The Government has allocated $50 million for the installation of wheelchair ramps at public educational institutions across the island, with the work to start on Labour Day, May 23 at the St Ann’s Bay Infant School in St Ann.
State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, said that two schools in each of the island’s 63 constituencies will be retrofitted with ramps to facilitate improved access by children with disabilities.
He said that, in total, 126 institutions will be equipped with the amenities for the 2018/19 financial year.
Minister Green was speaking to JIS News at the launch of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation’s second annual Family Expo and Special Needs Resource Fair on Tuesday (May 15) at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in Kingston.
The building of wheelchair ramps at public schools is one of the national areas of focus for Labour Day under the theme ‘Ramp it Up – Fix it Up’. The other is on the upgrading of health centres to improve the environment for staff and patients.
“We are taking a targeted approach with our Labour Day project, which is a collaboration of the Ministries of Education and Health,” Mr. Green said.
“We want to say to our communities that we need to make our educational facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. The drive is to look at our schools, especially those at the lower levels – early-childhood institutions and primary schools,” he added.
Data from the National Education Trust (NET), which is the implementing entity for the project to install ramps in schools, indicate that of Jamaica’s 971 public infant, primary and high schools, and over 2,000 early-childhood institutions, only 138 primary and high schools are fitted with ramps.
Meanwhile, Founder/President of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, Christine Staple-Ebanks, is encouraging members of the public to support the fair.
A National Child Month calendar activity, the event seeks to connect education, health and social services for children with special needs and their families.
“It is with great excitement that we stage this year’s Family Expo and Special Needs Resource Fair to bring together what is available and to connect families with these resources,” Mrs. Staple-Ebanks said.
Under the theme ‘Healthy Choices, Healthy Families, Healthy Children’, the fair will be held on May 26 at the Hope Botanical Gardens in Kingston. It will feature booths providing information about community resources to address disabilities and special needs, developmental red flags, child safety and protection, and health and wellness.
Free services, including developmental and academic screening, dental care and health checks will be provided as well. Admission is free.
The Family Expo and Special Needs Resource Fair involves collaboration with the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism for the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience in Jamaica.