Micah wants to go to a school for special children... like himWednesday, July 14, 2021
BY XAVIER ALLEN
NEW BOWENS, Clarendon — In some ways, four-year-old Micah Morgan is advanced for his years. He bests his mother at identifying complex shapes, knows the names of unusual shades of colour that elude many adults and can rattle off the names of different types of vehicles on the road. Micah is autistic.
He has been enrolled in private school since he was just shy of 18 months but his parents long for the day when he will be able to access classes in Clarendon that will factor in his special needs. It bothers his mother Jodian Francis that there are not enough schools in rural areas of the country that cater to students with special needs.
“[This] leaves the disabled community at a disadvantage in rural areas,” she told the Jamaica Observer.Francis, a pharmacist with the National Health Fund, is proud of her son and wants to ensure that he has all the opportunities possible. “I want him to have what any child would have. I want him to see through to his full potential,” she said.
That goal was almost derailed when COVID-19 prevention measures pushed classes online last year. That method of learning is challenging for young Micah but his mother was able to get the school to agree to give him one-on-one face-to-face sessions. Her longer-term goal though, is to enrol him in a school that caters to children with special needs. The Ministry of Education helped her identify Hazard Primary School in Clarendon, which has a special education unit. But Micah will have to wait at least two years to enrol as the school only takes students who are six years and older.
There may be another option, a school in neighbouring St Catherine; but it is not yet fully registered with the Ministry of Education to be designated as a school for children with special needs. Even when it clears that hurdle, the cost of transportation would be prohibitive for Micah's parents. His mother is still mulling over the decision she will have to make once the school is accredited.
For now, the young boy's father Marshall Morgan — who works at night — cares for him during the day until his mother gets home from work.
The family has benefited, says Francis, from her son being registered with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), a body that seeks to promote various services to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are protected as well as encourage their independence and inclusion in all aspects of Jamaican life. She is convinced, though, that Micah stands to gain a lot if he could just be enrolled in a school designated for children with special needs. The time has come, the young mother argued, for some of these schools to be established in rural areas. She also urged the Ministry of Education to facilitate the registration of smaller schools that cater to students with disabilities, noting that it would be a way of supporting small businesses as well as the disabled community.