The Best Care Special Education School is set to grow its student body to 65 by the September term, says Orville Johnson, chairman of the Best Care Foundation.
Johnson said that the foundation is focusing on the development of the school's, current population of 40 students, to better serve Jamaica's large, special needs population. The foundation has been providing services for intellectually and physically disabled children for more than 40 years.
“We are recruiting students now for the September term,” Johnson said. “We want to create an oasis where they can have their potential developed.”
Started seven years ago, the school provides academic and vocational training for students aged six to 21 years. Located at 11 Trevennion Road in Kingston, it serves children with disabilities, with a curriculum covering training in skills such as cosmetology, agriculture, music, and handicraft.
“Children should have all the stimulation they need to reach their full potential,” Johnson stated. “Unfortunately, we have a culture in which some are left at home. Thankfully, we have been evolving, but, there needs to be more spaces for them to develop and grow to their full potential.”
Johnson pointed out that 10 to 15 per cent of the population have special needs, and more educational opportunities are needed for children in this group. He was speaking at the Best Care Foundation's fund-raising gala at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on July 15.
General manager, JN Foundation, Saffrey Brown told the audience that greater effort is needed to support organisations catering to those with special needs, as their prospects are otherwise being limited.
For the 10 to 15 per cent of the population who have special needs, of that group, only about one per cent forms part of the labour force in the formal sector, she pointed out.
“We need to bring all communities into the national development effort,” Brown stated. “But those with special needs continue to be a very marginalised and at-risk group.”
She commended the Best Care Foundation's decision to develop its special education school, to expand its service to the special needs community, with the school also serving to increase its income-earning possibilities, so that it can become more self-sustaining.
Only a small fraction of Jamaicans with special needs are getting employment in the formal sector, the development specialist stated. She said those areas where they find employment, or which help them to find employment, deserve greater assistance from the private sector and wider community.
“Social enterprises merge business objectives with social objectives,” Brown said. At the JN Foundation, they have found that, “about a quarter of the organisations we work with are run by people with disabilities, which means that these social enterprises are extremely inclusive.”
The JN Foundation general manager urged private sector companies, “when you are looking for corporate gifts, go down to Best Care School and buy from their products….You need to insert them into the supply chain”.
Miss Jamaica World 2016, Ashlie White-Barrett, told the audience at the gala function to judge the quality of work done at the school by the beautiful wristband and necklace she was wearing.
“I was blown away when I went to visit the Best Care School,” the beauty queen said. “These children have been doing fantastic work, therefore, it is important that we support their initiative. It is an investment in our future.”