Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh held a one-hour meeting yesterday (Tuesday 20th March 2012) with THA Chief Secretary Orville London and officials of the island’s education division to discuss the way forward for the education system in Tobago.
Following the meeting at his Calder Hall Administrative Complex office, London said its primary purpose was to discuss the construction of the school for the deaf at Bon Accord. He said at the end of the exercise it was accepted that the school was already a project under the auspices of the THA.
London said the Minister pledged his continued cooperation with the project and promised that after discussions with his colleagues in Cabinet he will indicate what role the Central Government will play in this exercise.
The Chief Secretary noted that the Minister also indicated some concern about the performance of Tobago schools and the plan to treat with under-performing schools in the country; the under-performing schools in Tobago will also come under that plan with which the THA was willing to collaborate.
London recalled that other issues were raised with respect to certain concerns which the Minister intended to address, among them being the concern of certain teachers about their status, the long periods that they have to spend as temporary teachers or as contract teachers. He added that it was a well spent hour and thanked the Minister for his forthright manner in which he dealt with all the issues. “We believe that if this kind of approach is taken that together we can work to ensuring that the education system brings optimum benefit to all the users in Tobago,” London said.
Gopeesingh said his ministry wanted to assist in the construction of a facility for students of special needs between the ages of 5 and 18 or 20 years. He said on the visit of the Prime Minister to the school for the hearing impaired at Bon Accord it was realised that there was need to assist the THA and the students in Tobago who have difficulties with special needs such as dyslexia, autism, emotional behaviour and psychological abnormalities.
“We needed to put our thoughts together and our ideas for the possible construction of a centre or one or two different centres that would deal with the issues of special needs in various areas of hearing impaired, visually impaired and functional disabilities that would have a wide spectrum,” Gopeesingh said.
Gopeesingh said the meeting also discussed the methodology and the approach to dealing with this matter in terms of stakeholder’s consultation and coming up with the empirical data to substantiate the way forward. He said the ministry’s special education department will work with the THA and the data provided will form the basis for the construction of the centre; teams from Trinidad and from Tobago will work together on this issue.
Gopeesingh was accompanied by Erol Caesar, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry. With London were Secretary of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport Whitney Alfred, Administrator Jennifer Lezama and Assistant Coordinator School Supervision Dr Verleen Bobb-Lewis.