While Barbados has made considerable progress in terms of its treatment of people with learning and physical challenges, it still has a long way to go.
This warning today from former Principal of the Learning Centre Dawn Rudder, and President of the Barbados Association for the Correction of Learning Disabilities Reverend Dr. Johnny Tudor.
“Yes, there have been many changes for the better, but we need more people within corporate Barbados to give these children a chance to prove themselves, because they are very talented and do some outstanding work,” said Rudder, who has worked with special needs children for more than 30 years.
“Some of the students come here after the Common Entrance Examination with low scores owing to their learning disabilities, but we ensure they leave here with some marketable skill. I think the wider society needs to do more for them, especially in terms of giving them job opportunities, because these children are very focused when you put them to work on a project of any kind,” Tudor added.
The comments came as the centre welcomed a very special guest, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, as it marked African Awareness Day.
Rudder pointed out that it was the first time a Governor General had ever visited the school, and described it as “a good experience for the children, since they get to see her in person as opposed to just seeing her on television or in the newspaper”.
The children were indeed very excited to see Dame Sandra, emitting loud cheers as they watched her enter the school from just outside their classrooms, and eagerly greeting her as she reached out to them after the morning assembly.
The Governor General enjoyed performances from the students, who danced, played drums and sang folk songs, along with veteran entertainers the Mighty Gabby and Smokey Burke, who have volunteered their services to the school for many years, and Dancin’ Africa.
Dame Sandra was impressed with the quality of work the children did to mark African Awareness Day. The students, who range in age from five to 18 and whose classes are divided between levels one to eight depending on their ability, did projects on African griots, the history of the tuk band and other elements of Afro-Caribbean culture.
The Home Economics students also prepared samples of indigenous dishes from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, and St Vincent, while the Cosmetology students displayed examples of the traditional African hairstyles they created.
Dame Sandra also received a bouquet of flowers and an ironing board made by students in the Carpentry class.