Special needs children and young adults in Barbados will be able to significantly improve their lives, when a new US$15 million school opens its doors in September 2015.
The Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre is now under construction at Lears Plantation, St.Michael, is being funded, built, equipped and maintained by Smith and his wife.
However, Minister of Education Ronald Jones said during a site visit that Government will finance the operating cost of the facility.
Jones urged Mr and Mrs Smith, the sole benefactors of the project, to construct more of these schools.
“For a long time in our country, persons with various learning and physical challenges, were not able to emerge into the forefront of life in Barbados. But we have been seeing that change overtime, yes the efforts of the Government in its establishments, but particularly the efforts of the Sandy Lane Trust with the Sunshine School at Perry Gap, where young people from one year to 11, are able to be given an opportunity and a chance to go through that physical, intellectual and spiritual stimulation, emotional stimulation,” the minister added.
“We ask Derrick Smith for more and more of this. We have had a very good relationship with the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust in areas of pedagogy, in areas of meeting the social and psychological needs of some of our students in the primary school system. There have been one of two turbulences, but it is working better now, than it did before.
“Government, through its Cabinet, [is] committed to the funding of the operational costs for this facility. We surely have to demonstrate in a tangible way our commitments to these efforts and wherever we can, that demonstration will be done and will be highlighted, because we just cannot ask for philanthropic gestures without commensurate approaches and commensurate satisfaction of these kinds of efforts,” Jones added.
Although the new school will cater to children 11 years and over who have graduated from the Sunshine Early Stimulation Centre, it will not be limited to such students.
Smith said while the facility will accommodate 60 children, this intake could be doubled, if the Government so desired and the funding was forthcoming.
“This is a huge project that will take considerable more time to finish and to fully equip, but we hope to be open and teaching the children in the secondary school by September 2015 and to try to have the adults settled in the vocational centre sometime before then,” the grand patron and majority financier announced.
He recalled that his motive for building the school in Barbados, was seeing the benefits which his grandson derived from special needs schools in England and Australia, after he was diagnosed with acute encephalitis.
Partner trustee of the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, Phillipa Challis told the gathering that learners from age 11 to 16 will be enrolled in the school section and will receive educational instruction in functional academics.
Challis described this as learning those maths skills people take for granted, counting money and change or measuring for a recipe, language arts, such as writing a letter or a note or shopping list.
“A crucial part of this process is learning adaptive living skills – learning about social behaviour, how to dress, personal and health and safety,” she added.
The children will complete these and creative arts, games, computers and social skills in the morning and will gain experience in the vocational training skill areas in the afternoon. “The young adults aged 18 and up, will be enrolled in one of four training areas – the workshops . . . where they will engage in skills training in the mornings and then will receive educational instruction, life skills, games, computers and so on in the afternoons,” the trustee stated.
The four skills areas are woodwork, sewing and craft, agriculture and landscaping, hospitality and home economics.