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Articles by Jean Marie Molina

A letter to the Statian Child

A letter to the Statian child

Drs. Jean Marie Molina

 

Hello child of Statia,

How are you? I hope my words find you in the best of health and happiness! Today I would like to make time to tell you some very important things. I know you might be wondering, who I am, and why I chose to write this letter to you. But, who I am is not important. What really matters is who you are.

Child of Statia who are you? When I ask you this question I do not mean who is your father or mother, where you were born or what your nationality is.  I want to know who you are inside. I want to know what your dreams are. What you wish to become in life, and why. What makes you smile and laugh? I even want to know what makes you cry. More importantly, you need to know these things about yourself. If you know who you are, then you know what you can do, and where you can go in life.

Child of Statia, I want you to know that you are amazing. You are a gift to your parents and the world. You are special. You have the right to be happy. To think your own thoughts. To share your opinions with others and to stand up for what you believe in.

Child of Statia, I want you to know that you are intelligent. You often understand the world far better than us adults do. You know things, many things, and you must be proud of what you know. When you do not know, ask questions. Continue to ask them until the answers you get satisfy you. Adults don’t know everything but they know a lot you can learn from them and they can learn from you

Child of Statia, you are good enough. Just as you are. You were made perfectly. There is nothing wrong with you. Being different in whatever way means simply that: different. There is no good or bad when it comes to being who you are. Be yourself! That is the one thing that only you can do. So do it to the best of your ability.

Child of Statia, having an education is important. It starts with getting good grades. Studying and applying yourself is good for you! Do you sometimes get angry? Do adults do things that you do not agree with, or that you feel you can do better? Do you disagree with the decisions our leaders make? Then go to school, study hard, do your best. And then, when you are grown, and even know you can change things. You have the power to create your own destiny. But first you must understand the world. Having an education will help you do that. It will open doors you could never imagine it would. It will take you places, you never knew existed. It will help turn your dreams into reality. It will help you become who you are meant to be. So please go to school and stay there until your task is done!

Child of Statia, do not be afraid. Fear paralyzes people. It stops them from doing what they know is right. You must always do what is right, because it is right. Doing the right thing helps you and those whom you care about. It makes the world a better place. Do not worry about those who may tease you. Who may mock you. Remember this, them teasing you shows their fear of you and what you can do. They can see your potential. If they can see it, that shows how great it is.  Never let them win. Never let them break your spirit. Use their words, their negativity to push yourself forward. Stand up for what you believe in no matter what.

Child of Statia, we all make mistakes. Adults make them all the time, and so will you. But never let your mistakes or the mistakes of others define you. Let people’s words remain words. Their words never have to become your reality. If you have done something wrong. If others constantly say your name with scorn. Prove them all wrong, by picking up and pressing on.

Child of Statia, sex can wait. There will come a time when your body and mind will change. You will feel many strange and wonderful things. Nothing is wrong with those things or you.  But, you may be too young to understand and deal with these things the right way. Do not let your curiosity and the urges of your body decide for or control you. Sometimes your mind will play tricks on you, and that could get you into situations you are not ready for. Instead talk to someone you know you can trust. Be responsible for yourself and your behaviour. All actions have consequences so weigh your actions well.

Child of Statia, I believe in you! I believe in the power that rests deep in your soul. I believe that you can be your very best. I believe that you can change your home, your school, your church, your island, your world! There is much potential in you. It will only come out if you allow it to. Believe in yourself. Have faith in what you can do. Because you can do it. You can be what you were called to be. I expect nothing less from you. You should never accept anything less of yourself.

Child of Statia, I love you……

Child of Statia, I hope to hear from you. Feel free to contact me and tell me about your journey to greatness; callipaedia@gmail.com.

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.)

 

Sellin our Souls to Nustar?!?!

(Statianews, June 2011)

Selling our souls to NuStar?!?!
Dear Editor,
Over the past days, I have paid keen attention to the many opinions posted via Statia News pertaining to the expansion of NuStar. Among the many arguments presented two stuck with me: First, that of Ms. J. Berkel. In her piece, Ms. Berkel asked what the specific benefits of this expansion for Statia and its people were. She further stated that she was not convinced by the arguments put forward thus far. Especially since in her opinion, these benefits have been absent over the past 30 or more years that the Oil Terminal has been present on the island.
The second piece that intrigued me was put forth by DP council member Mr. Koos Sneek. In his piece, Mr. Sneek spoke of the economic boost that this expansion would bring. He mentioned for example the case of senior citizens who live on an income of $500 per month who will benefit from this expansion.
After carefully considering all the pros and cons I have the following questions/comments: Whom will the expansion of NuStar benefit most? In my opinion, NuStar and its shareholders. For whatever reasons (at this moment rather unclear to me) the powers that be feel that an expansion is necessary. I am sure they did not just happen upon this decision. One can expect that their plans are based on various surveys, research results and detailed assessments, all geared at producing a plan that is as cost effective as possible. My point then is: Doesn’t Statia deserve the same? Shouldn’t the island be allowed to hire their experts to access what this expansion will cost the island economically, environmentally, socially and psychologically? And shouldn’t these reports be analyzed properly before any decision is made?
Also, I feel Ms. Berkel’s question should be answered: How will this expansion benefit Statia and its people? As far as I can gather from the different articles primarily Mr. Sneek is convinced that the expansion will (indirectly) lead to more opportunities for small business owners, entrepreneurs and such. Though some of Mr. Sneek’s points make sense, I am not sure that his arguments are valid. That is why I challenge Mr. Sneek and any other persons who support these arguments to explain to the people exactly how this expansion will benefit them. How will it better the situation of the senior citizens? How will it provide jobs for young, talented Statians? What concrete steps will NuStar take to boost Statia’s economy? And, specifically how it will help the little man; the average Statian who must provide for his family on a daily basis?
I am also keen on knowing how NuStar will make sure that this expansion has little or no effect on the island’s ecology. What steps have they taken to ensure all safety regulations are met? Who are the ones that will be assessing these criteria? Have they hired an objective team of experts to safeguard that the island natural resources are not lost? How will the results of such assessments be reported? Will they be presented in such a manner that everyone can understand?
Finally I think that Statia has been through enough since the 10-10-10 situation. Many people in Statia are struggling to survive. In my opinion the last thing they need is to be blind sighted by a big corporation with empty promises. Here is where I think the current government plays a key role. You are the representatives of the people. In order to represent the people you must first know what they want. So, ask them! Organize a referendum, inform the people adequately of their options. Give them a chance to present their ideas and opinions. Be the transparent government you promised to be! As for the people of Statia, I urge you not to be fooled by nice stories. Look at the countries around you. Reflect on the 10-10-10 situation and remember what your exclusion in the decision making process cost you. You cannot afford to make the same mistake again. Whatever your decision may be, make sure it is your choice. NuStar is/will safeguard their interest.
Who will do the same for you?! Ask yourself: What am I willing to invest in this expansion? What will it cost me? And more importantly: Is this something I am willing to sacrifice? For myself? My children? My future? My country?
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”  -Eleanor Roosevelt-
Jean – Marie Molina