Left to Right: Angella Kydd-Roberts headteacher at Fairhall Government School & Sherron Morgan-Peters former headteacher of Fairhall Government School
News
March 25, 2022
Fair Hall Government School – fostering an inclusive environment

For almost a decade, educators at the Fairhall Government School have committed time, energy and patience to fostering an inclusive environment at the institution so as to meaningfully integrate students with varying disabilities into the mainstream school system.

Some Fairhall Government School students taking part in the obstacle colour run event on Monday during the school’s activities in commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day.

And headteacher, Angella Kydd-Roberts is hoping that other schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will follow suit and make a concerted effort to include students with disabilities into the regular classrooms.

“School is supposed to be that social change and we are going to start with the change that we need to see so I hope sooner rather than later, other schools will follow suit and include these children and just help them because education should be for all,” Kydd -Roberts told SEARCHLIGHT this week, during an afternoon of lively activities in commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day.

The headteacher believes that an environment conducive to learning and patient, innovative teachers are the ingredients necessary to achieve inclusion at other local schools.

“Once you plan and include them, you will find that it gets easier if they are not trained in special needs,” she said, adding that she was not trained when she joined with a former headteacher to implement the programme at Fairhall in 2013.

The educator said she did a lot of research, prayed and often recycled everyday items she had at home to assist in teaching students with disabilities.

“You have to make the sacrifice for these children. You have to be the advocate for them…I think these schools, they are already equipped. Most of our schools are already equipped with the teachers. They just have to have the patience and try different strategies…you don’t always have to have this big, expensive set of materials to deal with them…simple little things you can use with them that are already there in the environment,” Kydd-Roberts told SEARCHLIGHT.

Teachers and students at the Fairhall Government School showing off their colourful mismatched socks to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, which is celebrated annually on March 21.

Currently, the population of the Fairhall Government School includes children with varying disabilities, including ataxia, autism, down syndrome, speech impairments and impaired vision.

The inclusive approach took shape at the primary institution in 2013 under the leadership of Sherron Morgan Peters, who has since retired from the education sector.

The former headteacher told SEARCHLIGHT this week that she was at the time approached by a parent who was looking for a more intimate environment for her child who has autism.

“It was a challenge, but a challenge that we were up to because at the inception of the school, we decided that we wanted to have an inclusiveness about what we were going to do. It was already in our mission and vision statement that we wanted to cater for the whole child and so when we were given the opportunity to do so, we jumped at the opportunity,” Morgan-Peters said.

Both Morgan-Peters as well as Kydd-Roberts, who was then the Kindergarten teacher became partners and have worked over the years to create a safe environment for all students, including those with disabilities.

“I know people are talking about training. At that time, she didn’t have training and I didn’t have training but at that time, we researched, we also went to workshops and we had other persons coming into the institution…it really has been a joy because once you love children and care about children, it doesn’t matter the barrier,” she said.

The retired educator joined the teaching service in 1981 and expressed that it has been her lifelong passion to take care of children and help them in whatever way she can.

In 2019, she was honoured by the Queen with an award of Ordinary Members of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to education and community work.
While Morgan-Peters was not trained in Special Education, she noted that she sometimes came across students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms.

“One of the reasons that the programme has been a success is that the parents who brought the children accepted that the children had a disability and so you are able to work with them, knowing what the disability is and provide that need that is missing,” she said.

Netta Thomas, an Education Officer with responsibility for special education told SEARCHLIGHT this week that the Ministry of Education is making strides in their efforts to include children with disabilities in the mainstream classrooms.

She noted that there were three special schools in Georgetown, Kingstown and Bequia for children with disabilities.
To date, the Fairhall Government School is the only mainstream school trying to integrate children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms.

Thomas said the main issues as it relates to inclusion is the lack of human and material resources.

“While we would really wish that we can support these children adequately, because of these lack in human and resource material wise, we are not able to do that to the best of our ability. Based on the disability, children require different resources to help them function adequately. Even in the teaching and learning process, you need these resources to make the job easier and to reach the children even more,” Thomas said.

The education officer explained that an introductory module on Special Education is taught at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, Division of Teacher Education.

She also said a few teachers are currently part of the teaching service who have specialised in different areas of Special Education needs.

At least two of these are at the Fairhall Government School.

“So lately, we may have improved in gaining some learning resources but resources for students with visual impairments, we’re lacking in those, like braille machines, the printer…and even other assisted devices. So whereas we would really want to be very successful with inclusion, because of the lack of resources, it makes it a bit difficult,” Thomas said, adding that “steps are being taken by the ministry, we’re working towards it”.