Certificate III in Education Support students from the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) were excited to volunteer for the Samoa Special Olympics Tournament, which was held at the end of March.
The tournament was held for students from disability schools across Upolu to participate in a range of sporting events in preparation for selecting participants to represent Samoa at the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi.
APTC’s Education Support Trainer, Ms Amada Bate said,“It was a good opportunity to support the disability community and help raise awareness amongst students and locals of the many abilities and talents every child has.”
During the event, the 10 students assisted the organising committee, by acting as marshals on the day, supervising various sports and recording times and measurements for activities including standing long jump, long jump, shotput, sprints and track events, relays, bocce, and javelin.
Ms Bate said the students have benefited greatly from participating in the event as they had the opportunity to network with disabled members of the community, and were reminded of the importance of key concepts such as inclusion and the rights of all children.
APTC students enjoyed being part of the event. “I demonstrated some techniques for shotput so the children could avoid injury, and encouraged them. I learned a lot of things as well, including how to interact with people with special needs and some sign language,” said Mr Aneti Tuigamala.
Mr Tuigamala who has been a teacher aide at public and private primary schools for over seven years, says it was his first time to be a volunteer with the Special Olympics of Samoa and would love to do it again.
“I now know how to redirect and manage students with challenging behaviours and this helped me greatly during the tournament. The skills we are learning at APTC are good for connecting with students with different needs, and this will be important when I return to work.”
Another student, Ms Faasega Sakaria says she was delighted to be involved, as she had the chance to identify the strengths and limitations of individuals with disabilities.
“Being able to communicate with students of varying abilities and using strategies to redirect student’s attention and motivate them back to the task are some of the skills I have learned in my Education Support class that were helpful on the day.”
Ms Sakaria, who has been teaching for more than 20 years, adds, “I am learning so much. The course is so effective and relevant. It is enabling me to be more efficient and appropriate for the different needs of students in schools, and helping with the sustainable development of education here in Samoa, especially when it comes to catering to the needs of students with disabilities.”
The Special Olympics Samoa Committee Samoa representative, Mr Richardson Liu, was very grateful to the support provided by the students of APTC during the tournament: “on behalf of our Special Olympics Samoa team, we express our deepest gratitude to you and your students for being our greatest support during the tournament. We know that without them, the tournament would not have been possible”.
The Certificate III in Education Support qualification is for individuals such as teaching aides and training assistants, who provide assistance and support in a range of educational settings.
The program, which began in January, focuses on supporting inclusion in schools by identifying children’s individual needs, modifying activities to ensure inclusion and how to incorporate positive behaviour management strategies into every classroom.
Students of the program are learning how to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills through a multi-sensory approach to cater to a range of learning needs for children.
“They have looked at the different stages of child development and studied theories to develop strategies for the classroom to meet varying needs including how to create a positive learning environment, perform risk assessments and ensure health and safety of children,” says Ms Bate.
The students recently completed a two-week practical in schools across Upolu, to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned in class so far.
“The students are very eager to learn and pass on this knowledge to their community. I am very proud of the students and how they have embraced the different concepts. They will be the drivers in creating positive learning spaces and experiences for all students,” she adds.