St Thomas Welcomes first Special Needs Secondary School

Posted on 10/6/2016

After years of having to travel from St Thomas to Kingston to pursue secondary-level education, students with special needs will soon be able to enjoy the convenience of having a school in their own parish with the planned construction of a secondary unit by the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID).

The project, which is scheduled to begin in a few weeks and is slated for completion in September 2017, is coming off the ground thanks to the work of the JAID, the Ministry of Education and a contribution of $670,000 from the Digicel Foundation, which raised the funds at its annual 5K Run for Special Needs in October last year.

The school, to be situated in Lyssons, will have three to four classrooms and will operate as a satellite unit of the Randolph Lopez School of Hope in Kingston.

Executive Director of the JAID Christine Rodriguez posits that the institution will benefit at least 50 students as there are roughly 20 who currently travel from various parts of St Thomas to the Randolph Lopez School of Hope.

“Once the children are finished at the primary level, some families cannot afford to send them to Kingston so they’ve just been staying home,” Rodriguez told the

Jamaica Observer. “So having this school is something that is eagerly anticipated. It can be very difficult to place a child with special needs in a traditional high school if their skills are not at a certain level, so having a special secondary programme is critical for children with intellectual disabilities.”

In addition to the provision of secondary education, the students will be afforded basic academic courses and vocational skills training.

“Skills training is important because these students want to be independent as they get older,” Rodriguez explained. “This unit will enable them to equip themselves with the necessary skills to make a living and sustain themselves.”

Rodriguez went on to commend the Digicel Foundation on its continued support for Jamaica’s special needs community.

“I have worked in the special needs community since 1976, and it is not an area that organisations lend their support to for a sustained period,” said Rodriguez. “But the Digicel Foundation has changed that with their phenomenal support over the years and their admirable commitment to the cause.”

The Digicel Foundation was also praised for adding what Rodriguez called “glamour” to the special needs community.

“The special needs community has never been one that is attractive but since the 5K Run, I see Digicel making it glamorous and it’s significant because it has raised awareness of all we do in the community. This is something that has encouraged even more persons to get involved,” Rodriguez said.

This year, Digicel will host the annual Imagine 5K Run on Saturday, October 8 in downtown Kingston. In addition to the JAID, beneficiaries of the event are the Jamaica Paralympic Association, Abilities Foundation and the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf, Special Olympics Jamaica, Mustard Seed Communities, Jamaica Autism Support Association, Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation and Early Stimulation Plus.

Source: Jamaica Observer


5K Run for Special Needs
Christine Rodriguez
Digicel Foundation
Executive Director
Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities
Ministry of Education Youth and Information
Randolph Lopez School of Hope
secondary-level educationsecondary-level education
St Thomas
St. Thomas
students with special needs
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