Adolescents and adults with special needs now have a state-of-the-art facility where they can learn and develop their skills.
Officials today announced the opening of the US$10 million Derrick Smith School And Vocational Centre during a special plaque unveiling ceremony at its Jackmans, St Michael location.
The learning institution, which will be open to locals and non-nationals from age 11, will start classes by May/June with about 40 adults. Children, aged 11 to 18 years, will begin school in September.
The facility, which will have a staff complement of about 30, can cater to a maximum of 70 children and 100 adults
in any school year.
The four-acre development boasts a plot of land for agriculture purposes, a music room, resource centre, therapy suite, play park, playing field with pavilion, and a room equipped with washers, beds, kitchen and bathroom facilities to aid students in their hands-on training.
Benefactor of the modern facility, Derrick Smith, said the idea was born out of personal experience where his grandson was left brain-damaged at the age of two and required special care. Smith said his grandson, now 13, is able to walk unaided, communicate and do other things he previously could not before attending a similar facility in Australia.
Realizing that there was not a facility in Barbados that could further help people with special needs to progress after a certain age, a number of discussions ensued.
“So with this in mind and the progress my grandson had made in Australia, I became committed to there being a special needs secondary school and vocational centre here in Barbados,” said Smith.
After a visit to a similar facility in England by the trustees of the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, Smith agreed to build such a facility here through a private/public sector partnership. About two acres of the land was donated by Sir Charles Williams.
Government will be responsible for the operational costs by way of subvention.
The institution is designed to support the social, emotional, academic and physical development of adolescents and adults with developmental delays. The curriculum will be based on the Ministry of Education’s primary and secondary schools curricula, but modified in order to adequately support the students’ needs.
The students will be able to earn certification in the Caribbean Certificate Of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC), Technical And Vocational Education And Training (TVET) and Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs).
Principal Cheryl Rock said she was optimistic that the institution would change lives. “At the Derrick Smith School And Vocational Centre, we aim to push the boundaries and become pioneers for a change in the educational system. We aim to show how social and emotional development fosters cognitive and academic development,” said Rock.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones said he was impressed by the new facility, saying it would impact on the education system in Barbados.
“The impact on that segment of the population with special needs will be quite great. This adds a needed component to our efforts in working with special needs children,” said Jones.
Adding that the number of children with special needs had “dwindled significantly” in Barbados due to the development of medicine over the years, Jones said the ministry would be carrying out “a wider survey to see where other needs are” so that new programmes could be developed.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the new facility was in keeping with the Government’s mandate to “create a Barbados that is socially balanced”, where every Barbadian is given the opportunity to develop his or her talents.
“Somebody had the courage and the sensitivity to question the status quo in Barbados, to look at what existed, to determine that in the context of what existed, there were some dysfunctionalities, . . . some areas that required a filling in, and having questioned the status quo, these persons decided that they were going to offer an alternative to the status quo,” said Stuart, ahead of unveiling the plaque.