Fifty-five children with various types of developmental disabilities have successfully completed the special intervention curriculum of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP).
Of the number, 44 will be enrolled in special education primary-level programmes, while 11 will matriculate to the regular school system.
At the graduation ceremony, held on Wednesday (July 20) at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica Bethel Temple, 6-8 Central Avenue, Kingston Gardens, the young graduates were presented with certificates and school bags, in preparation for the next stage of their education.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Karl Samuda, said the Ministry has been working extensively to build greater awareness and acceptance of children with disabilities within the Jamaican society, so that they can all receive equal treatment.
He congratulated the students for their hard work, noting that “they have done exceptionally well from all indications. These children are poised to do great things wherever they are placed”.
“The records will show that our graduates are now attending traditional high schools and performing incredibly, and I am proud to say that this programme has been a huge success,” he said.
The Minister’s message was delivered by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Colette Roberts Risden.
He charged the parents to continue nurturing children with disabilities, so that they can grow and develop while realising their dreams.
“Children with disabilities are in need of your love and your care and your patience and they have the same rights as children without disabilities… . Ensure that you are an example for them to emulate,” he said.
Minister Samuda said the ESP has been one of the most impactful educational programmes in Jamaica and saluted the staff at the institution for their invaluable contribution to the undertaking.
“Since its inception in 1975, the ESP has been changing the lives of children with developmental disabilities through therapeutic interventions, and providing hope to their parents, guardians and caregivers. Over the period, thousands of children with disabilities have benefited. In the past year alone, the staff of the Early Stimulation Programme have interacted with nearly 4,000 children islandwide,” he noted.
Mr. Samuda informed that the institution has been working miracles with the outcome of their interventions.
“Many children have been able to walk and talk in spite of medical prognosis that said they would never have attained these milestones,” he said, and lauded the partners for their continued support to the programme. Director, ESP, Antonica Gunter Gayle, encouraged the parents to continue exercising patience with their children and work with them to be their best.
Valedictorian, Aiden Clarke, thanked the parents, families and staff of the ESP who have helped them. “Continue to help us as together we shine,” he said.
The ceremony was attended by family, friends and ESP staff; representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Education and Youth, Guardian Life and Digicel Foundation.
Established in 1975, the ESP is a special intervention programme catering to children up to six years old, who suffer from various disabilities.
Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the programme forms part of the Government’s social safety net, designed to assist the vulnerable and poor in society.
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