#Providenciales, July 12, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – Hon. Karen Malcolm, Minister for Education, Youth, Culture, Social and Library Services attended the DISES International Conference which was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica from June 26-28 2019, under the theme “Inclusion for All in a Changing World”.
Hon. Malcolm said the conference was an enlightening experience that provided her delegation, which included Mr. Jas Walkin, Education Officer for Special Needs, Ms. Betty-Ann Been, Director of the Special Needs Unit, Ministry of Health, Mr. Simon Wiltshire, Director of Health Policy and Planning, Ms. Sriya Smalling, Educational Psychologist and Mrs. Tracey Outten, Scholarship Manager, with a wealth of knowledge that can assist in developing and improving the area of special needs within the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Minister stated; “It was indeed a privilege to be a part of this conference, my team and I have gain great insight into the practices and policies adopted both regionally and internationally in the area of Special Needs Education and we hope to use this knowledge to enact practices and policies to assist persons within our society with special needs. Once, the Ministry identify the children with disabilities and put the provisions in place to deal with their needs, socially and otherwise, then the issue of inclusiveness will be less challenging.”
While in Jamaica, attendees were able to take part in daily sessions that discussed for three days the rights of persons with disabilities, current practices and policies that exist for special needs inclusion both at a regionally and internationally level.
Attendees met the President of Division of International Special Education & Services (DISES) Mark C. Francis and other DISES representatives. DISES is an organization that shares its work around the world to fight for the rights of persons with disabilities.
Highlights of the conference included;
The conference’s opening ceremony was chaired by Hixwell Douglas (PhD) a person described as a professional motivational speaker, educator, counselor, storyteller and toast master for all occasions. Like his friend Senator Morris who was guest speaker at the conference, he is also visually impaired and was diagnosed from an early age.
Greetings were brought by Her Excellency, The Most Honourable Lady Allen, wife of the Governor General of Jamaica. The keynote address was done by Senator Floyd Morris (PhD), Director for the University of the West Indies Disability Studies. Senator Floyd Morris was the first blind person to be appointed to the Senate of Jamaica in 1998 and was the keynote speaker at the National Symposium for Individuals with Special Needs held in Turks & Caicos last year November.
The delegation from the Turks & Caicos Islands were invited to a special “sit-down” with a member of Jamaica’s media where they discussed the milestones reached and challenges in the area of Special Needs in the country. Additionally, Hon. Malcolm and her colleagues were able to share Turks and Caicos Islands Government current initiatives in the area of special needs as well as future plans at a special “update on the region” roundtable discussion.
TCI Delegation noted; The CEC-DISES connect provides a valuable resource for the Departments of Education, Social Services and Health as they organize themselves to work together to advance the well-being, education, and productive development of persons with disabilities. Our interactions with the varied disciplines represented at the Conference was beneficial in that it helped to affirm the progress we have made so far as well as highlight the distance we still need to go. A great deal will depend on defining and refining the departmental/interdisciplinary roles in this process inclusive of strengthening the legislative and policy framework, and advancing the provisions for special needs education.
Some of the topics covered during the three-day conference were:
· Developing a Road Map towards an Inclusive Society
· Evaluating and Implementing effective programs and services for students with Disabilities
· Using the Law to keep students with disabilities in school
· Training Staff to support inclusion
· What special accommodations exists for the children with disabilities in public schools?
· Refining Inclusion: Policies Guiding Inclusion in a Special School
· Measuring Indicators of Inclusive Education in the Caribbean: A Systematic Review
· Preparing Special Education Teachers to Communicate Globally about Disabilities
In addition to Turks and Caicos Islands, there were representations from 9 other nations. However, the Turks & Caicos Islands delegation was highlighted throughout the conference because we were third largest delegation and the only one to have a ranking Cabinet Minister in attendance. At the end of the conference all attendees stated they were pleased with the contacts they had made and hope to share the knowledge they had gain within their countries.
Header: L to R in back row – Tracey Outten, Bettyann Been, Hon. Karen Malcolm, Jas Walkin & Simon Wiltshire along with St. Christopher School for the Deaf Dance Group
Insert: L to R – Jasmin Walkin, Bettyann Been, Hon. Karen Malcolm, Dr. Alice Farling, Mr. Mark Francis, Tracey Outten and Simon Wiltshire