The Guyanese Context

Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, a former British territory which gained Independence and became a republic on May 26, 1966. It is the second poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean after Haiti. Within the English-speaking Caribbean, it is the poorest, presenting with some of the most alarming statistics in the Region: it has the lowest GDP and the highest rates of infant mortality, under-5 mortality, and malnutrition.

Functional literacy levels are only around 60%, and falling. In addition, 89% of out-of-school youth are achieving very low literacy levels. The country also faces continued high emigration levels of health and education professionals, and over 80% of university graduates leave the country in search of better employment opportunities.

 Most of Guyana’s social development indicators are therefore well below the Caribbean and Latin American averages. All of the above factors, not surprisingly, have a knock-back effect on government programs in social policy. In our case, the impact is on programs for children with disabilities.

To sum up, in a poor country where little or no resources are available to effectively tackle special needs education, parents are poor and in a lot of cases under-educated, and old-fashioned attitudes towards all disability – especially mental disability – is prevalent, one can understand the depth of the need that we at Step by Step are trying to address. The challenge is daunting, but we feel equal to the task of attempting to deliver high-quality educational services based on ABA methodology to Guyanese children with autism.

The Step by Step School is the only facility in Guyana that caters to the educational and developmental needs of children with autism. Our one big obstacle is funding. This is where the kindness and generosity of donors will make a world of difference to our ultimate goal, which is to help Guyanese children with autism achieve their potential.