JSC: Get migrant children into ECCE schools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Venezuelan children after landing with adult migrants in Los Iros. hoto by Lincoln Holder

MIGRANT children should be facilitated (by new laws) to get entry to early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres, urged the Seventh Report of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Social Services and Public Administration, laid in the House of Representatives on March 22. The committee also wanted more help for special-needs children.

The report said, “Specifically concerning entry of non-national children into local schools, it was noted that entry into schools is governed by the Immigration Act.

“It is stated that persons wishing to access formal education in TT must have a student permit issued by the Chief Immigration Officer.”

The report said the Ministry of Education said 16 non-national children were now enrolled in public ECCE centres in TT.

“It was noted that non-national children have been enrolled at some ECCE schools specifically at two schools observed during the site visit.”

Despite a language barrier in some cases, teachers on duty told the committee the children were supported and had integrated into the classroom.

“It was reported that although under the Constitution of TT, all children regardless of nationality have the right to an education, the lack of clear legislative provisions under the Immigration Act can prevent persons from being allowed to enter formal educational establishments.

“While there has been some movement towards integrating migrant children into the local education system, it is recommended that clear legislative provisions under the Education Act and Immigration Act be included to ensure that these children have access to formal education beginning from the ECCE level.”

Ample consideration must be given to the relevant international treaties and conventions to which TT is a signatory, the report added.

The JSC was also concerned about the welfare of special-needs pupils in ECCE centres.

“Most teachers are not trained in special needs education to meet the needs of students with psycho-educational and developmental challenges. While teachers may attempt to support students as best as they can, more severe cases were usually beyond the capacity of the teachers’ capabilities.”

The ministry faces an overall deficiency in screening and evaluating students with potential psychoeducational and developmental challenges chiefly owing to staff shortages in the Student Support Services Division (SSSD).

“Immediate support/intervention is still required for students showing educational/developmental challenges and potential special needs interventions.

“While the ministry provides a nine-step process for accessing support, the process is often lengthy and support is not guaranteed due to staffing challenges.”

While the ministry has intervention strategies, there is a challenge with the capacity to implement them based on the current demand.

“In terms of support for special needs education, it was found that technical support is sporadic.”