An institution catering to students with special needs, beyond the age of 16 and into adulthood, has been welcomed by this island???s Education Minister Ronald Jones.

This was made clear as Minister Jones spoke at the construction site of the Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre at Lears, St. Michael, expected to open by September 2015.

Acknowledging that it was always Government???s wish to see such a facility but the challenge was always one of resources, he thanked the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, the Tanglewood Family Trust and the benefactor, Derrick Smith and his wife, saying: ???What you see unfolding is part and parcel of the Government of Barbados??? mission.???

He added: ???We have stressed that philanthropy should be a part of our landscape and where is it better expressed than in the education of our people regardless of the challenges which they face. For a long time in our country persons with various learning and physical challenges were not able to emerge into the forefront of life in Barbados.???

He noted that this had changed over time and attributed it to the efforts of Government, its establishment and the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust with its Sunshine Early Stimulation Centre at Perry Gap, Roebuck Street that gives students physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional stimulation.

???We need men and women of the character and resolve who can commit their own resources to the alleviation of many of the challenges which other people face,??? he said, further commending Mr. Smith and assuring the Trust that Government would continue to support the project.

Minister Jones also added that Government had ???a good and productive??? relationship with the Trust in areas of pedagogy and ???in meeting the social and psychological needs??? of some students in primary schools.

The multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility for adolescents and adults was the brainchild of Mr. Smith who is the Grand Patron and Trustee of Sandy Lane Charitable Trust.

He was inspired to donate to the project by his 12-year-old grandson, Ryan, who suffered from Acute Encephalitis 10 years ago, resulting in permanent brain damage. Explaining that Ryan had benefitted from amazing schools and facilities in England and Australia which catered to his needs, Mr. Smith said this led to his commitment to building the Lears facility and to maintaining it on an annual basis.

Stating that he was delighted Government had agreed to fund the daily operating costs, the Trustee further reasoned that the new school was a response to the need to cater to students with special needs beyond the age of 11.

As he alluded to the Sunshine Centre, the Trust???s largest project which supports students from age one to 11, he added: ???As a trustee, I have watched these children grow and develop over the last six years and have come to appreciate the value of the program and model that this school has adopted.

???I quickly realised that there is no similar such facility here in Barbados for age 11 and onwards and knew that the only way to help our Sunshine children when they reached age 11 was to build a school that could accommodate them and take them on to the next level.???

Meanwhile, Trustee, Phillipa Challis said that the objective of the project was to provide a ???quality state-of-the-art vocational centre that prepares young persons to develop functional life skills that will help them navigate an increasingly complex social world.???

Students at the Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre will, therefore, benefit from a wide array of training including woodwork; sewing and craft; agriculture and landscaping and hospitality and home economics along with health and family life education.

The school will also have a play-ground, football field, auditorium and a retail outlet, allowing for the sale of craft and produce.??

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