Category Archives: Education

Conference for better study results

Press Release

 

Kralendijk, September 30th , 2014

 

CONFERENCE FOR BETTER STUDY RESULTS

 

Which measures and facilities are needed to enable more students from the former Netherlands Antilles to successfully finish their studies broad? This was the central question during the conference “Studying abroad” on September 29 and 30 in Kralendijk, Bonaire. Participants included, besides the study counselors of the islands, representatives of DUO (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs), Study Financing and the various education-related institutions, responsible for the preparation and guidance of students who leave their island to study abroad. 

 

Under the guidance of moderator Inge Berben (director of Fundashon FORMA for adult education and training) the participants exchanged knowledge and experiences and reached consensus about a set of measures, needed for the improvement of the following aspects concerning studying abroad:

•          the preparation of future students on their own island;

•           the guidance of students on arrival and during their studies in The Netherlands and in the region;

•           the establisment  of a central database containing information about recognized learning institutions in the region.

 

Representatives of institutions from Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten and the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands provided insight in the way they tackle the preparation and guidance of students abroad through presentations. These made clear that the islands currently approach these aspects in their own way. The participants agreed that an integral approach is needed, combining the best practices and experiences of the individual islands.

 

They decided on the formation of a central platform ”Studying abroad”, with participants from each of the islands. The platform’s mission will be to identify, initiate  and coordinate the actions needed to create a blueprint for a central preparatory and guidance program. This will enable each island to subsequently make its own choices for the establishment of the preparatory and guidance programs, based on the islands’ own vision and responsibility. The platform will become operational before the end of this calendar year to formulate clear goals and the activities needed to realize them. The formation and start-up of this platform will be guided by the department of OCW (Education, Culture and Science) within the Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland (RCN), which also initiated this conference.

 

Experiences from the islands make clear that students who pursue their studies in the region in general have a higher success rate and experience fewer problems adapting to the life and culture abroad as well as language-related problems that usually stand in the way of a successful studying career. An inventory of schools for further education in the region proved the existence of an ample offering of recognized education institutes in the Caribbean region. Besides that, it became clear that cooperation agreements with some relatively expensive institutions can result in possibilities for reaching college fees that can be paid completely or in great part through study financing.

The program was concluded by the Foundation “Studiekeuze 1 2 3” (independent supplier of study selection information within the Netherlands, through the website studiekeuzeinformatie.nl amongst others) which presented a proposal for expanding the existing database of European Dutch education institutions by adding the offering in the Caribbean region. How this information should be included in the database and disclosed through island websites, will be one of the topics dealt with by the platform “Studying in the region”.  

 

Feasibility study regarding instruction language on St. Eustatius progressing

(RCN Press release)

Feasibility study regarding instruction language on St. Eustatius  progressing

Last week, members of the study group that is conducting out a  feasibility study regarding the instruction language on St. Eustatius visited  the island for the second time. The feasibility study follows the linguistic  study “Language of instruction in Sint Eustatius”, which was performed in 2013.  The linguistic study presented two options for the future language policy of St.  Eustatius. Both options are based on English as the language of instruction with  Dutch as a strong foreign language. That study did not include the feasibility  of the options brought forward.

Following the first phase of the investigations into the  school instruction language a feasibility study is now being conducted into the  possible language policy scenarios. The study includes two additional options  that were introduced by the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science  (OCW). The first additional option is: a continuation of the present system but  with a number of adaptations. The second additional optional, like the options  presented in the first reseach, is based on English as the language of  instruction with Dutch as a foreign language, combined with the use of exams  from the Caribbean Examination Council.

The feasibility study deals with three  questions:

  • Which adaptations would be necessary, for instance in   terms of the methods, materials, exams and teachers?
  • Which are the expected consequences, e.g. for the   results and the possibilities for further education?
  • How should a possible transition be tackled, for   instance: what would it mean for the current   pupils?

The study group is formed by education expert Tineke  Drenthe (chair), the Curaçao anthropologist Rose Mary Allen, Antilles expert  professor Gert Oostindie and professor in education Wim Meijnen. The second  visit was made by Tineke Drenthe, Rose Mary Allen and Gert Oostindie, with the  support of secretary Monica van Leeuwen-Laan of the Ministry of Education,  Culture and Sciences. During this first visit the team spoke with many education  stakeholders and experts.
During the second visit to St. Eustatius the  group spoke with many education stakeholders and experts, including pupils,  parents, teachers, school principals and board members. The team also visited  Saba and St. Maarten, where they also spoke to experts.
The report will  be discussed with commissioner of Education Zaandam (Sint Eustatius) early in  June. The State Secretary of OCW and the Executive Council of St. Eustatius will  discus the results of the feasibility study during the Caribbean Netherlands  week in June next.

 

The objective of the feasibility study is to make it  possible for State Secretary Sander Dekker of OCW to take a well-founded  decision in June next on the language policy to be pursued in St. Eustatius. If  it is decided to proceed to adaptation of the instruction language regime, it  will be laid down in the law. The regime will then apply to all schools on the  island.

PHOTO  CAPTION:

Tineke Drenthe, Rose Mary Allen, Gert Oostindie and Monica  van Leeuwen-Laan during a visit to Fort Oranje on St.  Eustatius.

 

How to get the education system to work for the Statian child: A pedagogical perspective.

Drs.  Jean Marie Molina

Introduction

St. Eustatius stands yet again at a historical breaking point. The continuing low (academic) achievement of children has forced the community at large to take a critical look at the core of its educational system. Current debates center on a possible change of the language of instruction from Dutch to English. However both supporters and critics agree that change must come if the Statian child is going to succeed (academically). This contribution does not focus on the discussion of the language of instruction. Instead, the author has chosen to highlight the dilemmas in the education system from a pedagogical or rather child-centered point of view. The aim: to focus on aspects that have an equal if not more profound effect on academic performance than the language of instruction. First off this article deals with the influence of parents, followed by the community and educators.  It will end with some conclusive remarks and recommendations on how to the improve the current situation.

The role of parents

Ultimately parents are responsible for their child’s development. Various research outcomes as well as community studies have shown that parenting practice has a strong influence on a child’s life.  Parents are also their child’s first teacher. Children are born with an almost instinctive need to acquire knowledge. From the moment their eyes are open, they are constantly seeking new ways to learn and grow. Within the first five years of its life, a child makes an incredible learning journey.  Most child psychologists, parenting experts and educationists agree that these first five years of a child’s life are of vital importance to its future development. In these years, children learn to know themselves, their surroundings and their community. They learn rules of socially acceptable behavior. They also internalize the cultural norms and values, presented to them by their parents.

A child’s attitude towards learning is an aspect that is  strongly influenced by parental practices. In other words, parents are the ones who teach their children whether learning is something positive or negative. Something to love or something to be shunned.  Parents are also responsible for creating a home environment that is beneficial to learning. By providing their children with (educational) toys and books as well as having discussions, going on excursions, and exploring nature, parents instill in children the necessity of seeking knowledge and understanding the world in which they live.  Such experiences prove vital when children attend school. When brought up in homes where learning is spontaneous and natural, children do better academically than their  peers  whose home environment is less stimulating.

Parents’ belief systems also have great impact on how well their child does in school.  Fan and Chen (1999) found that parental aspiration or expectation for education achievement are strongly related to academic achievements. This means that whether a child does well in school depends to a large extent on whether their parents want or expect them to succeed. The relationship between these two factors is a logical one. Children usually want to please their parents.

In their early years they learn that doing what makes their parents happy, makes them happy too. So if their parents provide them with an home environment  where learning is seen as something important, expect them to accept this as a given fact and to do well in school, they will.

The influence that parents have on their child’s learning experience does not stop there. In his study Jeynes (2005) found that parental involvement is related to all academic variables.  He states that parents’ behaviour, belief systems and attitudes help determine how well their child does in various subjects, as well as their cognitive development during school.  Parents who raise their children in a loving, and  rich learning environment are investing in their child’s scholastic success.

The role of the community

Not all children are raised in loving and healthy environments. Some children grow up in a home environment that is stressful.  Common factors within a stressful home environments include domestic violence, low verbal and social interactions, physical and psychological abuse and neglect. These factors cause stress in children, and subsequently hamper academic achievement. However, such situations need not limit the child’s learning experience nor outcome.  A study published in 1996 by the Journal of Negro Education found that African-American high school seniors were able to achieve in school despite stress factors in their home and social environment .The key lay in the development of resilience. Resilience refers to a child’s ability to cope with and overcome hurdles in its development. In the case of the African American students three factors significantly influenced their resilience. Two of which will be discussed here.  First, “interaction with and involvement of committed, concerned adults and educators in their life”. Second, “the development of two personality traits: perseverance and optimism”.

When a child has access to persons who care for him or her and who can take over the nurturing role in their life, they develop resiliency. If we were to extrapolate  the findings of this report to the Statian context we could draw the same conclusions. In order for the Statian child who faces stress factors in the home environment to become resilient he needs concerned adults and educators in his life. This is where the community plays its biggest role. When members of the community open up their homes, and make it possible for a child to have a safe place where it can be itself they are investing in that child’s future.  Through (after) school projects, extracurricular activities and a general environment of warmth and acceptance, the community acts as a net which catches and launches the falling child back into its rightful place. The Statian child needs adults who are willing to work with him or her, to teach and lead preferably by example.

Besides this it is also important for children to be taught perseverance and optimism.  The  modern world we live in, teaches children to seek instant gratification. If they want something, they should have it immediately. This approach has caused that many children have not learned the importance of perseverance. Of not giving up, but rather keeping at something diligently until it bares fruit. Success in school or anywhere else requires long and hard work. When children live in a world surrounded by adults with a sound work ethic, they learn that almost everything is worth it in the long run. When the government and leaders are dedicated to their tasks and they work at it with all their might, constantly keeping their eyes on the desired results, they teach perseverance by example. The same goals are achieved when leaders remain optimistic despite things not always going their way. If they believe in a cause, and work for it,  it shows character and determination. But more importantly, it instills soundness of character in our children. A trait they will need if they are ever to be (academically) successful.

The role of the Teacher

There is a constant discussion on whether teachers have a child raising duty. However, whether we may want to accept it or not, teachers play an important role in a child’s learning, growth, and  development. Teachers share knowledge of the world with children. They are in a position to form a child’s mind. They are often role models to their students and as such are looked to for help and guidance.  In order for a teacher to educate a child, he or she must genuinely care for and be interested in that child’s welfare.  Children, especially young ones are very intuitive and can sense how adults feel about them. The feedback they receive when they read their teacher is what will ultimately decide if and to what extent they open up themselves to them. A teacher who is generally concerned about a child helps it to be academically successful. When a teacher believes a child can learn, it is reflected in his or her attitude, behavior and speech towards the child.  A child who feels his or her teacher cares about him, is empowered, feels capable and  does better in school.

How do these factors improve Statia’s education System?

Educating a child is a cooperative task. It only yields fruits when all stakeholders in a child’s life work together towards the goal of development and (academic) success.  The relationship between parents, the community and educators forms the foundation of a sound education system. It provides the perfect nesting ground for (academic) excellence. Parents, who love their children and are concerned about their welfare, will be involved within the community and their child’s school. They have an open and trusting relationship with the teachers. They are aware of their child’s needs and make the necessary adjustments in the home environment to ensure that those needs are met. The same goes for the community and for teachers. A community that cares about its children makes sure it is a safe place for them to live in. Adult interactions with children are tainted with warmth and appreciation. Policies are in place to make sure that children are afforded many learning opportunities. Community programs are culturally relevant and focused on enhancing the child’s sense of value and belonging. The community must also take care of and respect the child’s parents. Parents who feel accepted and supported by the members of the community are less stressed. They know they can count on the support of their families, loved ones, other concerned adults and the community at large when they need them. This stimulates their belief in themselves and their ability to properly raise their child.

The same goes for teachers and schools. If children in Statia are to do well in school, there must be good quality teaching material, which takes into account ethnic diversity and the cultural background of the child. The curriculum must not be only aimed at gaining formal knowledge. But must also include tacit knowledge. There must be room for the development of a positive identity, self-image and self-esteem. The Statian child must know where he comes from so that he can decide what his place is to be in the world. Teachers must be loving, patient, determined, optimistic and when necessary critical. Their job is to point out to parents where there is need for improvement while simultaneously working with parents to bring about the improvement in question.

To do this,  teachers need professionalization trajectories that are school based and school focused. Education leaders must be well seasoned in didactics. In laymen’s terms: they must know what they are doing. But more importantly they must care about what they are doing. Teachers need the support of good quality and well placed education policies to ensure that they can do their job the way it needs to be done. They also need a support system where they can raise their grievances as well as gain support  to implement their education programs.

Conclusive remarks.

If the education system of Statia is to work for the Statian child it needs to be overhauled. The need for overhaul is not to undo the works of others but rather to fortify and expand the foundation. All parties who play a major role in the child’s welfare must work together in pursuit of what should be their common goal: a bright future for Statia’s child.  Each child in Statia is unique and different.  This uniqueness must be imbedded into the education system if it is to work for him or her.  There must be support and a profound willingness to work together present in all parties. The dynamics of the Statian culture must be taken into consideration when the curriculum is constructed.  The Statian child must know himself if he is to know the world. Cultural identity and cultural context are very necessary in the curriculum, as they contribute significantly to learning experiences and success.. Besides formal knowledge, the curriculum must  teach personality traits such as perseverance, optimism, positive self-esteem and a  positive self-image.

The task may seem daunting but it need not be. Statia has a rich diaspora as well as a vast amount of unused resources which can be consulted and pooled to support and provide relevant expertise and implementation. Men and women willing to invest their talent, to ensure (academic) success for Statia’s children.  A good start on the road to creating a tailor made education system which sufficiently prepares the Statian child for his  or her place in the world could be an educational convention where all stake holders, as well as other interested persons                                     come together to discuss, decide and plan  how the education system in Statia should be constructed, and what the role of each stakeholder should be. Simultaneously the subject of the language of instruction can be dealt with. Thereby ensuring a holistic approach to the various bottlenecks in the present  education system. By coming together, with an attitude of optimism and perseverance, all major stakeholders can invest and protect the best of Statia; it’s children.

(Jean Marie Molina was born and raised on Statia, has studied child development at the University of Leiden and works as coordinator “praktijkgestuurd leren” at the “Hogeschool Rotterdam”, she is married and has two children.)

 

Honestly

In this blog I want to share personal observations. The first observation is Hemmie van Xanten. He lives on Saba, is director of the secondary school there and is building a boutique hotel, he is already half way and business is running. What do I like about him? He wants to stay. He wants to build a legacy of what he did with that school and how he set up that hotel. He has made Saba his home.

Statia needs directors and teachers like that.

The other observation was a close by observation of my husband. He taught history at the Gwendoline van Putten for 4 and 5 Havo. In the year we came, the 4havo (tweede fase bovenbouw) started for the first time. He is a history teacher and thought he was going to teach history. I don’t remember how it went, I think they also spoke about “maatschappijleer” and “aardrijkskunde”, but they never mentioned “afdelingsleider”. When he came to the island it was decided he had to give those three subjects and be the afdelingsleider of the havo.

I think I can speak for all of the havo 4 en havo 5 children who had him as history teacher that they learned a lot from Mr. Kusters. I think that when they grow old, the first thing they remember about Mr. Kusters is that he taught them about Martin Luther King and the black power movement. He talked with them about slavery and he let them discover their roots in a portfolio they had to make.

The lessons my husband gave, were in English. He had to talk English to reach to the children and have them clearly understand what he is saying.

Unfortunately things went wrong in the school. The same things that repeat itself, year after year. If my husband would have given the respect and freedom he needed, he would have stayed on the island. He always said this job was the most interesting job he had ever had. He liked the students.

What happened to my husband, also happened to my husband. There are many students who will have good memories of both Mr. Kusters and Mr. Kerkhoff. These men spoke English fluently as if it was their mothertongue. That really helped a lot!

I hope next time the board is more carefull with people’s abilities. See them for what they are and use the strength. You need to be very intelligent to do that. I think each member of the board might have some sort of intelligence, but not the intelligence for managing talents of people and help them grow. And also not the intelligence to understand what children need. Maybe some of them have, but as a functioning board, they do not. There has to be a radical move to change this and that only happens when good teachers stay on the island.

Early Childhood education

Today I read in the NRC next that municipalities in the European Netherlands want to merge “peuterspeelzalen”, “voorschoolse educatie” and “kinderopvang” into one institute: “Integrale Kindcentra”. “Kinderopvang” is used by parents that work, a “peuterschool” is mostly used by parents that have time for their children, but want to prepare them for elementary school. In these “peuterspeelzalen” the program “Voorschoolse educatie” (pre school education)  can be offered and is mostly used for children who have language arrears.

The research Nobel prize winner James Heckman has done, shows that in the US, every dollar the government invests in such preschool education brings in 8 dollars in the long term; people that have had early childhood education end up with a better job, more money and a healthier lifestyle then people who didn’t have pre school education.

You can see a short youtube movie about that research here: http://www.heckmanequation.org/content/resource/early-childhood-education-has-high-rate-return, if you have the time, this presentation by the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio Schubert  is worth seeing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOt-dkB98UY#t=517

On St. Eustatius, there is to my knowledge no extra funding available for early childhood education like the funding for “voorschoolse educatie” in the European part of the Netherlands.

Seeing the problems in education on the island it may be wise to look into this matter.

 

 

“Dumbing us Down”

Koert Kerkhoff has published this for consideration:

In his controversial 1992 book Dumbing Us Down, — now in its tenth edition — award-winning teacher John Taylor Gatto puts forward a decidedly different view of what needs to be done to improve our schools. He argues that kids need less school rather than more, that our current system of education stifles the natural curiosity and joy of learning, and that between school, television and the internet, kids today are left with less than 12 hours a week “to create a unique consciousness”. The book proposes that radical change is needed to the American educational system to turn around the negative socialization that children receive.

John Taylor Gatto: “It appears to me as a schoolteacher that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak com­munities. They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives. Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any sound idea of family to develop — then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.

“Why, then, are we locking kids up in an involuntary network with strangers for twelve years? …

 

“Look again at [what I consider to be] the seven lessons of school teaching (as it is now): confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, and surveillance. All of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of find­ing the center of their own special genius. And over time this training has shaken loose from its original purpose: to regulate the poor. For since the 1920s the growth of the school bureaucracy as well as the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exact­ly as it is, has enlarged this institution’s original grasp to the point that it now seizes the sons and daughters of the middle classes as well. …

 

Goed onderwijs begint in de klas

Sinds oktober 2010 is Nederland verantwoordelijk voor het onderwijs op Bonaire, St. Eustatius en Saba. Het onderwijs op de middelbare school van St. Eustatius is verslechterd sinds die tijd. Een makkelijk te nemen maatregel die de basis legt voor goed onderwijs is het aanbieden van vaste contracten aan leraren.

De kinderen die op de middelbare school komen op St. Eustatius zijn bij begrijpend lezen gemiddeld op het niveau van groep 4/5. Dat zijn in Nederland kinderen van 7 en 8. Er is een rapport verschenen van de onderwijsinspectie. Dat kunt u hier lezen: http://www.scribd.com/doc/190930130/Rapport-Van-Bevindingen-Kwaliteitsonderzoek-Translation-Ch-2-3-Appendix

Goed onderwijs begint in de klas. Uit het McKinsey rapport “How to improve education, hier te lezen: http://www.scribd.com/doc/78625564/McKinsey-Report-2010-How-to-Improve-Education , blijkt dat goed onderwijs erop neerkomt dat de leraar in de klas op zo’n manier instrueert, dat de leerlingen er echt iets van leren. Dat klinkt simpel, maar in de praktijk is dat heel moeilijk. Je moet om een betere leraar te worden, steeds testen of de leerlingen goed hebben begrepen wat je hebt bedoeld. Dan begrijp je wel, dat de betere leerlingen vaak op de zwakkere leerlingen moeten wachten. De leraar moet namelijk zorgen dat ALLE kinderen het begrepen hebben. Als bijna alle kinderen ergens zwak in zijn, zoals de kinderen op Statia in het Nederlands en zelfs in het Engels (“proper English”), dan schiet dat maar heel langzaam op voor een leraar. Hij moet erg goed zijn om ze op niveau te krijgen.

Om goed te kunnen lesgeven, moet de leraar een fijne werksfeer om zich heen hebben. Hij moet zich zeker voelen dat de directie een steun in de rug is, die hem dekt wanneer er problemen zijn. Een directeur moet leiding geven en in staat zijn het team van leraren die fijne werksfeer te bieden.

Leraren kunnen leren van elkaar als ze open zijn en als ze weten waar ze aan toe zijn in een school. Leraren geven beter les als ze precies weten wat ze de kinderen moeten leren. Het onderwijs schiet overal ernstig tekort op Statia. Dat begint op de peuterschool, wordt niet echt veel beter op de basisschool en is rampzalig op de Gwendoline van Puttenschool.

Het is erg moeilijk om les te geven op St. Eustatius. We hebben heel goede toegewijde leraren nodig voor alle niveau’s, van peuterschool tot en met middelbare school. Als nieuwe leraren een drie jarig contract krijgen aangeboden, geef je ze de volgende boodschap: “Wil je eens wat anders in je onderwijscarriere, kom dan 3 jaartjes bij ons lesgeven.”

Dat is niet handig. Je wil goede mensen trekken die zich betrokken en verbonden voelen. Dan moet je vaste contracten aanbieden. Een jaar op proef en daarna stilzwijgend ieder jaar het contract verlengen.

Een lichtpunt is de MBO. De MBO heeft een goed team van jonge hoog opgeleide leraren. Wat zou het jammer zijn als die over drie jaar allemaal weer weg waren.

Annemieke Jansen,

Drs. Pedagogische wetenschappen.

 

Statia Government signs for Childcare Improvement Project

 

St. Eustatius-     The Dutch government made additional funds available for the research on the improvement of the quality of Childcare on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.

The  Island Governor of St. Eustatius, Mr. Gerald Berkel signed a subsidy contract with  the Director of AMFO Mr. Reinoudt Karsdorp on January 10th 2013. This project concerns the reinforcement of childcare on St. Eustatiusn and costs an amount of $ 314.700,00. The money is made available by the different Dutch ministries under coordination of the ministry of social affairs while AMFO finalizes approvals, contracts and payments. By means of this project, approval is granted to a project plan on outlines with a running period of approximately three years.

 By April 2013 a detailed plan has to be presented to the Head of Social Affairs at the RCN. The payment is scheduled in three tranches. The program will exist of:

– the improvement of the quality,

– availability of affordable child places

– and if necessary the expansion of responsible materials for child care.

The research will first look at the quality and determine the possibilities of improvement of the childcare. The needed inventory will take place to confirm if the existing child care is sufficient. In the first half of 2013 the research and inventory will take place, after these actions the funds will become available to carry out the actual improvements on the island. The entire trajectory will have a duration of three years.

From left to right: Commissioners Koos Sneek and Carlyle Tearr, Mr. Reinourdt Karsdorp and Lt Gov Gerald Berkel

 

New Housing Governor de Graaff School officially in use

On Friday, January 11th, headmaster Floyd Woodley together with Commissioner  Carlyle Tearr and acting lieutenant governor Kenneth Lopes of St. Eustatius cut the opening ribbon of the brand new school building of Governor de Graaff School in the Lynch area of St. Eustatius.

School principal Floyd Woodley said that he and his school were lucky to have a new school building like this and expressed his gratitude to RCN/OCW as well as the Public entity St. Eustatius. Commissioner Tearr of Education: “As Commissioner of Education, I am delighted to know that the students will be educated in such a wonderful, stimulating setting.”. Head of RCN/OCW Fleur Lagcher: “The State Secretary requested me to congratulate you on his behalf with this milestone. He wishes students and teachers success with their brand new school building. A pleasant and healthy school accommodation contributes positively to the learning results. We all work hard to achieve this, on all three islands of the Dutch Caribbean.”

Now the students and teachers of the GdG have access to a modern school with four classrooms, two offices, a staff room/kitchen, sanitary facilities for both students and teachers, a technical room and a schoolyard. The building is also equipped with air conditioning systems that provide the premises and workplaces with a pleasant temperature and a constant supply of fresh air. The implementation of the construction project was in the hands of HODES Bouwsystemen.

Education Housing Plan
The realization of this construction project for the GdG School is part of the Education Housing Plan for St. Eustatius, which is jointly financed by the Public Entity of St. Eustatius and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (In Dutch: Ministerie van Onderwijs Cultuur en Wetenschap (OCW)).  The Dutch Government Building Department, on  behalf of the Public Entity of St.  Eustatius and OCW, coordinates the implementation of the various projects that are part of this plan.

New construction GDG School
One of the priorities of the Education Housing plan is an adequate housing for the GdG School. In the past few years,  the building of the GDG School has become too large for the number of pupils visiting the school. At the same time, at the Gwendoline van Putten School the problem of lack of space arose. It was therefore agreed that the GdG School would get a new building, which fits better with the number of pupils. The former premises of the GdG School are now available for the Gwendoline van Putten School. With that,  a portion of the space problem of that school is solved.

Projects St. Eustatius
Based on the Education Housing plan, all schools of St. Eustatius, by turns, will be renovated and/or (re) constructed. In September 2012,  a new covert space was built for the Gwendoline van Putten School. Future projects on St. Eustatius include renovations of school buildings of the Golden Rock, the Bethel Methodist, the Gwendolyne van Putten and the Seven Day Adventist School.

Photo caption:

Pupils of the GdG school performing a flash mob together with their teacher at the end of the opening ceremony

Opinion: Does every child really count on Statia?

(picture Siem Dijkshoorn (planning bureau) and Commissioner Tearr at the opening of the Gov. de Graaffschool last Friday)

Dear Editor,
The public school of St. Eustatius under the name “Governor De Graaff School” has a history of over 100 years. Many scholars of today are deputies, jurist, administrators, lieutenant governors, teachers, nurses, social workers and professionals in all areas have attended this school.

This is for the fourth time in history that this school had to move. After 24 years of being housed on the Ruby G. Hassell Road, Fiscal, they are “thrown” out of their building.

The school was to become a foundation as of August 2012, start of the new school year. We are in December, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. The plans are probably stuck somewhere in the pipeline.

Going back in history more than six years ago, it was said by the then ruling government that the school should merge with Bethel Methodist School; two years ago it was said that all the students would be divided among the existing elementary schools as it does not have enough students (58). That did not take place because of previous Commissioner Hooker and based on the Compulsory Education Law and the previous Compulsory Education Officer, that a public school is needed for parents who do not wish to send their children to a religious school. So, the government decided then to take away four classrooms from the  Governor De Graaff School and give them over to the Gwendoline van Putten School.

Thanks to our previous Councilman Clyde van Putten, and later in coalition of Hope as Commissioner of Education, that this school was not closed down but instead fought for a new school building to house these students. It is a pity that he is no longer a commissioner to finish his fight.

Bottlenecks:

Looking at what was promised then and the outcome now is a big different. The school looks like “Little House on the Prairie,” with limited space for our children to play and put on elements. When space is not the problem, for enough space was given, the children could have even had their own little garden space within the fencing, if it was done correctly; also, with playing elements on the grounds etc.

Next they have limited classrooms space to facilitate all the school activities (remedial teachers, school breakfast and after school lunch, school nurse, music instrument storing, office supply storing, library etc.)

The school committee requested the “little white house” (working space of the builders) for extra spacing but, it is left outside the fencing. How can it facilitate the school outside the fencing is the big question?

The committee also got a temporary container from NUSTAR (for which they are very grateful) to help facilitate storing of all the school materials that are to be used at the new school. Only to find out that the government decided that it should be used to also store all the old materials of the school. My people, the old materials took up practically all the container space, as a result the new classrooms will be looking like a storage place. The school’s staff is on their well deserved vacation. I don’t see school starting on January 7, 2013, and I foresee classrooms with lots of boxes for a very long time. If the container was used for its purpose, things could have been stored and gradually stored in their rightful place.

Storing place – the school has no storing place for administration goods or any other items. They can’t hang/ put up any shelves on the walls, can’t even put up blackboards, only light items (drawings/ paintings.) Besides which, if the basement was built to facilitate/ house this purpose, the school would not be faced with this problem.

Floors – our school room floors look like the cheapest quality on the market. It is ugly and I am afraid that it is not durable, especially with our Caribbean way of mopping the floors where water will settle under the surface, which can become a future problem (goedkoop kan duurkoop zijn).

Water – the school has two water tanks (one to catch, the other smaller one for the overflow) underground which must serve as a cistern also outside the fencing. Now everyone knows that a school uses lots of water, when the electricity is off, how will the school get water? It was also said that the school does not need a cistern as MNO is busy with the waterlines. We all know that the waterline was to be opened since May 2012. Everyone knows that MNO left with lots of question marks for our people. When our government has professionals in place with very high salaries to control all these projects.

Septic tank – we know that we still have to continue building our traditional septic tanks as we do not have the facilities in place to dump septic. Now, the school has a very strange septic system set up outside the fencing. Let us hope it is set up to facilitate our situation.

Electricity: – the school has a full cooling system set up which is great (first school with this system). The only problem that I foresee is when GEBE goes off, which can be often, if this system breaks down who will fix/resetit? As the school does not have a generator as yet in place.

Let us hope now that our government will do a better job in putting a second fencing or enlarging the previous fencing to facilitate the needs of the school along with the parking space etc. As it is their responsibility.

As the saying goes “Wie betaald, bepaald,” everyone knows that slowly but surely we are heading in that direction. It is take it or leave it!

Wishing all the staff of the school a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous 2013, filled with patience, love, grace, peace and cooperation in making this school a place of joy to attend for each and every child.

Brenda van Putten, PLP president