~ Says Excellence Learning Academy founder Alisha Brookes. ~
PHILIPSBURG–Excellence Learning Academy (ELA) founder Alisha Brookes says the law on compulsory education needs to be adjusted to cater for children with special needs.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), compulsory education runs from ages four through 18.
“However, the law on compulsory education seems to be quite off. … A student with special needs cannot go to school because he/she is on the spectrum and [is – Ed.] not potty-trained so they cannot enter school. … This is then a medical condition where this student is developmentally late, but intellectually able to learn so they can go to school,” she explained.
“If we look at a student not potty-trained at age four, non-verbal and autistic, cannot go to traditional school because these are the requirements needed to be enrolled in traditional schools. The law on compulsory education is fitting for students who can enter traditional schools who are not on the spectrum.”
She said the law on compulsory education means that everyone should be educated from ages four to 18 irrespective of their disability, gender or nationality. “However, this is not the case, because students four to eight are left behind because of various diagnoses that don’t make them eligible for traditional schools. I propose a legislation that is inclusive for all youths no matter the level of capabilities. This also complements, respects and acknowledges the Rights of the Child (UNICEF [United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund – Ed.]).”
She said if students are not allowed in traditional school settings because of their disabilities, then Excellence Learning Academy can become the second listing options for these students, after Prins Willem-Alexander School for Special Education.
“The opportunities made available to these students start entirely too late. Many of these students either never attend school, begin school late or their families struggle to afford it and eventually remove them from the schools specifically for their needs, which puts these youths in a very vulnerable position and systemically puts them at a social disadvantage and therefore [they] cannot fully contribute to society within their capacity,” she explained.
ELA will be applying for subsidy from government to better cater to its students with special needs.