Principal Vansittart Huggins of the Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre (EHRLC) – a school for children with special needs – said she believes students who left the facility since 2017 were not properly integrated in the BVI community due to the school not having a designated building.
The school’s facility was destroyed in 2017 following the hurricanes Irma and Maria, and plans were set by the government to relocate the new school on the grounds of the Magistrates Court in a complete land swap.
Students from the school have since been temporarily relocated to the Althea Scatliffe Primary School and other schools across the territory until the new school building is completed.
Principal Huggins said the absence of the building meant there were several essential amenities the students had to do without.
“Right now because of our limited space, we just have everything shut up and it’s very frustrating for them because the chalk and talk just does not work. And sad to say, we are missing a generation of special education children because those who have left since 2017, I don’t think they are placed properly in society,” Huggins stated.
Missing key amenities play significant role
Principal Huggins said although the children get to interact with students from other schools under the current temporary relocation system, the amenities are not present due to the limited available rooms that are still a very critical aspect of the children’s development.
She said: “At first we welcomed the inclusion where the children were able to mingle and get that social aspect but special education is more than just the social aspect, we’re teaching them for life, we’re teaching them life skills.”
“The amenities that we have here are not conducive for our students to learn. For instance, we are in dire need of a kitchen, we have pots and pans, we have a little stove, but we need a kitchen. We teach our students kitchen skills because they need that for life, we teach them sewing skills, we teach them different aspects, computers and other things,” Huggins explained.
Works to commence on school soon
Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said the plans for the school building were steadily progressing and are presently at the design phase.
According to the minister, the design for the school’s building is inspired by a special needs school in the United Kingdom that he would’ve had the opportunity of touring.
“Sister Lavina Liebert has a company who got those designs. In fact, I was fortunate enough to go to the United Kingdom and to meet one of the main consultants. Meeting with that design company, she designed a wonderful school in the United Kingdom — one of the best schools in the world for special educational needs and she gave me a personal tour of a school in the United Kingdom called Glenwood. And that was the consultant who worked with us,” Dr Wheatley stated.
He added: “Of course what we’re doing is on a much smaller scale than what they were doing at Glenwood but we use her expertise along with our local expertise in sister Lavina Liebert to be able to construct a beautiful design and we’re going to move from design to be able to mobilise the finances necessary.”
The minister said the project received financing through the Caribbean Development Bank and revealed that his government was working to secure further funds to allow for the construction of the school to commence.
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