The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey – 38th Vice President of the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Two locally televised items reminded me on Wednesday evening of the man who had signed the Civil Rights Bill into law, and his vice president. The first was a report by DBS’ Alex Bousquet about a wheelchair-bound elderly citizen suddenly rendered homeless. A representative of one of our homes for the elderly had claimed his particular institution was ill-equipped to deal with the disabled so Byron found himself on the street begging for handouts; another statistic; one of an escalating population of vagrants, alcoholics, and mentally damaged drug addicts and mentally disturbed individuals to be seen throughout the city, beyond salvation by STEP, NICE and PROUD.
The other news item centred on the Dunnottar School at La Panse. This institution was designed to cater for children and others up to 25 years old with special needs, including disabilities such as Downs Syndrome and Autism. For years there has been talk of a new home for the school. Termites, mould and rats share the current, once attractive facility. This week the school’s operators sought a union’s advice.
The St Lucia Association for people with Developmental Disabilities (SLADD) operates the Dunnottar School, established in 1973. Teachers’ salaries are paid by the government which has responsibility for providing the school with an annual subvention of EC$30,000 to cover all other expenses including teaching aids and utilities. Over the years, however, the school has appealed for more assistance and more conducive premises for the increasing number of children in need. Sadly, frustration has forced some parents to give up on their afflicted children.
SLAAD’s president, Rhory McNamara, told the STAR on Friday that two reports from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Infrastructure have effectively declared Dunnottar unfit for human habitation. “So what has happened is that the building has been condemned,” he said, “and we are hoping that by February 15 we’ll be able to move to another location, albeit temporarily.”
As for long promised lands at Union for a new school, McNamara said: “With the way things are going, we don’t see this happening any time soon, so we are now trying to get the land placed in the name of SLAAD, which would allow us to go out and source funding for the construction of a new school.” So much for the Special Olympic team being celebrated last year for being victorious at the international games. So much too for those special needs children being made to feel special once a year – at Christmas time – with a party at the prime minister’s residence.
The concept of a “new” facility for the Dunnottar School is an all too familiar story – reminiscent of the Boys Training Centre at Massade where some of the worst horror stories of our times have occurred. And what about the shelters for battered women and girls, the safe houses . . . need we say more? Do we really care about the disenfranchised Dunnottar cries out for help
but few are listening!