Education ministry hosts inaugural National Blind Education Conference

Special needs policy ties into ESP 2021-2025-Vision 2030

The Ministry of Education’s Unit for the Blind and Visually Impaired hosted the inaugural National Blind Education Conference, on Tuesday, at the National Library, Georgetown. 

The conference focuses on the current approach to blind education and developing new directions for the future.

Chief Education Officer, Dr Marcel Hutson

Delivering the keynote address, Chief Education Officer (CEO), Dr Marcel Hutson said the ministry has developed a special needs policy, which ties into the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2021-2025-Vision 2030 and addresses the needs of the blind and visually impaired.

The policy, he noted was developed in recognition of the specific educational needs of persons living with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired.

Chief Education Officer, Dr Marcel Hutson presenting an award to Ingrid Peters

The CEO noted that regardless of location and other factors, resources will be made available for persons to access education.

“Every person is born gifted and I believe that, every person, regardless of your circumstances, regardless of what impediment might be in your way. Regardless of whatever, does not negate the fact that, as a human being, you’re born and gifted.”

He reaffirmed the ministry’s commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Four, which speaks to inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Programme Manager of GCOPD, Ganesh Singh presenting an award to Julie Lewis, MS

The CEO also made reference to the establishment of the various schools which cater for persons living with disabilities, while noting the need for a collective approach to tackling challenges these persons encounter.

“Collectively, we could be impactful and so we look forward, as a ministry, for the reports that will come out of the conference… those reports might be able to subsumed into our strategic plan so that it may add value to what we do as we go forward.

Further,The Government of Guyana will be, in 2023, screening every child in our school system, nursery, primary, and secondary for visual problems… The eyes of the children will be tested and they will receive tested lens,” Dr Hutson disclosed.

The report will then be provided to the parents or guardians.

Meanwhile, the National Special Education Needs Officer, Savvie Hopkinson-Hamilton noted that children living with disabilities, whether it is visual impairment, or blindness, need to be nurtured through instruction to develop their intellectual capabilities.

National Special Education Needs Officer, Savvie Hopkinson-Hamilton

She pointed out that educating the visually impaired or blind is filled with challenges, which include architectural barriers, negative public attitudes, inadequate materials and equipment, and the cost of education, which must be met to allow for the students to acquire quality education.

Hopkinson-Hamilton believes that visually impaired and blind students need a sense of integration in the education system and to be provided with the materials to enable them to cope with academic activities.

Participant, Julie Lewis, MS, was awarded for being the first blind student in Guyana to attain tertiary qualification, while Ingrid Peters was awarded for being the longest serving blind educator in Guyana.

A section of the conference

Tuesday also marked 52 years of blind education in Guyana.

Country Director, International Foundation for Electoral System, Meredith Applegate; Programme Manager of Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD), Ganesh Singh; Chairperson of the National Commission on Disability, Vidushi Persaud-McKinnon; Head of the Ministry of Education’s Unit for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Haslyn Richards; and special education needs officers also attended the conference.

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