020-2025 manifesto in which there is a commitment towards “… empowering women and taking care of children and vulnerable groups and encouraging and assisting in the establishment of day-care centres for working women in the social sector.”
Minister Persaud detailed that “The day-care and night care facilities will be extended to all children, including children living with disabilities, but also to make the persons who are providing the service more comfortable to cater for and cope with children living with disabilities and also to put the parents’ mind at ease that when they are taking their children to these facilities, they will have persons who are capable of looking after their children.”
The overall programme, with its lofty and necessary goals, is in its incipient stages, and we need to lend momentum and give support to the Ministry’s Women Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) training programme, and the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA), as these organisations will be at the forefront, and according to the Minister, nothing ‘hodgepodge’ will be taking place. This is because the women involved at every stage and in every category of work will have to undergo comprehensive training, catering to all the children’s needs, and so in the end, we will have “… trained and licensed child care providers, registered with the agency…” doing the actual work.
Even as all of this planning and training are unfolding, we need to be cognisant that “The UN Secretary General has said that “… no person should be denied access to good quality education and lifelong learning due to factors such as disability.”