Thursday 20 September, 2018

Wheelchair-bound Alex Fraser offered place at Jamaica College

A wheelchair-bound boy, after being refused entry into a prominent high school because of his disability, will realise his dream in September, having been offered a place at his favourite secondary education institution, Jamaica College.

Eleven year-old Alex Fraser - who did exceptionally well on his Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) - and his mother Tamara Brown were left bitterly disappointed on Thursday when they were told by the principal of Meadowbrook High School, where Alex was placed, that the school does not have the facilities to accommodate him and as a result he would not be registered.

The news once more brought into sharp focus the fact that the majority of Jamaican high schools and public buildings are not disabled friendly.

While speaking about her disappointment on Thursday, Ms Brown expressed concern for her son, who she explained has to constantly take medication for his condition. She said he expressed to her that he was sad and that he felt like giving up.

“Him say 'mommy, me can’t deal with it anymore, mi tired of it',” Ms Brown recounted for Loop News.

She revealed that her son’s first choice was Jamaica College but he was instead placed at Meadowbrook High. Ms Brown expressed hope then that the Ministry of Education would intervene and quickly resolve the situation. That intervention was swift, after a Loop News report on the development, and Alex will be on his way to the Old Hope Road-based institution in September.

According to a release from the Ministry on Friday afternoon, following consultations with the Ministry, “the administration of Jamaica College indicated that they could accept him in September for the new school year.”

“The intervention follows an online media report that Meadowbrook had indicated it did not have the facilities to accommodate him,” the release added.

The Ministry said, at present, the placement of students in public high schools does not usually identify a child with a special need unless there is a notation on the registration form ahead of the sitting of the exam.

“The Ministry however over the years facilitates adequate placement for students with special needs once the results are published and the nature of the disability is identified.”

Government is fully committed to empowering the disabled community, according to the ministry, which explained that 125 primary schools and 33 high schools across the island are currently accessible to students with physical disabilities. Access includes ramps, rails and wheelchair accessible bathrooms, the ministry said.

The principal of Meadowbrook High, Michael Peart, told Loop News on Friday that it was not a situation where he did not want to accommodate Alex whom he described as a “bright young man.”

However, he explained that “Meadowbrook is a small campus with most of the buildings being multi-storey structures.

“Our grade seven classrooms are on the second and third floors," Peart said, adding that he had explained to Ms Brown that it was :"the first we have been faced with this type of situation and so the school is not really accessible to a wheelchair-bound person unless it is retrofitted.” 

Despite his disability, Alex recorded GSAT scores of 92 for mathematics, 85 for science, 86 for social studies and 81 for English language, as well as 10 out of 12 for Communication Task.

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