Ninety years of excellence

The Salvation Army School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Kingston, Jamaica turns 90 this month. OT  speaks to its principal, Iyeke Erharuyi, about the challenges and achievements of the school

Salvation Army

How is the school celebrating its 90th anniversary?

The anniversary is going to be celebrated in phases on different dates. There will be a church service in the school auditorium with all of the stakeholders, plus an anniversary dinner.

We also have a school open day planned where students will showcase what they are capable of doing, especially in the areas of vocations and the curriculum. Some of the students’ products will be on sale and proceeds will go towards refurbishing and furnishing the school library.

In March 2018, there will be an evening of excellence, which we be a mini concert where all past students in music and professionals will come together with the school choir and band to perform. The school has done very well in music over the years.

There will be a video documentary of the school, A bridge across time 1927 to 2017, and a 90th anniversary magazine. The magazine will include articles such as, where past students are now, pedagogical practices in teaching the child who is blind, new paradigm shifts in blind and low vision teaching and learning, and a look at successes and challenges.

What support does the school offer its blind and partially sighted students?

The school is a composite school with programmes in pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational curriculums. 

We have an outreach programme where designated staff go to communities to identify and enrol children who are blind into our school because many parents are unwilling to allow their children to be enrolled at school.

There is an integrated programme where learning support is given to students after school and at weekends, while the itinerant teacher is assigned to visit students in traditional high schools where they are being introduced to mainstream education.

Our students are also being taught entrepreneurial skills for viable business enterprise and self-employment through a partnership with a national training agency. 

Finally, through curriculum plus, students are exposed to learning in orientation and mobility, braille literacy, personal development, and use of assistive technology to access learning.

Salvation Army

Can you tell me about the greatest challenges the school faces?

We need to develop our library with up to date curriculum materials in accessible formats, such as large print and braille. All proceeds from our 90th anniversary celebrations will go towards retro-fitting the library.

Our students deserve the best learning resources and a state of the art library with relevant assistive technologies to aid teaching and learning. This will enable them to prepare and sit exit examinations.

There is a need to increase and improve library accessibility. It needs to be air-conditioned, with further security, more computers and reading machines, as well as reading and curriculum materials for low vision and blind students, and new furniture. 

There is a lack of braille machines too. Every child needs to have access to their own personal braille machine in the classroom. Above all, we have challenges in procuring servicing parts overseas because of the increasing exchange rate to the US dollar. There are also accessibility challenges within the school facility and transportation issues for the outreach and integrated programme.

What are some of the achievements of former students?

Three of our past students recently graduated from the University of the West Indies with first class honours in areas of political science and marketing, as well as operations management and entrepreneurship. In this academic year, there are also two of our past students studying at the university for a postgraduate degree in communication in social and behavioural change, human resource development, comparative politics and international relations. Also, the present English teachers, guidance counsellor and librarian are all graduates of the school.

This year, three students – Daniel Garvey, Tyrese Harriott and Ajhi Anderson – were selected to participate in the Caribbean Blind Cricket competition in Guyana. In the 2017 Youth Para-Pan American Games in Brazil, ex-student Jason Brown won two bronze medals in 100 and 200 metre races. Jason and Chadwick Campbell were also scheduled to run 100 and 200 metres in the World Championship in London.