Barbados has been recognized as one of two CARICOM countries that have made the most strides towards making education accessible to its disabled population, according to recent UNESCO studies.
This revelation came from advocate for the disabled, Felicia Gaskin, who represented Guyana at simulated heads of government conference, held at the Hilton Barbados Resort on Monday.
Gaskin explained that Barbados and Jamaica are the standard bearers for the region while in many developing countries, only 10 per cent of their disabled citizens have their educational needs met.
While she did not present actual figures for either country, Gaskin had high praise for the Barbados’ education model, in particular how it is tailor-made to cater to those with special needs.
“For various reasons, there still isn’t universal access to education for disabled persons. In the Caribbean, Barbados and Jamaica have made the most progress in terms of providing for the educational needs of persons with disabilities. Noteworthy also is that Trinidad and Tobago have also made steady progress in this area,” she said.
“In Barbados, education is not defined as a placement within the school setting but it considers and embraces the needs and specialties in the students that move him or her to attainable levels through individual testing,” added Gaskin who pointed out that even at the tertiary level, it is now common place for children with disabilities that do not impair their ability to learn, to graduate.
“After children have passed through the secondary level, some of them have been fortunate to continue their education at the tertiary level. Any person who has the cognitive ability to attend the tertiary institutions of the island are generally accommodated. There have been several differently able graduates from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Campus. Other institutions like the Barbados Community College have been quite amenable to support those with disability challenges, ” Gaskin noted.
However, while holding the country in high esteem for its ability to streamline its education system to meet the needs of the disabled community, Gaskin contended that there were still lots of areas for improvement.
“At the primary school level, there is the special needs unit which brings students with disabilities and the general primary school population into closer contact. However, generally, there is no policy which allows children who are differently able to join their counterparts for courses such as art, physical education and other subjects.”
She also noted that there was little provision for deaf students at the tertiary level, which meant that students with this disability only attained limited levels of academic achievement.