Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave yesterday advised students of the Irving Wilson School they should follow in the footsteps of the President of the Senate Kerryann Ifill.
Sir Elliott told the special needs students that as they sought to achieve great gains in life, he highly recommended as their role model Senator Ifill, who despite being visually impaired, had defeated the odds and accomplished academic success.
“I have known the President since I became Governor General, and I found that she was a very brilliant woman, always cheerful and radiating happiness wherever she goes. She is able
to hold down that most important post with dignity and poise,” Sir Elliott said to the students as the senator sat before him.
Ifill, once a proud student of the noble institution, had paved the way for persons with disabilities not only to be included in mainstream secondary education, but also to be a contributor to the development of Barbados at the highest level, the Governor General added.
He also urged the Irving Wilson students to acquire skills that would enable them to make a contribution to their own development and that of their country.
Sir Elliott congratulated the principal and staff of the Irving Wilson School for their efforts in assisting students of the institution. He acknowledged working with students who had special needs was hard, but encouraged the teachers to hold on to their patience and to be cheerful.
The Head of State said he was pleased to attend yesterday’s activities after being advised to by a friend, to lend support to the Ministry of Education’s effort in ensuring all young people in Barbados had a chance to obtain a good education.
He also commended the non-governmental organizations and clubs that had made significant contribution to the “effective functioning” of Irving Wilson.
“I am pleased to note that support from these bodies helps the school to do what it wants to do, and I wish to thank them on behalf of the people of Barbados, and urge them never to grow weary,” he said.
Sir Elliott also praised those students who delivered moving drama and sign language presentations, as well as played his favourite song The Ash Grove on their instruments.
Delivering the welcoming remarks, principal Wendy Blackman thanked the Governor General for his visit to the school. She listed and spoke highly of a number of past students now reaching for academic heights either at primary, secondary or tertiary mainstream institutions.
She also said that thanks to Barbados’ excellent health care system, the number of blind and deaf students had decreased significantly.
Four students with autism were on the school’s roll in 2010. Since then, every year a class of students with autism was included. The school thus now caters to three disabilities: deafness, blindness and autism.
The school had observed the potential of some of these students, and, presently, two children with autism are at the neighbouring Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary and will be taking the 11-Plus Examination in 2017.
“To be a teacher of special needs, one must have the patience, understanding and love to be able to fulfil a day without frustrations and stress,” principal Blackman said.