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Education will remain a priority on the national agenda to ensure equal opportunity for all including those with learning disabilities.

This was hinted at today as Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, addressed educators gathered at the Savannah Hotel for a four-day seminar titled: Understanding the Dyslexic Learner: Identification, Diagnosis and Remediation, sponsored by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

He explained: "Government has assigned itself the mammoth responsibility of ensuring that all citizens are provided with equal opportunities to gain an education, realise their potential and enjoy financial stability and personal achievement, while contributing to the development of the country in which we live. This is the bedrock and sheet anchor of our democratic way of life."

Stating that it [education] was quite costly, taking up approximately 22 per cent of our national budget a year, Mr. Jones added: "And, if we continue at the pace we are going, within the next three or so years, it will be taking 25 per cent, even with an expansion in Government revenues over time. So, as a significant user of State resources we have to ensure that education impacts on even the least among us."???? Teachers were, therefore, told that they were called to the "front line" to ensure these resources were not wasted.??

Defining the term ???dyslexia’, Minister Jones described it as "a neurologically-based condition that results in problems with reading, writing and spelling".?? He noted too that some of these persons were so severely affected, that their performance at school and chances of finding employment are put at risk. "We must, therefore, do our utmost to identify those persons who have learning disabilities and reduce the number of individuals in this country who feel marginalised and voiceless because they are incapable of taking advantage of opportunities and who may ultimately become a burden to the society," he maintained.

Minister Jones also took time to commend the work of dyslexic organisations across the world, including Dyslexia International for enlightening persons about this learning disability, and the Caribbean Dyslexic Association here on the island. He stressed that the latter had been "at the forefront of creating awareness about dyslexia and providing training, specific to helping persons deepen their understanding about this learning disability".????

Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer (Ag) Laurie King, quoting recently published figures from Dyslexia International, said these showed that "about 10 per cent of the world’s population probably suffers from dyslexia". He explained: "This means that in every 100 persons, there is a possibility that there are 10 persons suffering with dyslexia, at varying stages – some may be severe, some may be mild."

Admitting that these were "startling statistics", Mr. King told the over 150 teachers at the seminar: "We have to bear this in mind and in your teaching you have to be consciously aware of the problem and be looking to see what assistance you can provide for these students under your charge in the event that you discover that they are dyslexic."????

He maintained that their objective at the end of the event should be one that allows them to make "a significant impact on the development of their young charges, making their sojourn in the school system as pleasant and rewarding as possible."


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