Thursday, September 20, 2012

Education Month March and Rally

Children and teachers marching. Ms Zedira Singh did a great job making the banner.

At the beginning of every school year the Guyanese Ministry of Education designates September to be National Education month in order to kick off the back-to-school effort. This year my department decided to host a rally and march under the theme "Transforming the Nation Through Inclusive Education." We had about 100 participants march in a little parade then we had a ceremony with addresses from the district education officers, the president of the Special Education Needs (SEN) teacher association, and yours truly.

At previous rallies, activities have focused more on lectures expounding on the theme for that year. But since I was in charge of planning the event I wanted to design a program that would be fun for the kids. This year they got to decorate a banner with finger paint and play games designed for all ability levels. Their favorite activity was definitely the water-balloon toss which was a first and it straight up blew their minds. Teachers even got into the action. It was a TON of work, but we had a blast!

Love the faces of the students and teacher as they throw the balloons and wait to see if their partner catches it.

School children helping each other decorate the banner.
In Guyana the SEN movement is still in its infancy. There are only 3 "special" schools in the country and those schools, which are well over capacity, only cater to children with sensory-motor disabilities.  One of Ilana and my goals since coming to Region 1 has been to increase awareness of people with disabilities, many of whom are hidden away, and also improve their access to education services.

The good news is that in our region this movement has been steadily growing legs of its own. The SEN teachers divided up all the children with disabilities that we're aware of into caseloads and have started designing individual education plans for each one... a big step in the right direction. Our SEN group has even been getting the attention of outside funding sources like UNICEF who are likely to contribute generous sums to helping our schools better serve all children.

Helping Leron decorate the banner. 
The icing on top was when a little press release that I wrote got picked up by 2 national Guyanese papers (see links below)! Special thanks to Ilana for all her help behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, on the sides of the scenes, under, over, around, between the scenes... thanks!

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