Persons with disabilities over the years were not given equal access to skills training and education but this is about to change with the launch of a Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme for special needs schools in Region 4.
The programme will be implemented through the University of Guyana’s Computer Science Department over a six-month period.
A curriculum was also developed to guide the implementation of the project
The Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) in partnership with ExxonMobil Guyana on Tuesday launched the programme at the National Library in Georgetown.
Programme Coordinator, Ganesh Singh, who is visually impaired said the concept for the programme was developed a year ago to provide equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in today’s world of technology.
The programme will be rolled out at four special needs schools in Region 4 – David Rose, Diamond and St Barnabas Special Needs Schools and Open Doors Vocational Centre.
“We hope that those four schools will be the pilot and eventually we can replicate this project is all the other special needs schools across Guyana,” Singh said.
Singh highlighted that robotics clubs were established across the country, but does not accommodate persons with disabilities.
As such each of the special needs school will establish a robotics club and will be introduced to the basic building of robots and coding which will develop the students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills.
“This initiative it is something that we are sure and I am sure it will be very helpful in ensuring that children with disabilities are empowered and they can take their rightful place in society and be independent because the world is going the direction of technology and children with disabilities should not be left behind,” Singh said.
Through the programme, the children will be exposed to the STEM subjects using robotic technology.
Singh also said they hope to have a two-day workshop where teachers from the special needs schools will learn how to incorporate STEM robotics into their curriculum to teach children with disabilities.
United States Ambassador to Guyana Sarah Ann Lynch said the country needs scientists and engineers especially for the emerging petroleum sector and this includes persons from the disability community.
“STEM skilled workers are among the best positioned to benefit from the sweeping changes to economies around the world. Especially here in Guyana, a country that has emerged as a leading oil producer, the future is now. We face the urgent task today of inspiring young students to pursue studies in STEM fields,” the Ambassador said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Telecommunications Cathy Hughes said the Ministry is building an accessible website for persons with disabilities which will be up and running in two weeks.
“In partnership with UG we are very soon going to start a regular comprehensive training so that members of the private sector can ensure that their websites are web-accessible so whether you have a hearing impairment or visual impairment in this world of technology where so much information is garnered through websites and social media, we want to make sure that this very special community is not left out,” the Minister said.
Chairman of the Board for Industrial Training, Clinton Williams also noted that technical and vocational programmes will now be made to cater for persons with disabilities.
The STEM programme is being fully funded by ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil’s Senior Director for Public and Government Affairs, Deedra Moe said more access to STEM teaching and learning means more development for young people in Guyana.