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Sunday 16 June 2019
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Education ministry failing special needs children

Hearing impaired association member says

Qushiba La Fleur, executive officer of the TT Association of the Hearing Impaired (Dretchi).
Qushiba La Fleur, executive officer of the TT Association of the Hearing Impaired (Dretchi).

QUSHIBA La Fleur, executive officer of the TT Association of the Hearing Impaired (Dretchi) believes the Ministry of Education has and is failing the country’s special needs children. La Fleur made this claim yesterday at the association’s expo to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

The expo was held at Dretchi’s office off Wrightson Road in Port of Spain between Saturday and yesterday. La Fleur and hearing impaired board member Stephen Dookhran spoke to Newsday about some of the issues the hearing impaired community and its association face.

One of the urgent issues is changing the roof at the Dretchi building which prevents members from using the top floor.

La Fleur said to Newsday that the roof is in a really bad state. “In 2016, we would have been having access to get funds from government to help fix the roof but there were some challenges on the board level and since then to now, we have not received the two million dollars it would cost to change the roof.”

She said this was necessary since the space is a place where the hearing impaired “socialise and meet one another.”

“We can’t do that up stairs anymore because of the status of the roof. We have a library area that we cannot use or can’t outfit properly... And that part especially is really dilapidated and every time rain falls, like now, our cleaners have to be bucketing water or we hire janitors to come in and suction out water.

“The water just falls in and floods the library. It goes into the doctor’s office now and the MO labs so we really need our roof changed and that is one of the main things that we really need support with,” she said. But the association is not relying on Government’s help to change the roof. Le Fleur said the association would welcome assistance from private and corporate TT in this.

Asked if enough was being done for hearing impaired children and special needs children in the education system, both Le Fleur and Dookhran said no. La Fleur said, “I don’t think our Ministry of Education understands what it requires for the education of children with special needs on a whole. This is not just deaf or blind but it is across the board.”

Both she and Dookhran also said they believe hearing impaired children should be taught in a separate space from “normal children.”

“Deaf children should not be in the same space as, and some people would have a disagreement with me on this, I am a parent of a deaf child and I have seen these things personally how it happens. They should be learning in their own space, in their language, in their space. The curriculum is too crowded and loaded for a deaf child. We need to revise that curriculum and this is just special needs on a whole.

“They can excel and most people who work with the deaf know that deaf people are quite intelligent but they have to be given the opportunity to show that kind of intelligence and they are not allowed to do that with our education system. Our education system is actually failing our children, deaf, blind and those with disabilities on a whole,” she said.

Dookhran, through an interpreter said, “Education for the deaf is a very special thing but to have them included in the current system as it is, to integrate, them is not going to be beneficial.

“We think it should be done separately with a special focus on special needs teachers. They will learn at a different rate and not the same as all normal people do...”

The association’s 75th anniversary expo highlighted and showcased the skills and talents of deaf people. Beyond Deaf Tech, Deaf Sports TT, Lions Club, Cascade School for the Deaf and Magic Mist were some of the participating organisations in the expo.

The objective of expo and anniversary celebrations, La Fleur said, is to show that deaf people can do anything.

Sunday’s events composed of modelling and presented about 25 hearing impaired entrepreneurs with certificates.

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