" Empowering Our Children & Youth "
Special Education Service for Disadvantaged Children
Once known as a seat of learning & culture, Jaffna has been a district most affected by the three decade war. Thousands have been displaced, families have lost loved ones, assets have been destroyed, and there seems to be no rainbow in the lost horizon. Worse still, children who have seen all this destruction have been traumatised. Definitely, the war & the tsunami have had an adverse effect on the lives of Jaffna's children.
Due to the above, the number of families living below the poverty line have increased. The education standards in the Jaffna Peninsula have dropped. Children from the poor families are backward in their studies, and no efforts have been made to cater to the needs of these disadvantaged children of Jaffna, who require special care and teaching. Many children did not go to school because they did not fit into the class. In many instances, the students who attempted to attend school, were discouraged when they found that they could not cope with other students. Even caring and patient teachers could not cater to their needs because of the large volumes of students in their class. These children dropped out of school soon. Parents of other children did not send their children to school because, they could not afford to provide proper meals and provide clothing, shoes etc .Many others who sent their children to school on an empty stomach, and by barefoot, soon found their children refusing to attend school - Humiliation, Inability to understand what was taught in class, were some of the reasons.
The GOC Foundation was inaugurated to provide an education service to children of the above categories, in the Jaffna Peninsula. GOC trained G.C.E Advanced Level qualified girls , who were Child Lovers by nature, in teaching special needs children, and embarked on an ambitious project to bring the special needs children back to the school system.
Volunteers from the general public assisted the GOC Management Committee, by approaching the Grama Sevakas (Village Headman), and visiting homes, and advising the parents to send their children to school.
GOC Staff and Volunteers from the public, visited mainstream government schools where a large number of children from poverty stricken families study.With the kind assistance of the Principals and Teachers of these schools, "Slow Learners" were identified, and were encouraged to attend the GOC schools during the weekends, where a "Catch Up" programme of education was introduced.
The GOC Foundation inaugurated special needs schools in Ariyalai & Point Pedro initially, and later on, in Siththankerny.
There has been a significant improvement in the performance of the children.Earlier, a child who should be in grade 4, started off his education in grade 1, and now , after 4 years of Special Education in GOC , he is only one grade behind.Teachers in the mainstream schools have also reported excellent progress & performance in the children who were identified as "Slow Learners", and were sent to the GOC schools , for "Catch Up" education.
In addition to the education service we provide , GOC also provides Milk & a Mid - Day Nutrition Meal / Lunch. This has ensured that the malnourished children are fed properly, and their nutrition levels have improved, resulting in better concentration in their studies and improved performance levels.
GOC also provides, books , clothes, shoes, raincoats and all other essential items to ensure that the education service to the disadvantaged children is not disrupted and contnues smoothly.
GOC also organises an Annual Sports Day, Tamil Cultural Day & an Art & Craft exhibition, in order to develop the extra curricular skills of the children.
All this has been possible, because of the generosity of our kind donors.
GOC is a secular, non profit foundation , and strictly enforces their policy of not discriminating any child on the basis of religion, caste, creed, gender or any other factor.Every disadvantaged child will have free access to our schools, provided, we have adequate vacant places.
However, our Special Education Service is restricted only to Three Areas & 400 children only, at present.
"What we are doing is only a small drop in the large ocean ..... still, if we dont do it, the ocean will be lesser by that drop" - Mother Theresa.
We need to expand, and open, special needs schools in other areas too.There are hundreds of special needs children in other areas such as, Chulipuram, Puthur, Chavakacheri and even the Isles.We also need to expand the existing schools.We need more furniture & equipment . However, our enthusiasm and passion to achieve our Mission & Objectives quickly, has to accept the reality of our limitations & constraints due to lack of funds.
The admission process for Special Needs Children requires the parent or guardian to admit the child with the recommendation of a doctor. In most instances, we provide the parent and the child, access to a doctor. This is for the purpose of verifying the extent of the student’s needs and making suitable arrangements.
The admission process for Children without any Special Needs, but whose parents are living in sheer poverty requires the parent or guardian produce evidence about the family income levels. Alternatively, a recommendation from the leader of a church or temple, or a recommendation from any local grass roots representative of the Government Agent , known as the ‘ Grama Sevaka ‘ would be accepted.
The special needs schools accommodate the following types of students:
Our Admissions Policy
Our admissions policy is based purely on the following:
The GOC Foundation Methodology is based on the principle that special needs children:
Each child is encouraged to follow as individual learning path. This provides an atmosphere which ensures that natural development of each child’s own unique potential.
Sensory activities are a basis of our approach. We draw upon activities and exercises which stimulate all the senses which will lead to creating a positive attitude towards learning.
Each class has a three- age span, creating a natural environment for peer learning that develops leadership skills in older children and learning skills in younger children.
We teach practical life skills and provide real-life experiences so that children learn to take care of themselves.
Gods Own Children accommodates children from 2-16 years. Due to certain children’s special needs, a child of 13 years might sometimes have to be taught together with a child of 7. Therefore, the teachers have Individual Education Plans for each of the students, although in some instances group learning is also accommodated. Most of the learning is through Educational Aids , Pictures and Charts. Story-telling and art and craft have been included in the curriculum at different stages.
We must add that, Gods Own Children will require extensive staff training for our teachers as we expand. Although, our teachers have been trained to an extent, further training would indeed benefit the students and the teachers. Lack of funds had been the main reason for the inadequacy of teacher training. Currently the teachers and staff have had limited special needs education training conducted by the chairman himself who has been trained overseas, and has shared his experiences and exposure with the teachers and staff.Gods own Children encourages develop respect for others, combined with self-discipline and a sense of independence.
The Gods own Children early learning centre is made up of Three divisions:
1. Play Group
Construction toys, paint and glue, puzzles and games are readily available as challenges or free choice play.
2. Lower Kindergarten
In this class the special child is introduced to a slightly more structured day and experiences a classroom environment; however there are still plenty of opportunities for learning through free play.
3. Upper Kindergarten
schemes of work are designed to complement the Pre-prep curriculum making a smooth transition to full time education. EMPHASIS IS MADE ON READING AND WRITING.
Children tend to move through the Nursery according to age, although we are flexible depending on ability, social and emotional development.
The early learning centre is managed by qualified and experienced staff with ancillary voluntary helpers providing high quality care.
Early Learning Curriculum
We follow and exceed the curriculum set by the National Standard by the Department of Education in the Early Learning Goals. the staff in the early learning centre make it their priority to create a secure environment in which the special child feels happyearly learning emphasises confidence building. Children are encouraged to play and learn in a happy environment. A wide range of fun activities includes early writing skills, number and phonic activities, role-play and music and movement to develop self-confidence and the joy of learning.
Areas of Learning
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Group activities are organised which give the opportunity for co-operation and discussion with other children. Children develop high levels of confidence and self-respect resulting in an excellent personal independence. Good behaviour and self-discipline are encouraged.
Communication, Language and Literacy
The children enjoy looking at a wide selection of books and when ready are well prepared for the reading scheme. Writing skills are practiced regularly and children are encouraged to use a wide range of letter sounds and letter combinations.
The Abacus numeracy scheme is used which encourages practical experience. Mathematical understanding is developed through stories, songs, games and imaginative play. Children are encouraged to become confident and competent in learning and using key skills. Activities include counting, sorting, matching, seeking patterns and working with numbers, shapes, space and measures.
The Primary School follows the National Curriculum, and the subjects taught include Tamil Language, English Language, Environment, Social studies and Art and Craft.
Co Curricular ActivitiesThe Gods Own Children Schools annually conduct the following events
Co Curricular activities are essential for development of the child, and all students are encouraged to participate in all the events.
The Medium of instruction is the Tamil language. We have introduced English also as a subject. However we lack resources such as Trained English Language Teachers and English Language Books and other resources. We hope to concentrate on this aspect in the coming year.
In December 2006, Gods Own Children Special Needs Schools conducted their 1st Concert in both English and Tamil. Students participated in individual and group programs, bringing out their talents and capabilities.
The event was a success, and there are many programs going to be organized in the coming year. Some of the projected events which are planned are, a Sports Meet, a Tamil Cultural Day, Concert, Prize Giving (Award Ceremony) and Christmas Carols.
Gods Own Children declares the last day of a term as “Performance” day. All the class work such as artwork, craft work and their school workbooks are displayed and the parents are able to view their child’s performance. The teachers would also invite prominent people and religious heads to be present on that day to encourage the children.
The Gods Own Children schools operate on the same calendar as the National Schools. However, we recognize that parents will find it very difficult to cope with their Special Needs Children at home during long holidays, and we are planning to have a few holiday programs in the near future.
Milk Distribution Program
Most of the children in our schools come from very poor families. Many cannot afford a morning meal for their children. As a result, this has had a drastic negative impact on the capabilities and attention of the child during school time. As a first step, we have started this year, to provide a Glass of Fresh Milk to each student, during the interval. This project is a success, because there is a tremendous positive impact on the children’s attention levels, and we hope to continue this as a permanent project. However, sustaining this project permanently depends on the funds available from donors.
Remedial Education for School Dropouts & Slow Learners
We also conduct Part Time (during the weekends ) , a Remedial Education Program for Slow Learners. There are some government schools which accommodate children from the poorer sections of the society. These are not Special Needs Children. However, due to poverty, they do not have Nutritious Meals at home, and thus they are not active. It has been found that, many such students are unable to cope with the class work and understand the teacher’s instructions. This is manly due to inability to concentrate, due to lack of nourishment. As a result, many children have dropped out of the school system and do not attend school because of the fear of embarrassment in the classroom. Other students, who stay on in the school, are slow learners and are unable to cope up with class work. They too might one day, drop out from the school system.
Due to the Quality Standard of education imparted by Gods Own Children, members of the public who have confidence in us have requested us to commence a class to accommodate these types of students also in the school and conduct a Remedial Educational Program.
The remedial education program has yielded positive results, with the regular school teachers noting a remarkable change in the children’s abilities and skills.
We acknowledge that we are unable to implement many badly needed programs due to lack of funds. However, we have prepared a budget for the coming year which incorporates some of the proposed projects, and if we do obtain the required funds, we would implement those projects.
Transport Facility for Severely Disabled Children
There are many Special Needs Children who do not attend school because their parents are unable to provide suitable transport. In most instances, the parents are daily wage earners and need to go to their work in time and therefore do not have time to transport the children to school. We are planning to fabricate a Rickshaw (a type of wagon) which is pioneered by a bicycle. Our overseas donors might not be aware of thistransport mode .These Rickshaws could be seen in many Asian countries. Up to 6 children could be transported at one time, using this Rickshaw. We hope to allocate Donor’s funds to implement this project. Currently we are in the process of discussing about, hiring people to ride / drive the bicycle.
Nutrition Meal Program for Students
We are now providing a Nutrition Meal as a Mid Day Meal for all the students, in addition to the glass of Fresh Milk being provided to the students during the interval.
If and when normalcy returns to the Jaffna Peninsula, and the usual transport route to the Jaffna Peninsula is open, we hope to train all the teachers during the summer holidays (August) in Colombo. We are currently having discussions with various Trainers and Resource Persons, and some have agreed to provide their inputs at reduced rates. However, we need to allocate funds for transport and accommodation of teachers in Colombo.
English Language Classes
We are also planning to provide English Language Training classes for the existing students of the schools during the weekends.
107, A.V. Road, Ariyalai, Jaffna
2, Kanthaudaiyaar Lane, Puloly, Point Pedro
Dutch Road, Vaddu East, Siththankerny