Jamaica has taken a significant stride in championing inclusive practices in education and sports by ratifying its commitment to the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion at a historic signing ceremony in the capital city of Kingston on 17 January 2024.
As part of this pledge, Jamaica aims to extend inclusive sports and education opportunities by engaging 5,000 youth with and without intellectual disabilities across 35 schools nationwide, while over 100 teachers will receive specialized training over the next three years. The initiative encompasses various activities such as:
- Professional development sessions for educators, focusing on working with students with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics programming.
- Leadership skill development for students, both with and without intellectual disabilities.
- Investment in school-based sports and fitness activities from Special Olympics and partners spanning 2024 to 2026, fostering engagement among individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics International Senior Advisor David Evangelista said, “This historic signing in Kingston marks a profound step forward for Jamaica—solidifying its commitment to inclusive education and sports and offering a definitive best practice in inclusive development for the world. Through this collaboration, we envision a future where every child, regardless of ability, experiences the transformative power of inclusion in their schools and community through sport.
“This commitment not only strengthens Jamaica's dedication to inclusion but also aligns with international recommendations, positioning the country as a leader in implementing inclusive programming.
“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Jamaican government for their unwavering dedication to fostering inclusive practices, as well as to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and our Coalition partners for their pivotal role in making this initiative a reality.”
In today's learning environments, children globally face social and academic pressures, and young people with intellectual disabilities often find themselves underserved and isolated. Recent data indicates that children and youth with intellectual disabilities in Jamaica encounter challenges similar to their global counterparts.
Special Olympics' initiatives align with government priorities, offering sport, youth empowerment, and holistic child development. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® programming fosters social inclusion through shared sports and leadership experiences. Inspired by the principle that training and playing together foster friendship and understanding, Unified Sports unites students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.
Olivia Grange CD, MP, Jamaica Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, added: "In Jamaica we proudly embrace the spirit of unity and inclusion through sports and education. As we commit to the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, we stand tall in our pledge to create a future where every child, with or without intellectual disabilities, has the opportunity to shine.
We aim to foster an environment of growth and learning, where abilities are celebrated to build a brighter tomorrow."
The Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion is a pioneering multilateral effort to support people with intellectual disabilities. For the first time, governments, industry, philanthropy and the development community have come together with a shared global commitment to increase inclusive practices in education and sport and create more inclusive schools and communities. Over the next three years, Coalition members have committed to expanding inclusive sports and education opportunities to over 2,000,000 young people in more than 150,000 schools and scaling Special Olympics programming to 180 nations.
Inaugural government Coalition members include: the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar, Jamaica, Mongolia, Montenegro, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Ghana, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Iceland, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Panama, the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.
The Coalition, funded by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), also includes key global and civic stakeholders including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency (UN HCR), Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Fondation Botnar and textile brand H&M Move.
While many education systems have made strides to achieve integrated educational settings, the reality for many children with intellectual disabilities is that they continue to be marginalized and isolated. These disparities also negatively impact students without intellectual disabilities. Inclusive learning environments help all students.
More information on the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion can be found HERE.
More information on the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion’s inaugural member countries can be found HERE.