THE Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRCS) Special Development Learning Centre at the Rifle Range, West Honiara yesterday hosted the Governor-General (GG) Sir Rev. Father David Vunagi during a short visit to the school.
In his welcome remarks, School Principal Jiope Ralulu Iputu said teachers, students, and the SIRCS as a whole were so happy to welcome the Governor’s visit as it has also marked history for such a leader to visit them.
“We are so happy to have such a historic visit of you to our Special Development Learning Centre as we have been looking forward to this day to meet you,” he said.
Mr. Iputu said the school started way back in 1977 under the British Red Cross Society in China Town and later relocated to the Rifle range.
“The school was developed mainly for disability students and first run by expatriates under the Red Cross Society with only 6 students for a start,” he said.
He said until today, the school has enrolled more than a thousand students as many of them who have a transition from the school have gone through formal employment whilst others run their own businesses and helping out in their communities.
Mr. Iputu said programs carried out at the school include basic numeracy and literacy for the students to at least enable them to read and write and move on with their academic learning.
“So for those we put in the literacy and numeracy, they can go back into the mainstream schools but we also provide basic life skills training and livelihood programs for others who incapable, and most of graduating students usually graduated and transit to San Isidro in West Guadalcanal.
“Last year we have graduated a total of 12 students and they are now in San Isidro doing further live skills and livelihood training,” he said.
He said now the school has faced up with a lot of challenges and it’s good to have the GG to see for himself the challenges during his visit.
Mr. Iputu said apart from the COVID-19, one of their challenges is the transition of linking their graduating students to the mainstream schools were as a result, most of them only ended up at the San Isidro.
“It is obvious the COVID-19 also cause some parents to hold back their children from coming to school which also lessen our enrollment.
“Quality training for our teachers is also one of the important challenges as our training providers don’t have special training for them and most of us only graduated from SINU and some get special training for disability but do not have a teaching background,” he added.
He said flooding is also an issue where at times during rainy days; classes would be postponed for a few weeks to allow clean-up work at the school.
“We almost lost about 2 months if we add all the days we are closed due to the mud and water flowing into the school,” he said.
Mr. Iputu said despite all the challenges, they continue to work together and drive the institution to ensure whatever resources they have, they continue to help the students with their educational needs.