Building Back Better in Dominica

Image shows six people surrounded by lush, greenery.

In 2018, Carter Vance took part in an internship through College of the Rockies in Roseau, Dominica where he served as a Disability and Learning Support Officer with Dominica State College. Carter holds an Honours Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Ottawa, an Honours Bachelor of Social Work from Algoma University, and a Master of Arts in Political Economy from Carleton University. Prior to his internship, Carter worked as a Literacy Councillor at Kasabonika Lake First Nation in Ontario, as a Policy Intern with Emmaus in London, UK, and as a Legislative Researcher with the Senate of Canada.

Since its impact in September of 2017, all sectors of Dominican society have been busy with the work of recovery from Hurricane Marie. Though tremendous progress has been made in terms of restoring services, with most areas of the country now having access to water, electricity and telecommunications, there is still much more to do.

In partnering with Dominica State College (DSC), the major provider of post-secondary education on the island, College of the Rockies has made a commitment to assist in this project of not simply building back, but building back better. In particular, through its placing of a Disability and Learning Support Officer with DSC, the College has made a commitment to ensure that education in Dominica, and the economic and social opportunities that come with it, will be more accessible post-Maria than it was before.

Dominica signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 and, in this year’s budget address, the government announced their intent to form a council tasked with implementing that Declaration. Dominica State College has responded to this via the adoption of its first formal disability policy, in 2016, which it is currently working to implement.

The work on this process has been multi-faceted, attempting to tackle the issue of accessibility from a holistic perspective. Training has been provided, in line with international best practices, to DSC teachers and support staff to enhance their understanding of disability issues in education, and to educate them on how to provide accommodation. Consultation work has been undertaken with local organizations such as the Dominica Association of Persons with Disabilities (DAPD) to ensure civil society input. Most importantly, students have been engaged to provide ongoing feedback to DSC to ensure that the College is best serving their needs and to suggest future improvements.

In my personal role as the Disability and Learning Support Officer, I have been helping to organize these initiatives and see them through to fruition along with the Dean of Student Affairs. I have also been active in conducting research to inform further actions by Dominica State College and in pursuing funding opportunities for DSC to improve its facilities and programming.

Though, as with many things in Dominica, building education back better is a work-in-progress, it is one which is being undertaken with great enthusiasm by the community. Building resilience is not simply a matter of physical infrastructure; it is also about investing in people and their abilities. Through its partnership with Dominica State College, College of the Rockies is doing just that.