Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has announced the THA intends to construct a school for special needs children in Signal Hill, Tobago.
In presenting the assembly’s $3.97 billion budget on Thursday in the Assembly Legislature, Augustine lamented the lack of facilities for special needs children on the island.
He said Tobago should be “collectively ashamed that, in 2022, we have inadequate facilities for special-needs children.
“We are all to be blamed for the lack of proper measures to integrate special-needs children into the school system.”
To this end, Augustine said the executive has established a special committee led by the Head of Planning, Bobby Andrews, to complete the planning and speedy execution of plans for the development of the school at Signal Hill.
He described the school as a “purpose-built, modern, technologically-advanced” institution for special-needs children on the island.
A former teacher at Speyside High School, Augustine said an architect has already committed his services and those of his students for free to this project.
“Given that we are collectively responsible for their marginalisation, I wish to appeal to all Tobagonians to contribute in whatever way you can to this project.”
Augustine said there will be designated maxis traveling from Tobago East and Tobago North to transport the special-needs children to the school.
He added the maxis will be used until the THA can acquire special-built buses. Support staff will accompany these students on the maxis.
Augustine also announced that from September 1, 2022, occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, physiotherapists, art therapists and diagnostic specialists will be hired and deployed throughout the island’s public school system as well as at the School for the Deaf in Bon Accord and Happy Haven in Signal Hill.
“Currently, we have none formally engaged in the education system.”
He also outlined plans to complete all of the pre-construction works and requirements for the construction of the new $500 million Scarborough Secondary Smart School at Bacolet as well as assessments of other secondary schools for upgrade to smart designation.
During this fiscal year, Augustine said there will be the creation and alignment of the school curriculum with a Tobago-specific cultural and historical agenda which, it is hoped, will reinforce the students and their communities sense of self.
There will also be an assessment of covid19-induced learning losses in schools and necessary interventions to correct the shortcomings.
Augustine said the School Nutrition Programme will also be reassessed to ensure that students are being fed clean, safe and healthy meals.
In this regard, a school feeding observatory will be set up to facilitate timely access by parents to the weekly menus.