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Dim future for disabled as institutions mull closure

Published:Thursday | August 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

The disabled community could be in deep waters, as approximately 60 per cent of private institutions that cater to children with disabilities are on the verge of closing down.

Ruthlyn James, special educator and founder of the Adonijah Group of Schools for Intellectual Disabilities, yesterday told The Gleaner that it was a serious development which could have severe implications.

"Many of the private schools are having serious financial constraints and (are) facing closure, and it is getting worse. The cost of doctors alone is very high. A lot of these schools would want to open the doors to our children but at the end of the day, they have liabilities among other expenses," she lamented.

Scaling back for September

"For my institution, we cater to at least 100 students and the numbers are similar right across the board. Come September, we are looking to down-size the numbers because the financial constraints are becoming unbearable, and it's sad because quite a number of children will suffer if this actually happens," she declared.

Stating that it takes approximately $4 million to operate the institution for just one term, she called for a sense of urgency in dealing with the matter.

Hands-on intervention needed

"Last year, there was a lot of talk about things to be done but as the new school year approaches, I hope that efforts will be made to facilitate this community. There has to be more hands-on intervention because its not just the academics but a lot has to do with the development aspect," she said.

Chairperson of the Childhood/Special Education Committee at the Jamaica Teachers' Association, Dr Polly Bowes-Howell, stated that it will take a collaborated effort to keep the institutions running as the Government alone cannot do it.

"It is an urgent matter, the latest one we have on the list is Macam (McCam Child Development Centre) and there are others that are facing some serious challenges but we can't play the blame game, so I'm making a call to all stakeholders to get involved and see how best we can collaborate to make things better for our children," she pleaded.