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May 29, 2008

Special education expands beyond just students

Story PictureAny teacher will tell you that competing in a spelling bee helps to greatly improve the word knowledge of students … But the event which was held today at Belize Elementary Auditorium had another positive benefit for its participants. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This morning primary school children from across the country gathered in Belize City to cheer on the participants in the thirteenth annual National Spelling Bee for the Deaf.

After three rounds of competition, nine year old Ginelli Novelo of St. Peter’s Anglican in Orange Walk walked away the winner in the junior category.

Ginelli Novelo, St. Peter’s Anglican (Via Interpreter)
“I practiced and practiced and practiced and then I won! I practiced for the Spelling Bee and then we had tests and I practiced. But no, I wasn’t nervous.”

According to organisers, events like the Spelling Bee and Special Olympics are part of a worldwide call for special needs children to be included in mainstream education.

Sulmi Valencia, St. Peter’s Anglican, O.W. (Via Interpreter)
“The deaf should be involved in all. Not neglected, not cast out. But we don’t understand what hearing people say. We want to go, we want all people to be able to go but we don’t understand hearing people, it’s hard, it’s difficult to understand hearing people.”

To make sure children like Sulmi and Ginelli aren’t left out, teacher Nancy Marshall is calling for sign language classes to be held nationally.

Nancy Marshall, Teacher, St. Peter’s Anglican, O.W.
“So that there are interpreters all over Belize. There’s no interpreter in Orange Walk, there’s no interpreter in Corozal, there are a few in Belize City, there’s not enough for the hundreds of deaf children spread all over Belize so we need an interpreter training program to provide more interpreters and then the Government needs to recognise it as a real job and pay the interpreters like teachers.”

Classes in sign language would vastly improve Valdemar Novelo’s relationship with his daughter.

Valdemar Novelo, Father, Special Needs Child
“I myself don’t understand no kind of sign language.”

Janelle Chanona
“So how does your family operate in communicating to Ginelli?”

Valdemar Novelo
“Well, just a little bit like that or she hauls we and shows us what she wants so we communicate with her. I would want to learn definitely to learn with her and so. We are trying. We are trying hard right now to try and communicate with my daughter.”

Formal special education began in Belize in 1958 with the establishment of the Stella Maris Academy for the Deaf. Today, in addition to the school, six resource centres are scattered across the country to work with special needs children and their parents. But according to Oradine Rivas, being the only Itinerant Resource Officer responsible for the entire Stann Creek district is tough.

Oradine Rivas, Itinerant Resource Officer, Stann Creek district
“To make the situation better I think I would do well if we had another Itinerant Resource Officer in the district because there are thirty-six primary schools, we also visit the preschools, the high schools. So if we had another somebody doing the same job that I do, then we would … and then we need transportation as well, there’s only one means of transportation at our district Ed centre so if we would have transportation, that too would help.”

And according to Coordinator of the National Resource Centre for Inclusive Education, Eleanor Enriquez, another challenge facing special needs children is the decision by their parents to keep them at home.

Eleanor Enriquez, Coord., NARCIE
“We talk to many parents, we try as much as possible to do a lot of public awareness.”

Janelle Chanona
“But is it a mindset or financial consideration?”

Eleanor Enriquez
“I think both. A lot of people still believe that this child, oh he’s still not talking so how can he go to school. It’s surprising that people here in Belize City, and you’d say Belize City has Stella Maris School that has been there for a long time and then there are still people who don’t know where to go and get help. And again, it can be financial in that most of the children are from poorer classes, lower socio-economic status and the parents would first give priority to the other children who, in their minds, would do better with the education.”

Jahmor Lopez, Belize District Education Officer
“Inclusive education encourages special needs students and students without special needs to learn together, to understand, appreciate and respect each other as they live together.”

While Ginelli Novelo took first, schoolmate Sulmi claimed second. Darrell Conorquie of Stella Maris was third. The students all received prizes for their efforts. The theme of disability week 2008 is “We all Bilang, we di go deh Strang with Inclujan”. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

First place winner in the Senior Category was Angel Tun of Bernice York while Shane Castillo of Stella Maris and Edgar Carnello from Saint Peter’s Anglican took second and third respectively. The National Spelling Bee for the Deaf was sponsored by Crystal Water.

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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