Upgrade for Learning Centre's after school programme
Students from the Barbados Learning Centre join administrators of the institution and representatives from the Barbados Lottery at the recent handover of new equipment for the school's IGT After School Advantage Centre. Adults, pictured from left are: Kerry-Ann Cummins (IGT Barbados); Arlene Arthur (Acting Principal), Dawn Rudder (Retired Principal), Nigel Reece (IGT Barbados –partly hidden) , Daniel Coulthrust (IT Teacher) and Dentonia Brewster (IGT Barbados).
The after-school programme at The Learning Centre was recently upgraded with additional equipment, including new printers and computers.
Launched in April 1999, the After School Advantage Programme is supported by the Barbados Lottery and International Game Technology (IGT) and provides custom-designed systems that help The Learning Centre's students develop digital skills.
“The renovation and upgrading of the ASA Centre comes at a very good time for us,” observes Dawn Rudder, the recently retired Principal. She still comes in to volunteer her services whenever needed. “It will help Daniel to work with the students who are ready to leave school,” she adds, referring to IT Teacher Daniel Coulthrust, who teaches in the ASA Centre.
Denny Brewster, Site Manager, Barbados Lottery shared, “It is important for IGT and by extension Barbados Lottery to give back in a way that is both meaningful and representative of a long-term commitment. This is a core objective of our After School Advantage programme. With this handover, our aim is to provide these students with technology that will assist in their educational advancement to their personal benefit.”
“Our children all have learning challenges in one way or another, and at different levels,” noted Ms. Rudder. However, most of the students’ families do not have computers and cannot offer the children the specialised educational materials they need; they receive financial assistance for the children to attend the school.
“Most of the students don’t have book knowledge,” adds Daniel Coulthrust, who works with small groups of children from ages as young as four years up to 18 years. “An important aspect of the ASA Programme is that it teaches mastery of English and helps build the children’s vocabulary, spelling and word skills. The computers help them to read, and to get them interested in reading.”
The teacher is also happy that the computer “talks to them, and they talk back.” This helps build the students’ communication skills – and confidence.
“There’s one little girl with Down Syndrome,” he adds, “She puts on her headphones and talks. It really helps students who have speech problems.” The ASA Programme is also empowering another student, who was born unable to speak and can only make sounds to form words."
The touch screen facility on the specially designed, computer-based system is helpful for students who have difficulties with motor skills. “I have three little girls, ages eight to 10 years,” said Coulthrust. “Their hands are very shaky, and they can’t manage the keyboard. They love the touch screen, which makes it easy for them to access the computer Programmes.”
The ASA Programme also enhances creativity and visual skills, which is an important aspect of The Learning Centre’s curriculum. The IT teacher pointed to a former student, who had artistic leanings. “The ASA Programme helped broaden his imagination,” he recalled. “He used to do a lot of drawing. The computer opened his eyes to more possibilities.” That student has since left the school and is now working in the field of graphics.
Coulthrust is currently working with the older students (aged 16 to 18) as they prepare for the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) examinations. This will equip the students with the necessary skills for employment when they leave, and the ASA Programme is a critical component. Apart from academic skills (with a major focus on English and Mathematics) the Centre teaches vocational subjects such as Woodworking, Craft, Cosmetology, Agriculture and Home Economics, among others.
“We want to give the children a better quality of life,” noted Rudder. The staff of the Learning Centre work towards building the students’ self-esteem through learning. In the regular school system, these children would become frustrated and perhaps engage in anti-social behaviour. The Centre recognises the students’ dignity as human beings, encouraging them to achieve their full potential. The ASA Programme makes a valuable contribution to this process of learning self-reliance and self-worth, with significant benefits for the children’s families and ultimately for the well-being of society.
“We are proud to continue to work with The Learning Centre in achieving their vision of creating a loving and caring environment to aid in the holistic development of their charges,” Brewster adds.
Moreover, the ASA Programme supports one of The Learning Centre’s critical goals, which is to offer its students the tools for a productive and happy future when they leave its doors – aware and equipped for life.
“Today’s world is digital – they need this,” said Ms Rudder.
The Learning Centre in Orange Hill, St Michael, Barbados, which serves the educational needs of some 70 children with learning challenges from financially disadvantaged families.