Children with special needs and disabilities are being marginalised by mainstream schools in Saint Lucia as the system does not incentivise educators to be inclusive, if a parent wants their child to be in public school she needs to have the resources to hire a full time baby sitter to remain with the child at all times during school hours.
The government is misjudging the financial impact of allowing class teachers to determine if a special needs child will be allowed in the class room or a head teacher to allow a special needs child into the school. With rising numbers of pupils with special needs unable to be accommodated in mainstream schools and very little being taught in the two special needs centers on island, special needs children who are gifted are being marginalized for being different by the entire system.
“Poor parents are expected to cover the cost of school baby sitters and the financial pressures can make them reluctant to admit or keep pupils in school" one parent told us. “Another barrier is that the perception by teachers and principals are that schools with high numbers of children with special needs may also appear to perform less well against performance metrics.”
“While the Government via the Ministry of Education and Social Justice will say we have improved special educational needs support to put families at the heart of the system and give them better choices in their children’s education, whether in mainstream or special school,” speaking with parents of special needs children this appears to be a non existent policy.
We therefore advocate strongly that parents with special needs children be given the same opportunities to choose a school of their choice for their children's education and that the government provide the necessary resources so special needs children can be educated in mainstream education.
“We hear awful stories every day of autistic children who are being held back from getting the education they deserve because schools don’t understand or can’t meet their needs or parents cannot afford special needs assessments. This can be devastating for them and their families, and mean they lose all faith in the system.
We continue to ask for your donation to support children by providing special needs assessments to give special needs children of poor marginalized parents a chance to get an education.