Enrolled students ranging from 12-25 in age at Genesis Academy on South Camp Road in Kingston are now benefiting from the development of a new play area and sporting facilities - their first exposure to structured recreation and learning through play.
"The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) through the Caribbean Development Bank-funded Basic Needs Trust Fund sought to invest in a project that would contribute to one of more vulnerable groups being better equipped to fulfil their potential," Loy Malcolm, general manager for project management, states.
"The facilities and operations at the Genesis Academy serve to enhance the quality and diversity of education available to students, who are mentally and physically challenged," she adds
The Academy is a skills-training centre providing for students with learning challenges. The curriculum includes life skills, information technology, music, swimming and physical education.
Play and sports are integral components of the curriculum of the Ministry of Education for the programme of learning and development at the institution, which serves a wide range of children with many disabilities. Prior to the investment, the scope for safe and structured physical activities were limited.
The scope of works completed by JSIF include a multipurpose hard court to support several sport activities including bocce, floor hockey, basketball and netball. Also completed was a play area with play equipment; alongside a landscaped space.
According to Principal Donna Lowe, "For many of the students, it will be the first opportunity to go on a jungle gym or a swing. It has been proven as well that recreation is an important part of children's development. It is doing things in a more structured and organised way, rather than just sending them out to play."
The school offers low-density, high supervision and content-rich programme for care and development for students with medium to severe slowness of learning and understanding disability.
keep it creative
"We have from the mild to the severely challenged. Our children are diagnosed with Downs syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy. We have the physically challenged as well. Sometimes the physically challenged are not as intellectually challenged and we need to find a way to engage them. We have to get very creative," the principal states.
The Ministry of Education places students at the school, and the enrolment includes children from families living in various communities, including Allman Town and as far away as pockets of poverty along Whitehall Avenue.
Scarlette Gillings, managing director of JSIF, notes that more than 50 students with mental disabilities will benefit every school year from the project.
"The addition of play areas compliments the school programme with facilities that help to build the skills and capacity to function and cope," she noted.