LETTER OF THE DAY - What a miserable record!
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Congratulations on your continuing efforts to keep the plight of children in difficult circumstances before the public.
I have been in Jamaica for nearly 50 years and apart from during the 1970s, very little progress has occurred in the programmes for children with special needs.
Data from 1997, showing the number of children being served in comparison to estimated need, indicate that approximately 60 per cent needed special education, and 30 per cent community-based rehabilitation (CBR) services. The numbers receiving services only increased marginally over the previous 18 years. These figures included children in early intervention and CBR.
Your article states that 4,400 children are currently in special education. In addition, there are now fewer children in early intervention and CBR due to a reduction in services by the NGOs for lack of support from the GOJ. So the total figure now is unlikely to be more than 6,600, demonstrating no progress in the last 10 years. If anyone can refute these figures I would be very pleased.
In summary, the Ministry of Education has increased its coverage from 2.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent over 30 years. What a miserable record!
Another important deficiency in the ministry's planned programme is to delay detecting children to when they are in primary school. My research shows that children are already showing signs of delayed development and behavioural problems on entry into basic school. Delayed intervention will only allow those problems to be exacerbated and made much more difficult to remediate. Have we not realised yet that early intervention saves money later? All those 26,000 illiterate children annually quoted would be able to read and save so much money in remedial education, as well as their own self-esteem!
I am, etc.,
Dr Marigold Thorburn