JSIF injects $34 million into building capacity in special education

The Ministry of Education and Youth is receiving support from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to strengthen capacity in the special education sector.

Approximately $34 million will be invested by the agency into various initiatives, including establishing special education standards, training teachers and principals and creating inclusive education spaces in schools across the island.

The grant support is being provided under the 10th cycle of the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF 10).

At a recent contract signing ceremony held at The Mico University College in Kingston, Managing Director of JSIF, Omar Sweeney, explained that the support will entail three components.

Component one will involve the development of standards for special education institutions through consultation with schools, special education programmes, the Ministry, as well as non-governmental groups and academic professionals in the field. The approved standards will be distributed to institutions, and stakeholders will be trained in the application of the measures.

Component two will ensure a targeted approach to the training of leaders in the educational sector, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to create inclusive educational spaces that cater to the needs of students in several schools across the island.

Under component three, 30 teachers will be trained and gain tertiary-level certification in identifying learning and behavioural differences in students, and to be able to apply evidence-based best practices and treatments.

Mr. Sweeny said that JSIF is committed to supporting education, noting that more than 40 per cent of the Fund’s portfolio is injected into the sector.

“Effective education goes beyond just meeting academic requirements. It encompasses creating a nurturing and supporting environment where every student feels valued and respected and capable of success.

“By investing in the professional development of our educators, we are laying the foundation for a more inclusive society, where every individual can contribute meaningfully,” he noted.

Education and Youth Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, in her remarks, said the support form JSIF underscores the power of collaboration and partnership in driving positive change in the education sector.

“It is heartening to see organisations like JSIF continuing to invest in the future of Jamaica’s education system, particularly in areas as critical as special education,” she noted.

Mrs. Williams said the Ministry has been working to ensure that no student with special need is left behind, noting that more than 200 new special education assistants [shadows] have been trained.

“This has allowed us to increase the number of students who benefit from the support, and we have placed almost 300 special needs students in integrated and non-integrated government schools,” she indicated.

Assistant Chief Education Officer, Dionne Gayle, expressed gratitude to JSIF for the ongoing assistance.

She noted that the BNTF has been providing funding for special education over the past five cycles and has gradually increased the focus on inclusive education over the last few cycles.

Major activities included the training of diagnostic teams and special needs coordinators, provision of diagnostic kits, supporting programmes for exceptional students, among other things.