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Aug 12, 1998

New building opens for special education

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The start of the new school year is still a couple of weeks away but those who run the country’s education system are putting the final touches to their plans for the next ten months. That includes the Special Education Unit which today officially opened its new headquarters building in Belize City. Situated opposite the Stella Maris School on Freetown Road, the twelve room concrete structure took four months to complete. Coordinator of the Special Education Unit, Dativa Martinez, says it will go a long way in helping not only children with special needs, but also the teachers who teach them.

Dativa Martinez, Coordinator, Special Education Unit

“This is a very vast improvement from what we had before. The building that we had before was literally deteriorating to nothing. It was pest infested. So what we have today is a vast improvement to what we had before and this building is also better designed to suit the work that we do.

Each of our itinerant teachers who are also involved in accessing, diagnosing students’ needs be them hearing impairment, learning difficulties, visual impairment, emotional, behavioral problems, speech and language. Each of the specialists, so to speak, will now have a more private space to work in as they work with children one to one.

And we will also have a small conference room. Our bathroom facilities are much nicer, which is also needed for when children come in, you know, case of accidents. We have a quiet and open waiting room and it will enhance our work much more and we are truly grateful that we now have a building which will reflect the professional work that we plan to give to the public.

The unit is there to serve children that are having difficulties with the teaching-learning process in any school. Be it regular school or special school as we do have a few Stella Maris and a few other centers in the country. But one of the things that is a common belief is that the unit is here to serve children only from Stella Maris School.

And that is with the opening of this unit building this afternoon, we would like the public to know that the assessment center is here for any child, be him in regular school or pre-school or special school.”

Q: “As a former teacher myself I do know of children with special needs. Is the situation getting better?”

Dativa Martinez

“Sometimes one wonders if there isn’t a special need epidemic going on because presently in Belize you may hear quite a number of teachers complaining of children having difficulties with Reading and Math. I think those two areas are not only difficult in Belize but in the region and I guess worldwide. We have a lot of complaints about reading, reading comprehension and composition writing, literature in general and the area of Mathematics.

To answer your question directly I would think we continue to get children with special needs in various areas and particularly those two that I just mentioned: literacy and numeracy.”

Construction of the building commenced in March of this year and was completed at the end of last month. Martinez says that the cost of the construction, paid for by government, is estimated at two hundred and seventy eight thousand dollars.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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