Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones (FP)

Entire communities working together must assist persons with special needs.

This was the clear message issued by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the official ceremony to re-open the Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre at Canefield House, Canefield, St. Thomas, last Sunday, April 10.

Mr. Jones commended those responsible for "the remarkable refurbishing of Canefield House" and for "restoring it to its former glory".?? The Minister said: "This is a demonstration of all persons rising to the occasion as the difficulties here at the Challenor School were revealed to the public of Barbados…We need to have all persons on board as we cater to our people regardless of ages, whether for the young ones in the school, or the older ones in the Creative Arts Centre."

Mr. Jones noted that the friends and benefactors of the school had "given a new lease on life to the children and young adults".?? And, he declared: "I cannot emphasise enough, the public/private sector collaboration that has led to this re-opening this afternoon.?? This type of project is an excellent demonstration of how communities, private businesses, parents, teachers and individuals can work collaboratively to achieve great things, to ensure that the children of Barbados receive an education that is appropriate to their needs in surroundings that are suitable."

The Challenor Arts & Creative Centre, which was originally opened in 1964, was closed temporarily in early 2010, due to the dilapidated state of the main building.?? In September 2010, with the assistance of a number of sponsors, including Innotech Services Ltd; Berger Paints Ltd.; Rotary Club of Barbados West; Cidel Bank and Trust and First Caribbean International Bank, a renovation project was started.

Minister Jones, in alluding to the role of Government in assisting the institution, stated: "I remember when the contributions, in the form of a grant, were in the region of some $300,000. Since 2008, however, the Ministry has increased the annual subvention to $1.6 million." And, he acknowledged the difficulties staff there had encountered with remuneration and explained that part of his Ministry’s involvement had to do with seeking better pay for persons at the Centre.

The Education Minister also reiterated Government’s commitment to special needs students of the Challenor School despite a number of shortfalls experienced with the provision of special education in Barbados. He stressed: "To some extent, as we investigate it more and more, we recognise that the State, itself as an entity, has to step forward more and more to provide as much assistance as possible… Outside of what we do at the level of the public sector, our work with charitable institutions, such as the Sandy Lane Trust, is important."

Those gathered also heard that Government had already identified some four acres of land at the Pine, not too far from the Ann Hill School, for the development of another institution, in approximately a year’s time, to complement the work of the Challenor School.??

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the institution, Sharrone Taitt, explained that re-opening the main building represented one phase that was completed and there was still a long way to go to create the Centre required for the children, trainees and staff. Describing the refurbishment as a "labour of love", she recognised the sponsors for "creating the vision of the Centre that would meet the needs of the student population that we serve."

When fully completed, the school will comprise a rehabilitation centre and an adult training facility.?? Emphasis will be placed on agriculture, sewing, craft, woodwork, construction and food preparation, and a cafeteria, which will sell the products and items created by the trainees.

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