“My greatest wish is to have a learning center of this sort established in the provinces“ says Jiope Iputu.

Jiope Iputu is the school principal for the Special Development Center (SDC), a school for children with special needs operated by the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society.

The school currently has an enrollment of 80 students.

Speaking to Solomon Times Online, Iputu says a majority of the students enrolled at SDC now are those with speech and hearing impairment.

“I believe there are a lot more of these children with special needs out there in the provinces and my wish is for this center to extend to the provinces to serve the children there”, Iputu says.

He says the students currently enrolled at SDC are only those that live in Honiara and its outskirts.

Iputu says it is sad that children living with disabilities in the provinces are not captured in the education system. Iputu says the children need education but are deprived of this because there are no services of this sort provided for them in the provinces.

Despite this, Iputu says there is progress and collaboration between the government’s education ministry and SDC. He says the education ministry recognizes SDC as a learning institution for children with special needs but hopes more can be done to extend this service to the provinces.

“Now we have 13 teachers and three volunteers. Most of the teachers are qualified teachers in terms of teaching but in terms of special needs is what we lack. Most of them got their training on their job. The problem we faced too is that special needs education is not a priority area of the government when it comes to scholarship awards. That is a big challenge for us as we cannot send teachers to undergo training in special needs education”, Iputu says.

Children with disabilities in Solomon Islands have been deprived of both formal and non-formal education for years.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) have since 2016 been working on implementing the National Disability Inclusive Education Policy (SINDIEP).

The aim of this policy is to promote, expand and complement realization of education delivery services to all children, youths and adults with disabilities, as outlined in the Education Strategy Frameworks and National Education Action Plan of the MEHRD.

MEHRD over the years have conducted advocacy with selected schools and stakeholders to raise awareness of the purpose of this policy and at the same time to ensure the schools are supported to provide conducive learning environments that will develop a pathway that supports children with disabilities at the school level.

MEHRD believes that In order to effectively implement this policy, an Implementation Plan must be made. Thus an Implementation Plan along with an IE Policy Manual was formulated to guide and inform those with responsibilities in the implementation of the Solomon Islands National Disability Inclusive Education Policy from 2019-2020.

The policy is now due for review this year.

Currently only three schools in the country are focusing on people with disabilities. They are SDC, San Isidro and Bethesda.