Jamaica News, With a state-of-the-art resource centre now in operation at the Mocho Primary and Infant School in Clarendon, stakeholders are upbeat that special needs children in the area will be exposed to the best developmental tools.
The facility, which is equipped with a library, sensory room used as therapy for children with limited communication skills, and electronic devices such as tablets, also serves five other educational institutions in the area.
It is geared at assessing and providing support for students as well as educational empowerment for parents.
It was established through grant funding from Jamalco and the Noble Foundation, which is the charity arm of Jamalco’s majority owner, Noble Group.
Speaking at the official opening recently, Principal of Mocho Primary, Tina Reid, said that some 30 children have been identified with exceptionalities, and they will be the first beneficiaries of the facility.
She outlined that the centre will be available for clinical and educational psychologists and special education officers to assess students in the community.
Prior to its establishment, children from the parish who needed to be assessed had to travel to the nearest facility in Mandeville, Manchester.
“This is a community unit, and schools from other areas will also be able to utilise the facility for their students,” Miss Reid pointed out.
“This facility will serve as an avenue through which parents of students with special needs can consult with specialists and teachers and, ultimately, access strategies on how to cater to their children,” she said.
“Our goal is for all of our students to be successful and to reach their highest potential. A disability should not stand in the way of them reaching these goals,” Miss Reid added.
She said that partnership will be established between the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), to engage parents in non-formal basic, and continuing education, in order to “empower them to provide the necessary assistance for their children”.
Miss Reid, in expressing graduate to the donors, said that the resource centre will provide space where “every child is loved, and cherished”.
Student at the school, Kayla Williams, told JIS News that the children appreciate the facility, and implores fellow students to do all that they can to preserve it because “it is for everybody’s development; so we must take care of this centre”.
Parent, Shimloy Whyte, said the resource centre has brought “happiness” to the community, and will help students to learn. She noted that her son “who loves colours and computers”, will “greatly benefit”.
“Parents, please encourage your children to take care of this resource centre,” she urged.
Member of Parliament for North Central Clarendon, Hon. Pearnel Charles, in his remarks, commended the investment by Jamalco in the special needs community.
“Thank you for the help, and for the teachers who have pursued it,” he expressed.
Managing Director at Jamalco, Austin Mooney, for his part, said that the company welcomes the opportunity to enter into partnership in order to ensure that every child can realise his/her true potential.
“We understand that special needs children come with extra demands, and we stand ready to partner with schools that are in our operating areas, to ensure that no child is left behind because of their ability or disability,” he said.
He said that his company and the Noble Foundation are serious about changing attitudes towards children with special needs.
“Take care of this facility, so that it will be around for many generations,” he encouraged.
Regional Director at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Barrington Richards, said the project, which involved converting the principal’s cottage into a facility to serve the wider community, shows Jamalco’s commitment to education. He joined the call for parents to make full use of the facility.
“Having special needs is not a crime. Here is an opportunity to make a difference in your child,” he said.
The resource centre will also incorporate the school’s numeracy-based activities and the literacy programme for parents, so that they can be more involved in the education of their children.
The Mocho Primary and Infant School has 280 students and 13 teachers.