Category Archives: Education

Educator put back on government’s payroll

(DH 8 Dec) ST. EUSTATIUS–The Executive Council said it has resolved the case of Theola Schmidt on Thursday, meaning that she will receive her salary owed for October and November, and will be put back on the regular payroll as of this month. This comes one day after former commissioner Glenville Schmidt criticized government’s handling of the case, in a televised address.

Theola Schmidt is a niece of the ex-commissioner and was informed in a letter dated August 28, that her contract with government would not be renewed after October 1.

She worked for the government-run second-chance education programme that gives dropouts and other young adults a second chance to complete an education and get a diploma, giving them better chances for further education and on the job market. The contracts of her colleagues ended earlier in the year, but no new contracts were given to them while they continued to work, in effect making them permanent government employees. By ending her contract, Schmidt was put in a legally disadvantageous position compared with her colleagues, while all of them continued to do the same work. She was consequently advised to sign a labour agreement with a temporary employment agency to continue working until a new foundation is  established to take over the programme and the employees. Schmidt refused to sign-up with the temporary agency, but continued doing her job and sought legal advice. As a result of its own legal advice, government has now decided to pay her salary owed since October 1 and put her back on the payroll, equal to her colleagues. This case caused much consternation, with  persons claiming it bordered on victimization.

All Island Council members have questioned government about it and demanded the situation to be rectified. Schmidt referred to this case in a televised address on Wednesday, December 5, concerning his resignation from office, since it was mentioned as one of the cases he had not handled efficiently.

Schmidt refuted this, saying he objected from the beginning to the manner in which the case was handled by the Executive Council, but decisions were made by majority in the Council.

He also blamed coalition leaders Reuben Merkman (DP) and independent Island Council Member Millicent Lijfrock-Marsden for not putting pressure on his colleague-commissioner Koos Sneek (DP) to resolve the matter sooner.

Opinion piece: We need to improve on education

(DH nov 27) Dear Editor,

With interest I read “Nothing new for our people” by Brenda van Putten in your November 20 Newspaper. One of the many things which caught my eye was her remarks about “local counterparts.” I quote: “Next those coming-in to show us how to do the job, but shouldn’t they have a native counterpart working along with them so that when they leave, we have a trained person to fill that vacancy. We do need more qualified persons and many of our young people are seeking employment.”

I believe it is more complicated than that.

People from abroad are hired to do jobs which need higher education and experience in a similar or comparable job. Without that background, a native counterpart can only act like a parrot: copy things he/she saw when working with the hired person. Let me give an example. To become a dermatologist, you need at least 5 years of general medical training and at least 5 years of specific dermatology training. It is an illusion that a person without this educational background can be a good dermatologist, even if he/she would work with me for years. At best, the counterpart could learn to copy things I do but if a patient would show up with a slightly different medical background or skin problem the counterpart would be at a loss. The same applies for other jobs in or close to government where people from abroad are hired for. Did you ever hear of a person from abroad being hired to clean the streets, to clean the offices or to prepare meals or to do the laundry? Of course not, because those skilled people are available on our island. More complicated (governmental) jobs, even on a small island like St. Eustatius, need serious education and skills which you cannot simply learn by shadowing or working with a skilled person, which brings me to the remark that

“We do need more qualified persons.”

I absolutely agree but in this field I believe many parents in the Caribbean fail. There are very, very few children in the world who can study without support from their parents. After all, this is in the definition of a child: a person who is not old enough to live by him/herself. Children need encouragement, correction, praise, attention and much more to be able to become a healthy and happy adult, let only to become an educated person. If my parents would not have supported me throughout my primary and secondary school, I would not be where I am now.

Also, living on a small island, it is an illusion to believe that all jobs can be filled with native (or should we say: local?) people. Not every child wants to learn or is able to learn. Let me give another example. When I was on secondary school, my mother tried to keep up with my mathematics lessons. As much as she tried (and she tried very hard), she could not. She simply lacked the capacity to learn more complicated mathematics. So we should not tell our children: you can get any job you like, if you only want and try. It is not true, it is a lie. And yet this lie is told again and again when children graduate from primary school. Tell your children: try to do your best in every aspect; more than that you cannot do and support and keep supporting them. They need you!

Regretfully, many Caribbean parents believe that the school should educate their children. This is not true and not possible. The school is there to teach and a school can only try to augment the good things what parents gave to their children and try to correct the bad things.

Regretfully also, many Caribbean parents don’t invest much time in the education of their children. And if they do, it is often in a negative way. “Behave,” is the most abused word in education. It has been known for decennia that children behave better and learn better when there is more positive than negative feedback. This is easy to understand: how would you feel if your boss would mostly talk to you about things you are not doing well, not mentioning the things you do well? The same applies to your children. Yet, research has shown that Caribbean children suffer from an overdose of negative remarks with only very few positive remarks. This is one of the reasons that Caribbean children do less well than other children who do get positive feedback from their parents. So it is very essential to devote attention and time to your children, every day, to interact with them, to play with them, to try to help them with homework because only in this way you will get to know your child and only by knowing your child you can help him/her. Of course that is not easy, especially when you are a young single mom who had to leave school at a young age and has to work long hours to earn enough money. How much energy is left when you reach home after a work day? To put the children in front of the television is then very tempting.

If we want better educated children, we have to start with educating our children in a better way. And instead of just loosely talking about “morals” we should try to invest in more stable relationships where the father is not only present but actually helping in educating the children in a positive way. One reason boys do worse than girls in education is that many of them lack the possibility to identify with a positive father figure. To change all these things is not easy; after all, it has been like this for decennia. But it has to change, because if you don’t improve on education, I can predict what will happen: we will continue to need many, too many people from abroad working in our society. And that is a bloody shame.

For the parents, Jan van Duren


Participants complete competence training

ST. EUSTATIUS–A group of persons from across the business community successfully completed the Competence-Based Basic Training Course provided by the Council of Education and Labour Market ROACN under the direction of Violet Duggins-Gumbs.

“The Dutch Caribbean ROACN Foundation has as its primary task the creation of a good link between Vocational Training and the business community,” Duggins-Gumbs said.

Participants were equipped with the knowledge and skills that are essential while guiding students, during this threeday training course. On completion of the training course the individuals who participated made it possible for ROACN to assist their companies to become officially and internationally certified work placement companies.

(These companies will provide on the job training for the new MBO of the Gwendoline van Puttenschool (A.))

From left: (seated) Charmine Turmer, Jennie Cuvalay Duggins, Ivan Blijden and Claire Blair; (standing) Beatrijs Keijser, Micheline Hinse, Iantha Berkel, Larissa Rouse, Mary Renfurm, Humphrey Pandt, Violet Busby, Shirley Schmidt, Anica Marsden, Paul Fletcher and trainer Violet Duggins-Gumbs.


Zaandam wants black history in school curriculum

ST. EUSTATIUS–Leader of the United People’s Coalition (UPC) Reginald Zaandam tried to convince the Island Council on Thursday to include black history in the curriculum of public schools. According to Zaandam, education is an important tool in decolonization. “Colonialism can only  be imprinted through indoctrination in the mind of the colonized. In doing so, the colonizer had to emphasize that their history and culture is without any doubt superior. In that process the colonizer did not mince words to emphasize the inferiority of the history and culture of our  ancestors in comparison with that of the colonizer. The colonizers make use of every means at their disposal to erase the history and culture of the colonized and also prevented their offspring to become knowledgeable of that.” Zaandam said that, even after the abolishment of slavery, colonizers made sure that in the curricula of the education system in the overseas territories the African origin and culture was never mentioned.

“Since the majority of teachers were white the need to enlighten young blacks about their ancestors was not there,” he said. “The African  continent was being portrayed as backward with savages killing each other, whereas on the other hand, Piet Hein was portrayed as one of the Dutch heroes. Years later, I found out he was just a simple pirate.” Zaandam stated that in secondary education teachers had “the audacity to impress on us that we should feel lucky that our forefathers were taken out of Africa and enslaved.”

Zaandam called upon his colleagues in the Island Council to ensure that the younger generation be exposed to the rich African history and  culture, which according to the UPC-leader is full of role models. Zaandam also pointed out that many believe that independence would release the people of the shackles of colonialism. “But that is far from the truth. As long as we as a people neglect to take charge of the educational system and the media, the system of neo-colonialism will still be anchored in the community,” said. “What can be very disturbing, since education is in Dutch hands, is the fact that if we as the people’s representatives dare to sit idle and fail to take charge to expose the younger generation to this valuable and rich history and culture, mental colonialism will kick in.” Zaandam emphasized that the younger generation must be made to understand that their perception of African history is essential for their frame of reference in their life’s journey. “It helps them understand how the status quo came to be and also helps determine their perception of life now.”

(On the picture is Mansa Musa “King of Kings” of Mali who reigned from 1312-1337 AD)

Poor Dutch Language Skills put Caribbean Students at disadvantage in Holland

Caribbean students studying in the Netherlands are at a disadvantage because of poor language skills, a report by the Soualiga Foundation found. Stichting Soualiga Foundation caters to the specific social and cultural needs of Sint Maarteners living in the Netherlands. Other factors that hamper studies are poor preparation before departure to the Netherlands, a lack of discipline, and problems with integrations, discrimination and peer pressure.

The survey – taken during a student forum in April – showed that students have “an inherent desire to contribute to the building of country St. Maarten” and to return to the island after the completion of their studies. “A majority of the participants (in the survey – ed.) had a healthy sense of responsibility with regard to returning to St. Maarten to share their knowledge and develop the country.”

At the same time the student came up with a long list of conditions and suggestions. The promises made in the incentive package proposed by the government should be upheld was the remark that topped the list. Posting vacancies in the civil service and the private sector on a web site and increasing the minimum wage to “a suitable level” were two other suggestions.

Students also said that they want to be able to function in the areas they studied for. They also called for a control on the housing market and to provide affordable housing so that returning students are not forced to go and live with their parents again.

The students furthermore demand “increased transparency with regards to laws and activities within government controlled companies.” Students also expressed concerns about the crime situation on the island. One student suggested sending down 100 unemployed police officers from the Netherlands to St. Maarten for a year on a rotation basis.

The survey also showed that students are aware of the country’s poor ICT infrastructure (“needs to be drastically improved”). They also call for policies that promote diversification of the economy and for combining foreign investment with social infrastructure improvement. “Foreign companies must contribute to the maintenance or improvement of roads, schools and hospitals.” Incentives and support for small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-up companies are also important to students.

And while many of them feel discriminated in the Netherlands, they also called for updated legislation “to offer protection against discrimination to all St. Maarteners, regardless of race, creed, physical ability, sexual orientation and gender.”

Students were also asked for reasons why they would not return home. In a nutshell: “Corruption, nepotism, deficiencies in the infrastructure, the downturn in the economy and the small-mindedness of the government and the St. Maarten society.”

The main reason why students from St. Maarten struggle with their studies in the Netherlands is poor mastery of the Dutch language, the survey showed. “The majority of St. Maarteners face the same problem: the inability to adequately express themselves in Dutch This problem, particularly in a society where assertiveness is encouraged and supported from a young age is a great disadvantage. The level of Dutch (upon leaving the island) is therefore a major factor influencing the academic performance of St. Maarteners in the Netherlands.”

Language is not the only issue. Many students find the preparation sessions they undergo before their departure “inadequate, vague, and eleventh-hour.” The sessions do not provide information that reflects the reality of living in the Netherlands, students said.

Students also admitted that procrastinating and lacking discipline contributed to failure. “For some students who leave St. Maarten to study in the Netherlands is their first taste of freedom. Some will cope better with that than others.” Students pointed out that the Dutch “make sure to remind them at every opportunity that they are different.” Integration and discrimination are therefore also factors that negatively impact study results. “Not accustomed to being on the receiving end of discrimination, some students find it hard to cope with situations of prejudice,” the report states. This applies especially to “being ostracized by colleagues and teachers because of insufficient Dutch language skills. This can break confidence and motivation.”

Money is yet another issue that gets students in trouble. Especially MBO students indicated that their study financing was not or just enough to cover their expenses. Poor financial administration skills are not helping either.

Source Today, October 29, 2012

Editorial of Today:

Education Minister Silveria Jacobs has work to do or, to be entirely correct, more work to do, after she received the report from the Soualiga Foundation about the experiences of St. Maarten’s students in the Netherlands. The main stumbling block for academic success on the other side of the ocean seems to be the lack of language skills. This is not about any language skill: the students are not proficient enough in the Dutch language. That makes them a target for teachers and fellow students and it obviously also hampers their ability to learn. Add to this that for most meaningful government jobs in St. Maarten mastering Dutch is practically a prerequisite and we all know what needs to be done. Our kids have to become better in Dutch; the government has to take the lead here and make sure that this happens. There is obviously no overnight-solution but the language issue needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. Making a language test part of the process to qualify for study-financing would probably encourage students to put more effort into upgrading their Dutch.

CXC Registrar suggests rethink of education system

10/27/2012 (source: the barbados advocate)

If the Caribbean wishes to stay on the cutting edge in terms of education and national competitiveness, it must rethink the education system.

This is the suggestion of Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Registrar, Dr. Didacus Jules. He gave the University in the Community Lunchtime Lecture on the topic “The Challenges of Education in the Contemporary Carib-bean” recently at the Grand Salle.

Referring to CXC statistics, Dr. Jules said that the highest enrolments at CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) level are in the business studies and the sciences, while the areas of concern are the technical subjects with only five percent of the registration.

“If we are serious about technical and vocational education and about participating in a knowledge driven ICT enabled new age, then it is not enough for us to be doing TVET at basic skill level, or TVET at CSEC level, we need to move TVET to higher and higher levels,” he maintained.
Dr. Jules went on to speak about observations he made when he attended the world conference on TVET is Shanghai earlier this year. He said that in presentations on the Chinese experience and several other cutting edge experiences, what come across very distinctly is that TVET has been treated as part of a seamless education system. He explained that therefore the opportunities do not only exist at the basic skill level, like in the Caribbean, but go right up to the highest levels of professional attainment.

The CXC Registrar further made the point that the education system directly affects a country’s national competitiveness. He referred to the US’ President Barack Obama’s vision of creating a different America, where the idea of rethinking American education to better prepare Americans for 21st century is central. Dr. Jules also linked the education system to some countries’ ability to prosper the current difficult economic environment.

“The countries that have best weathered the recessionary storm and some of those who have thrived in these times of adversity are those whose educational agenda has been bold, future oriented and fundamentally grounded in quality and equity foundations. Think Singapore, think Finland, South Korea, China, Germany,” Jules noted. (AN)

More about the TVET in Shanghai mentioned, to be found here:




Sustainable development and education

The UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre is organizing a moderator-driven discussion from 22 October to 2 November 2012 on the UNEVOC e-Forum. The topic of the discussion is ‘Greening TVET for sustainable development’.

The discussion seeks to explore the concept of greening TVET and gather feedback and experiences on this issue from the international TVET community. The input from participants will be synthesized and summarized into a final synthesis report, which will provide directions for future research and programme work in this field. Your active participation in the discussion would be most gratefully received and we would also like to encourage you to circulate this event in your network.

Mr Kai Gleissner from the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (Germany) will be moderating this discussion. In the context of his work for the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Mr Gleissner has conducted research in the area of sustainable development and international vocational education and has published various publications on this topic. Mr Gleissner is also the coordinator of the UNEVOC Centre “TVET for Sustainable Development” in Magdeburg, Germany, a consortium of three institutions, namely the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation.

More information about the discussion will be circulated soon. To sign up, click here

For the background note and more information about the discussion, please visit the UNEVOC e-Forum

UNICEF worried about abuse of youth on islands.

THE HAGUE–Abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation of children, poverty and teenage pregnancies are some of the issues facing children in the Dutch Caribbean, according to preliminary findings of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF.

To redress some of these pressing issues and to invest in guaranteeing the basic rights of children, four parties in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, led by the Christian Union (CU), took the initiative to submit a motion requesting the Dutch government to reserve a minimum of 750,000 euros in 2013 budget.

Member of Parliament (MP) Gert-Jan Segers of CU, supported by Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and Roelof Bisschop of the reformed SGP party, wants the additional funds to be used to strengthen the existing cooperation programmes for expert and technical support in the area of children’s rights.

Segers said during the handling of the draft 2013 budget for Kingdom Relations on Wednesday and Thursday that UNICEF’s preliminary conclusions showed that extra efforts are very much needed; existing programmes are insufficient and local knowhow and expertise is lacking on the islands.

The preliminary conclusions of the situation analysis of Aruba and Curaçao mention, among other things, significant abuse and neglect of children in these countries.

Initiatives of the Curaçao government to tackle the trade in children and sexual exploitation of children are insufficient. Youth delinquency facilities in Curaçao are lacking. As a result youngsters of 16 and 17 are often locked up together with adults in prison, where there are insufficient educational facilities. There are insufficient alternative sanctions for youth delinquents in Curaçao.

Curaçao and Aruba youngsters are dropping out of school and there are not enough mechanisms to get this group back into school. Education in the countries is based on the Dutch system and does not relate to the local situation. There are few educational facilities for special needs children and high quality, affordable afterschool facilities are lacking.

Obesity is a big problem among children in Curaçao and Aruba. Healthy food is expensive and children are insufficiently engaged in sports activities. Integral policy is lacking in this area. The active involvement of children and youngsters in policies that relate to them is scarce.

Teenage pregnancies are a recurring issue in Curaçao and Aruba. A contributing factor is that parents do not discuss sexuality sufficiently with their children. Sexual education in schools is inadequate.

UNICEF researchers were faced with a lack of statistical data on children’s rights especially in Curaçao and St. Maarten. This slowed down the research and required researchers to make a broad study to obtain a more complete view of the situation in which children are growing up.

The situation analysis of St. Maarten was not yet available at the time of the debate in the Second Chamber. Children’s rights were also looked at in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, which as public entities have become the responsibility of The Netherlands. The results of the studies on the different islands will be presented publically in February 2013.

The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports has already invested a lot in improving youth care facilities and child/youth welfare in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, stated Dutch caretaker State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sports Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner on Friday in response to written questions posed by MPs Cynthia Ortega-Martijn and Esther Wiegman-Van Meppelen Scheppink of the CU.

When the United Nations Committee for Children’s Rights pointed out in 2009 that it had serious concerns about children’s right in the then-Netherlands Antilles, the islands and The Netherlands decided to make youth affairs a priority. Additional funds were made available in 2009 and 2010.

Together with the local governments and organisations on the islands and the Dutch Inspection of Youth Care, many improvements were made in youth care facilities on the three islands. Centres for Youth and Family Affairs were set up, leisure time facilities for youngsters ages 12 and up were improved, youth care was developed, family guardianship was improved and the Court of Guardianship was strengthened.

Professionals are being trained using the Positive Parenting Programme method and parents are being involved. In the coming two years authorities will focus on further improvement of youth health care, support for parents in the upbringing of teenage children, strengthening of sexual education, coaching of teenage mothers, the use of so-called “neighbourhood moms” and an integral approach to combat abuse of children.

Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner stated that conferences on children’s abuse had taken place in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with all stakeholders. “These conferences were the start to come to an integral approach to combat children’s abuse and to come to agreements that specifically cater to the local needs and possibilities,” she stated.

She assured that the structural improvement of the position of children had her attention.

Governor de Graaffschool is near completion

Lynch, 25 Oct 2012

The new building of the public school of St. Eustatius, the Governor de Graaffschool is near completion. Government has decided to have the school relocated to allow the expansion of the secondary school, the Gwendoline van Putten School. The old public school building was on the premises of the Gwendoline van Puttenschool.  The new location is at Lynch, this quiet part of the island it is anticipated will create a better learning environment for the children.

Study into English at schools on Statia

30 aug, Daily Herald

THE HAGUE–Dutch caretaker Minister of Education, Culture and Science Marja van BijsterveldtVliegenthart will initiate a comprehensive study into the introduction of English as the primary language of instruction at schools in St. Eustatius.
At the request of Statia’s government, the Minister has started preparations for a study into the introduction of English as the language of instruction both at primary and at secondary schools, Van BijsterveldtVliegenthart informed the Dutch Parliament’s Second
Chamber on Tuesday.
The Second Chamber sent a letter to the Minister on August 2 in response to reports that such a study would take place. Primary
education in Statia currently has two languages of instruction: Dutch and English. Statia’s secondary schools have Dutch as the
language of instruction and the exam language. Schools in Saba have English as the language of instruction.

Statia’s Commissioner of Education Glenville Schmidt wants to make English the language of instruction in primary and secondary education, the Minister explained in her letter. This relates to the fact that the majority of pupils and students speak English at home. The Minister pointed out that not everyone agrees with having English as the main language of instruction at schools.

According to Van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart, any possible change to the language of instruction should be based on the consensus
of all parties involved in education. “My main interest is the benefit of the pupils/students. That is why I have agreed to a study that looks at the advantages and disadvantages of introducing English as the language of instruction as well as maintaining Dutch as the language of instruction,” she stated.

Part of the investigation will focus on investments made in (Dutch) education in the past years. All relevant parties will be involved and consulted, stated the Minister. Effects on education quality, diploma recognition, possibility of moving on to a higher level
of education and students’ employment prospects will be taken into consideration also.

Based on the investigation’s outcome, several scenarios may be drawn up for how to deal with the issue of language in education. The
Minister said she expected the first results of the investigation in the course of 2013, after which the Dutch Government would assume
a position on the matter.