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Trinidad and Tobago calls for focus on Special Needs Children at UNESCO Caption: (L-R) President of the National Commission for UNESCO Minister of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh; Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Kris Rampersad; Secretary General Ms Susan Shurland; and Permanent Delegate of Trinidad and Tobago to UNESCO, Ambassador John Sandy in a planning meeting at UNESCO General Assembly, Paris. (Photo Courtesy: Ministry of Education) November 16, 2013: President of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO and the Honourable Minister of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh has requested that UNESCO engage the United Nation’s system to pay specific attention to children with special education needs. He was speaking at a meeting of CARICOM delegates with the UNESCO Director General, Mrs Irina Bokova at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris where he was attending the 37th UNESCO General Assembly last week. The meeting involved signing of a memorandum of agreement between UNESCO and CARICOM which included cooperation for promotion of inclusive quality education and effective learning programmes and strengthening of health education; sustainable development of Small Island Developing States; mitigation of natural hazards; heritage preservation, education and strengthening institutional capacities; and for promotion of freedom of expression as a basic human right. CARICOM Secretary General, Mr Irwin La Rocque signed on behalf of CARICOM. Stating that it is estimated that some 30 percent of the world’s school children have special needs in the areas of dyslexia, autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, behavioural and psychological abnormalities and neurological diseases, Dr Gopeesingh noted that educators needed to be alert from early childhood care and education (ECCE) levels, but for the most parts, special needs children are not catered to and “fall out” of the education system. In response, Mrs Bokova stated that the significant numbers cited by Dr Gopeesingh certainly warranted that UNESCO re-examine its programmes and actions to integrate engagement of such special needs children. Dr Gopeesingh brought greetings on behalf of the Chair of CARICOM, the Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He announced that Mrs Persad-Bissessar would be promoting development of regional policy to address special needs children and hoped UNESCO can also facilitate this focus throughout the UN system. He expressed gratitude to UNESCO for its support to the region in the drive of Education for Sustainable Development that is helping to “not just widen but also deepen our impact”. He drew attention to the Leading for Literacy project launched by Trinidad and Tobago’s National Commission for UNESCO this year which is an offspring of the UNESCO Director General’s 10,000 Principals’ Leadership Programme, with support from the UNESCO Participatory Programme and public-private-NGO sector partnerships. It is a pilot to train principals and teachers in Leading for Literacy in primary schools. “Already we are seeing tangible results from this as part of a Decade for Literacy focus by our National Commission which also foresees extending this drive to our Caribbean counterparts,” he said. He explained that he hopes to see a similar focus in Leading For Numeracy soon, in the thrust towards “not just quantitative but also qualitative education’, and expansion of the school curriculum to include moral values, ethics, citizenry, character development, physical education, visual and performing arts.” Dr Gopeesingh also identified successes and other areas in which support was needed in the region as: Early Childhood Care and Education; IT and ICTs, technical and vocational education, Universal ECCE, and teacher training and development. Dr Gopeesingh led Trinidad and Tobago’s delegation to the General Assembly which included Permanent Delegate of Trinidad and Tobago to UNESCO, Ambassador John Sandy; Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Kris Rampersad and Secretary General Ms Susan Shurland. At the General Assembly, Trinidad and Tobago was voted on to the Executive Board of UNESCO receiving with the highest number of votes cast for the six newly-admitted representatives from the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Trinidad and Tobago asks UNESCO to help with ageing population 

Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh has asked UNESCO to assist Trinidad and Tobago in dealing with the challenge of its ageing population. Addressing the 37th session of the General Conference of UNESCO on Thursday in Paris, France, Gopeesingh, who is also seeking membership on UNESCO’s executive board for the next four years, told newly-installed UNESCO president Hao Ping, “While there continues to be focused emphasis on youth development, we also propose that UNESCO take a closer look at the challenges our countries face in relation to ageing populations and the need to integrate elderly citizens and help them adjust to this technologically-driven age, while mobilising and utilising their knowledge and skills to inform the next generations. “We propose that as a member of the executive board, Trinidad and Tobago can lead this as a global UNESCO effort at inclusion of all citizens and to bridge the gap, and so we look forward to your supporting our membership bid.” Gopeesingh also outlined T&T’s efforts to maintain UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development drive which, he said, ensured active educational intervention to students with special needs in the areas of dyslexia, autism, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, behavioural and psychological abnormalities and neurological diseases, with an inclusion focus. “The director general will be pleased to know that, as an offspring of her 10,000 Principals Leadership Programme, we launched this year with resources from my Government, the private sector and from UNESCO’s PP, a pilot to train principals and teachers in Leading for Literacy in primary schools,” he added. Gopeesingh led a four-member delegation, including Ambassador John Sandy, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva; Dr Kris Rampersad, chair of the National Commission for UNESCO; and Susan Shurland, secretary general. The conference was expected to shape the organisation’s strategy and direction for the next eight years. UNESCO is in the midst of a major reform, aimed at making UNESCO more relevant, more effective and more responsive to global challenges to peace and development.