Minister Jacobs returns from Barbados working visit

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports Hon. Silveria Jacobs recently paid a two-day working visit to Barbados where she looked at how special needs education is structured in that country.

The minister also met with the Hon. Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development of Barbados.


The two ministers discussed the structure of their education systems and shared challenges that both countries are experiencing.

The discussions led to the possibility to explore St. Maarten being able to benefit from a scheme that would allow Bajan qualified teachers to work on the island for two years. Minister Jacobs also visited the Student Support Services unit and was able to meet staff and get an impression of the functioning of the unit.

Part of the visit to Barbados also involved meeting with the Deputy Permanent Secretary Sarah Brathwaite, Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best, and Special Needs Education Officer Janice Gibbs where discussions centered on educational issues and special needs education in particular.

In Barbados Special Needs Education is addressed in the regular classroom, in the special classroom in the regular school, in the special unit (attached to a regular school) or in the special education school.

Minister Jacobs visited the Erdiston Special School, which is a primary school for students with special needs and St. Stephen Primary School, which is a regular primary school with a special class (inclusionary practice). At this school, students with learning deficiencies are pulled out for Math and English instruction at their respective levels but return to the mainstream classroom for other subjects.

Minister Jacobs also visited the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, where possibilities were explored for St. Maarten students to take advantage of degrees and courses offered by the Open Campus. The ground work was also laid to explore opportunities for St. Maarten students to pursue tertiary education in Barbados.

The highlight of the visit was the Christmas Carol Service by special needs students at the River Road New Testament church on Friday December 7th. The minister was able to experience the thrill of students with special needs performing in dance, song and skits. Minister Jacobs addressed the gathering and congratulated the students, teachers and parents for a job well done. The minister expressed her amazement to see the sign language, the optimism of the students and the passion of the teachers.

The minister expressed how touched she was by the performances and opined that all children are a blessing from God and that special needs children have a lot that they can teach the wider society – a sentiment that garnered an enthusiastic round of applause from the gathering.

Minister Jacobs was accompanied by her policy advisor Shervin Frederick and Olga Mussington, head of the Student Support Services Division.