Island Opinions

Island Opinions (726)

MARIGOT, St. Martin -

Another young man bite the dust
They call him pinochiu
As He lies there life less
In the dirt
Gun down by three deadly bullets
And no one seems to know from where 
They came fo sure
And the gendarmerie
Can't identify him just the same
All we know is they call him pinochiu
And another youth is cut down
As His blood drain to the ground
Soualigua cryin out to the sky
Askin the Master the reason why
Why soo young ah child has to die
What is wrong with us
Why so much violence and fuss
Four Cruise ships in our port
People come from miles
Just to be on our friendly shores
And see our beautyful smiles
But How can we smile 
when among us there is soo 
Much hatred violences and crimes
And our young men
And women are falling
On the road side like flies
Gun down daily by their piers
As we stand bye helplessly
And in shock, overwork Exorsted and stress
As the blood of our youngsters
Is Crying out from Earth in distress
There is too many guns in this land
And they are not been made by our hands
Still they are circulating and end up
In our children's hands
We don't own the ships
or the air planes
That they use to bring
Those GUNS in
So some one else is profiting
From these crimes 
Otherwise their Importatiom
Would be prohibited
And GUN crimes would be limited
But for that to happen our young peoples lifes
Must MATTER
More than the GUNS profiteers 
and the benifits of the promoters
So let us send a clair message
To the BLOOD SUCKERS
THAT THE LIFES OF WE YOUTHS
DO MATTER
SO PLEASE STOP THE SLAUGHTER
Copyrights 2016
Big Ray

 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Thank you, Sint Maarteners.

“Is that your ninth notebook already Teacher? Teacher Jodi, you write too much!” That is the comment of one of the 6th graders when I pull out my notebook. Over the past nine months he has kept trace of my work and has explained to others who I am and what I do. “She is learning from us about living on Sint Maarten, how we learn and how we teach. And she writes down all the crazy things we say. This is her ninth book!”

This 6th grader is one of the future citizens of Sint Maarten who has been teaching me about living together on this beautiful island. Since August 2015 I have been living and learning on Sint Maarten in order to better understand the ways in which primary school pupils imagine belonging on Sint Maarten. My work is part of a collaborative effort between the University of Amsterdam, the University of Utrecht and the University of Saint Martin, funded by the NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The effort is entitled ‘Imagining the nation in the classroom’.

In 2014 the NWO decided to invest in research in the Dutch Kingdom, focusing on transitions after 10-10-10. They gave funding to different research groups. One group that you might have heard about is that from the KITLV headed by the well-known Caribbeanist Dr. Gert Oostindie. His Confronting Caribbean Challenges group has been doing research on the different islands in the Dutch Caribbean. One of their methods used by one of his staff, Dr. Wouter Veenendaal, you might have heard about, is a large-scale survey involving the Department of Statistics (STAT), the governmental statistics agency on St. Maarten, in which opinions about the developments after 10-10-10 were measured.

The research group that I am part of is headed by Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the president of USM. Instead of using surveys or questionnaires we have chosen to invest in long-term in-depth fieldwork on Sint Maarten and Sint Eustatius. I am the lucky PhD candidate who was assigned to do fieldwork on Sint Maarten. I was invited to teach at USM and to live and learn amongst all of you.

My research has focused on the way national belonging is taught and learned in the primary schools on the island. An important tool in creating this sense of Us, making children see themselves as Sint Maarteners instead of say Sabans or Dominicans is socialization in the classrooms: singing the Sint Maarten song, learning about the island’s flora and fauna, doing traditional dances, participating in festivities such as Sint Maarten’s Day celebrations, carnival, etc. Of equal importance is how the teachers address the students. Do they call them St. Maarteners next to the various ethnic backgrounds of their parents?

To get a grasp of what is happening in the classrooms I have spent time in five different schools on the island. The boards welcomed me and the managers of the different schools introduced me to their staff and allowed me to join students in different classrooms. After this initial three-month introduction period, school manager Mr. Stuart Johnson welcomed me to Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School. There I became a teaching assistant in grade 3 and 6. This allowed me to learn from the students while I helped them mastering their math problems and practicing their language skills.

What I have learnt in the classroom from your children is mind-blowing. They take all that the adults present them with—religious, ethnic, racial, sexual, and national identities—and create something new: a way of relating to each other that includes while critically embracing differences; an open and inclusive belonging, hospitable to the national particularity of Sint Maarten. I have come to the realization that

I and my fellow academics and policy makers, here and in the wider Kingdom, can learn as much from them as we must teach them.

It is now May and even though I have been able to extend my stay a little, my notebooks are filled and it is time for me to take some distance to try and make sense of all that I have learned. And as I go back to the Netherlands, that other part of our Kingdom, I wish to thank you. First and foremost I want to thank all the students that I have worked with. I thank each of you for allowing me into your conversations, your jokes and your games. I thank you for having patience with me and for repeating your words when my grasp of Sint Maarten English was so lousy.

Secondly, I want to thank all the teaching and supporting staff of the Martin Luther King School. Together with the committed managers Mr. Stuart Johnson and Ms. Dorothy Radjouki you have made me feel very much at home. A special thank you goes to teacher LaCroes and Teacher Narine who let me into their classrooms for so many months. Coach Kevin, thank you for letting me play soccer with you and teacher Rudi, thank you for all your dance lessons. Hopefully we continue playing and dancing after the summer.

A last thank you needs to be extended to the management and teachers of the other four schools that welcomed me and allowed me to conduct this research. In particular I would like to thank Mrs. Marva Sam who helped me and a team of interns from Iselinge Hogeschool, in collaboration with the USM, to develop and test a lesson-plan on Slavery and Human Right. This month-long lesson-plan allows teachers and youngsters of Sint Maarten to discuss and think about the important ways in which Caribbean history is an important part of world history.

            This lesson-plan has been developed on the island, and, as a first it will also be taught in the Netherlands. I hope it contributes to an understanding in which all of us in the Kingdom, on each side of “the Big Lake”, realize that respect is a two-way street. Herein we must be willing to learn from each other and grow together. The time in which all teaching methods came from the Netherlands to Sint Maarten and rest of the islands should be passé. The USM will be organizing an event within two weeks whereby the lesson plan will be presented to the Minister of Education, Members of Parliament who are part of educational committee, the Dutch representation on the island, representatives of school boards. The lesson plan will also be shared with Ministers and Commissioners of Education from the other Dutch Caribbean isles.


Persons interested in viewing a video on the presentation of the outcome of the pilot studies on implementation of the lesson plan, should go to youtube page

.
After the summer I will return to continue learning from you, the people of this island. If you wish to be part of it, I would love to hear from you.

Jordi Halfman This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

In the autumn of 2015, KITLV conducted a large-scale opinion survey on the six Caribbean islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Antillean press has already published various reports about the results of the survey. This interest in the media is not surprising. The results reveal penetrating and often surprising insights into the opinions of the population of the islands about politics and governance on their own island and about relations with the Netherlands. The results of the survey are freely accessible on http://www.kitlv.nl/research-projects-confronting-caribbean-challenges-opinion-survey/.

The press has also reported that the survey was a failure on St. Maarten. Apparently, there has been some misunderstanding about the causes of this failure. With this press release, we would like to set the record straight, in particular regarding the role of the Department of Statistics (STAT), the governmental statistics agency on St. Maarten. In a formal sense, STAT was only affiliated with our survey by supplying a random sample of addresses to be visited. Logistically, however, there was an additional link with STAT: the department assigned its fieldwork coordinator to our survey, and experienced STAT interviewers were recruited for the fieldwork. As a STAT employee, our fieldwork coordinator had been involved with the design and execution of previous STAT surveys, our interviewers form part of STAT’s pool of interviewers, and we trained the interviewers at the STAT office. We had no reason whatsoever to doubt the professionalism and integrity of these persons recommended to us by or via STAT.

We are aware that both in St. Maarten and elsewhere, questions are now being raised about the professionalism and integrity of STAT. It is not for us to judge this broader question. It should, however, be clear that, for our survey, cooperation with STAT resulted in a painful failure.  

How the survey was organized: processes and procedures:

On all six islands, we first established contact with the local bureau of statistics. We asked these bureaus for their assistance in compiling a random sample of addresses to be visited, in recruiting interviewers, and in providing us with advice regarding the organization and set-up of the survey. On each island we collaborated with a local fieldwork coordinator, who, in most cases, was selected based on consultation with the local bureau of statistics. Wouter Veenendaal, the principal researcher for the survey, conducted trainings for the interviewers on each of the islands. These interviewers, in some cases, also worked for the local statistics office. On five of the six islands, this process went ahead without any significant problems, and eventually resulted in reliable survey data.

On St. Maarten, we first established contact with STAT. It was agreed that STAT would provide a sample of addresses, would provide us with a list of experienced interviewers, and would offer advice regarding the organization of the survey on St. Maarten. It was also agreed that STAT’s fieldwork coordinator would coordinate and supervise the interview process on St. Maarten. She would be doing this in her spare time, and would be directly reimbursed for her work by KITLV, just like the interviewers that she recruited.

On the 7th and 8th of September, 2015, Wouter Veenendaal trained the interviewers at the STAT office in Philipsburg. On the 14th of September, the survey on St. Maarten began. Just like on the other islands, it was agreed that STAT’s fieldwork coordinator would organize and supervise the survey, and would make sure that the established deadlines were met. She would also conduct some of the interviews herself.

We were notified that the survey on St. Maarten was completed on time, and the boxes with completed questionnaires were returned to the Netherlands. The reported figures soon revealed that the survey response on St. Maarten was extremely high: it was alleged that a successful interview had been conducted at 92% of addresses on the island. On the other islands the response rates were between 50 and 75%, a methodologically much more plausible figure. In addition, during the data-entry process, various inconsistencies and contradictions in the completed questionnaires were discovered. Subsequently, we learned that the fieldwork coordinator had not used the sample that was provided to her by her own employer STAT but, instead, on her own initiative had drawn up and used an alternate address sample.

The implausibly high response rates, when coupled with the use of an unsanctioned address sample, led to a strong suspicion of interviewer fraud during the course of conducting the survey on St. Maarten. An impartial check commissioned by the KITLV and conducted in January and February 2016 confirmed our suspicions and irrefutably proved this fraud. Our conclusion is that only a few interviewers have conducted their work appropriately and professionally, while the majority of them – including the fieldwork coordinator – have committed fraud.

Prof. dr. Gert Oostindie, KITLV Director, Leiden

Dr. Wouter Veenendaal, researcher and principal survey investigator, KITLV, Leiden

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - I, Achken Roberto Richardson, as a Believer, Born again Christian, and Follower of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, would hereby briefly like to state the following, as to in my personal opinion, bring clarity to this Subject Debate regarding the Issue of the Carnival Parade taking place on a Sunday, as is being objected and debated by the Sint Maarten Christian Council.

For the Record, let it be very clear that Christianity is Christ-made, while Religion, as well as so many Activities, such as Carnival, are Man-made. True Followers of CHRIST are to be never affected, distracted, or influenced by the Happenings of this World. Because We are in this World, Yes, but not of this World. The Government of CHRIST, as is fully outlined in the Holy Scriptures, regulates the Lives of All Believers/ Christians living the lives of the Christian Faith of Christ in HIS Kingdom.

Legislations passed by Governments regarding Worldly Activities and Events, are the Legal and Correct Manner in which these Issues can be ultimately and completely resolved for once and for All, between Church and State (GOD and Caesar). The Legal way to have this done, that the Church Community and Religious Functions of this Land can be respected, is to have the Same Christian Council officially present a Proposal to the Parliament of Sint Maarten for Approval by a Majority of Representatives of the People of Sint Maarten, in order to avoid this becoming a Religious, Community, or Political Issue.

In this manner, A Legislation will be established to protect, safeguard, and uphold such a Decision. It is not a matter that can be contested in the Court of Sint Maarten, because it has not been Legislated by Government or Parliament as yet. No longer can we operate in having Agreements established in Good Faith to later see them changed from time to time by opinions, when we have to contend with All sorts of outside influences that have been derailing the very fabric of our Religious Lifestyles and Cultures, that have developed Sint Maarten over the Many Generations and Centuries to what it has become today.

The Christian values that have built us as GOD Fearing People through the Ages, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, are being sabotaged by the evil one, the devil, through the many man-made and created attractions and distractions of this World. The Bible speaks in the Book of Revelation of all this. The Focus should, and must be the Winning of Souls for CHRIST. Whether it is Carnival or other Influential Events of this World, the devil will continue his onslaught for the souls of Man on this Earth.

For the devil has come to kill, steal, and destroy, but JESUS has come to give us Life, and that We might have it more abundantly. Heaven is Real, but unfortunately so is hell. JESUS CHRIST has already overcome the World on the Cross of Calvary. Let our FOCUS as Christians be to 1) Present a Document to the Parliament of Sint Maarten, who are the Representatives of the People, for their Approval, in establishing by Legislation or Law, putting the Carnival issue and other issues to rest, once and for All.

A Crisis Meeting can be called as soon as possible, with the Minister of Culture, the President of the Sint Maarten Christian Council, and the President of the Sint Maarten Carnival Development Foundation, to at least establish a Document Of Goodwill, that would be the First Phase in starting this Process, and making it all happen.  2) As Christians, let us All Unite as One, in Our various Denominations, be it Catholic, Methodist, Adventist, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostals, as well as other Christian Denominations, to fulfill the Task that CHRIST has commissioned us to do, and that is to Win the Lives of the unsaved for HIM, in Sint Maarten/ Saint Martin, The Caribbean, and the Rest of the World, in the Name of JESUS CHRIST, Our SAVIOR, LORD, and KING OF KINGS.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - After the nonsensical press release of the UPP on Tuesday, which we must admit left us as a board a little confused, we would think that the UPP and independent members would try to save face by making a serious effort to work in the interest of the people.

We mean, a project that is clearly in the best interest of education and our youth, for the UPP to try to turn it into a political stunt is a show of desperation.

The performance of this government is worrisome to the opposition, as comparisons would show that in less than 6 months, this NA led government has been able to execute projects and make decisions, not to mention pass a balanced budget, while the UPP led government was unable to get a single thing done in over a year.

With Government making progress to move into the Government building in a few months, the opposition saw it fit to ask for a meeting to discuss the plan Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Finance Richard Gibson put in place.

Asking for clarification is the job of Parliament and we applaud efforts of Opposition to request clarification when necessary. However, it would be prudent that if you call for a meeting to ask for clarification that you at least wait until the meeting is over before walking out.

To ask questions of the Prime Minister and to leave when you realize that there is nothing wrong with the agreement with APS / SZV and Government but that out the box thinking has led to Government not only moving into the building and saving millions in rent and significantly reducing governments debt to APS / SZV.

The Prime Minister is famous for his win, win, win agreements and this seems like another one. The Opposition must agree since they were so convinced of the agreement that they didn’t even wait for the Prime Minister to answer.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – Every budget over the last ten years and beyond shows that education consumes the greatest part of it. But instead of things getting better our education product is lagging far behind. We have been reading about so many problems within our public educational system that it makes us hold our head and bawl.

All indications are that our private schools are being better managed. We are therefore; somewhat surprised that after so many years of talking about it no decision has been made to date to privatize public education. Our largest secondary school if media reports are correct is planning to establish an English curriculum because we are not having sufficient students stream into the Dutch system at that school.

No clear cut plans have been established for our students leaving our secondary schools in 2016 to find suitable employment. The installation of solar panels on our schools to cut back on electricity consumption hereby providing the various school boards with tremendous savings that can be used to strengthen our educational programs. Time after time calls have been made to the NA lead government and the UP lead parliament of St. Maarten to reduce the commercial rates that NV GEBE is charging our school boards. These fees are in excess of Nafls 26,000.00 a month. Once again the savings derived from this reduction can be invested to upgrade our much needed educational product.

Yet, the two largest established political parties in government the National Alliance and the United People Party lead opposition have seen it fitting to be quarreling in public about a program Education on the Move. Education is a lifetime investment and we expect both the government and the parliament of St. Maarten to come up with programs that will better prepare our students to further their studies and enter the job market. Only the prepared will inherit the future.

Within the next couple of months many of our young students will be leaving the secondary schools. Some of them will go on to further their studies abroad while others will remain here to enroll at the USM or NIPA and at the same time seek employment. Unfortunately, all of this will be happening at the end of our 2015/2016 tourist season with many businesses cutting back on employment. These decisions will make it next to impossible for our young people to find employment in the off season.

In spite of all these shortcomings, our government both the Council of Ministers and the fifteen members of the Parliament of St. Maarten refused to enact legislation that would put our young people to work during this summer of 2016 and beyond.

The One St. Maarten People Party realizing the importance of making sure that our young people find employment had submitted a law that was passed in October of 1989 in the parliament of the former Netherlands Antilles. This law is commonly referred to as the Lei di Bion and would have encouraged the business community to employ young people between the ages of 18 to 25 for one year and received a tax incentive. Unfortunately, the government and parliament of St. Maarten without any exception have turned their back on our young people. They have not adopted this legislation with the proposed changes to fit the needs of the young people of St. Maarten and neither have they presented any type of legislation or programs that would provide our youth with gainful employment.

We hope that both these two established political parties the NA and the UP would engage in meaningful debates about issues affecting the lives our people such as the high cost of living, health care for all, improvement of our educational product, a living wage and not starvation wages, an increase in pension for our seniors and much, much more. “St. Maarten is in a hurry and we can’t afford that type of petty politics from both of those parties any more, says Lenny Priest, leader of the OSPP. We don’t need any more fake quarrels. Our people are wiser and they can’t be fooled that easily anymore

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten --- “It seems we’ve got the re-birthed National Alliance version of a past public official who is basically known for fancy worded speeches and no action,” the United People’s Party Board said in a press release. “This Minister is clearly all glitter and no glam with a way to profile the glitter on social media and more so what appears to be an emotional rant,” the UP board stated.
 
“Education is a major priority for our country as it is an investment into our future and the professional development of our people,” the UP board added. “We have been monitoring the ongoing performance or lack thereof of the sitting Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs who has in some instances taken credit from projects initiated by her predecessor,” stated the UP Party Board. 

“It seems the Minister’s response to us is nothing short of an emotional rant contradicting herself in several aspects of the response. The Minister stated in a media release she has been a reading volunteer at her son’s school and never took a picture to make a political statement. Then why mention this now if that volunteer initiative was truly genuine?” UP Party Board questioned. Additionally, we remain amazed how the Minister could have even mentioned the school busing issue which she had to disband because it jeopardized our own people,” the UP board added.
 
“Again we reiterate our original call as this Minister has taught in front of classrooms and sat in the managerial role but we’ve yet to see anything tangible happen within the ministry to date besides fancy speeches,” the UP Board added.
 
“Our education vision remains where we would like to see closer cooperation between the Education Ministry, the Ministry of VROMI and the Ministry of Labor Affairs. We firmly believe that incentives for educators inclusive of providing the necessary materials should be the cornerstone in promoting exceptional teaching within our classrooms for the benefit of our students.  We firmly believe that education needs reform and we are committed to seeing that happen once we return back in government,” the UP board added.


“The current Minister should fest up to her apparent political mileage attempts and change course by actually executing the changes in Education she promised instead throwing blame on any change in government which she enjoys today,” the UP Board concluded. 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The landfill (dump) in Philipsburg is on fire again and the perils with the new garbage collection contracts in general have only added to the frustration.

Some might feel that this is open political season and we could now point fingers at the persons who were in charge of areas like Public Works etc. for many years, and under whose responsibility this matter fell.

We could use the lack of visible action by those persons as political ammunition and start to "shoot" at these persons who over the years and for mainly selfish reasons have stalled, turned back, reversed or whatever the case might have been, any plan that had to do with arriving at a solution for the Philipsburg landfill.

However, this blame game will not get us any closer to a solution at this time.

The people of St. Maarten are nevertheless encouraged to look back over the years and see who has been responsible for the stalling and reversing and who even in the recent past have tried to get between GEBE and a possible solution. That again will not get us out of the impasse we are apparently in.

DP leader, Sarah Wescot-Williams: "I have said to my coalition partners that we need to cut to the chase and if e.g. the plan that is now on the table is just sitting there and coming to a power purchase agreement with GEBE does not appear feasible due to cost or economy of scale, then we need to cut it!"

We need to cut to the chase and let go of unfeasible proposals.

Don't let it remain lying on a desk at GEBE, because stakeholders might not want to hear that   once again and because of the passing of time, another plan must be aborted.

Let government make a firm decision if the proposed system for a Waste to Energy plan is not workable and let's move on.

We can understand that the current situation of the board and management of GEBE does not contribute to a speedy decision, but it is also a fact that GEBE has had this proposal for some time now.

And so although the DP hopes for a speedy decision with respect to management and board of GEBE, we do not believe the decision of "go or no-go" should depend on such.

In addition, we recently had a new contract for the management of the landfill signed. That contract was on the basis of how things were and how things used to be done.

"If we consider the fact that even if we were to reach a firm agreement for a Waste-to-Energy or any other system to dispose of our garbage today, it would allegedly take 18 months to 2 years before operation, the management of the dump in our opinion needs to be revisited."

The question to consider in that case would be: can rehabilitation of the existing dump take place while getting the new system up and running?

We really hope so.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Technology has long enabled security checks to be executed at Airports. These security checks were further enhanced globally after 9/11 with more advanced scanning systems.

Looking back at the security conducted through the years and recent terror attacks it is evident that the security focus too long was solely placed on the traveler about to embark on a journey. Strange enough no real security facilities/systems are in place to scan and monitor all movement through departure and arrival areas of airports.

Strange it is indeed as these areas always have large gatherings of people lugging luggage around totally unrestricted and boundless access from the road. It is unfortunate that no prior attention was paid to this vulnerability and now measures will be developed post tragedy instead of as a prevention. Measures all travelers will welcome, to suffice a dire need to feel safe and secure.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will surely be at the basis of the future security measures to be implemented, yet current facilities should be further enhanced as can redress safety concerns.

The advantage of online check-ins: All airlines should be required to provide online check-in portals that actually work well. Many large Airlines provide a check-in portals however often not open to international travelers. Online check-in however is a means to prevent the long check-in lines, and so large gatherings in airport departure halls. Mere bag drops would permit for a faster movement through the departure terminal. Yet facilities will be required that can screen the contents of bags and persons as they enter the airport.

The latter can be expected within short, and rest assure ICT will provide those systems. The disadvantage of online check-in is that not all travelers may have access to internet connectivity preventing access to and the use of check-in portals, prior to travel. The availability of check-in terminals can however mitigate this disadvantage.

Curbside check-in offered at certain airports is another means to enhance security, in the event entry into the airport areas is done with prior security screening. Is this paranoia or the introduction of a system one would imagine to be part of that futuristic world portrayed in the Jetsons. Can we expect within short that all wanting access to airports would have to pass through a security screening? Will airport security evolve to the implementation and use of massive scanners of persons, vehicles and luggage venturing on airport facilities? Whilst it is not yet clear how the world will respond, and which standards for security will be developed, it is imminent that unrestricted access to airports will be a thing of the past.

We may not expect luggage drop off for transport through a security conveyer belt from the moment we seek a parking ticket or seek access to drop off or a screening ramp for vehicles entering the airport area , for that all may be deemed to futuristic. Rest assure the new screening tools will be ICT based and will constitute the next generation is security screening.

As airports are not the sole targets for acts of terrorism, many other means of public transportation, access to concert areas, public parks etc. will see the implementation of new and more advanced security measures, to detect the presence of explosives. Security perimeters will now be placed further away from buildings and events to mitigate impact. Security officers will not become obsolete, but a greater need for ICT security means will be required, as these means detect what the eye may not. ICT will be required to aid secure travel by bus, train, metro or by any vehicle on our roadways.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The Minister of Education is and always has been an educator at heart, and is solely motivated by this fact to work together with others to bring improvements to education in order to meet the needs of our population.

It is rather disappointing that an initiative such as Education on the Move (EOM), aimed at bringing much needed awareness about education and collaboration within the community, is being touted by the opposition as a political move, especially seeing their recent, obvious interference in ongoing discussions in education, as well as the school bussing issue.

The Minister’s record speaks for itself, she has always sought to bring more voices into the discussion before decisions are taken, sought the approval and input of those expected to carry out initiatives, and worked towards same whether in our out of government. Many of the initiatives now coming to fruition were part of the priorities of the Minister since 2012, which started with education conferences at all levels. Some of the initiatives have progressed while others had slowed down due to changing priorities with the changes in government over the years. However, the Minister was still pleased to see that many initiatives remained ongoing, as it is the organization which executes most if not all of them. The Education Care Center, more after school programs, IT in the classrooms and more opportunities for our students’ needs in special education, sports and arts to be met, as well as the extension of the school day are still priorities for the Minister. However, the implementation of the latter had to be postponed due to lack of clarity among stakeholders including teachers and parents, budget constraints, as well as the environment of current classrooms not being up to par. All these issues must be dealt with before we can execute the extension of the school day in a responsible manner.

The Minister would like to thank the EOM committee for standing together as educators in the Ministry as well as out in the field of education, for meeting weekly from the beginning to come up with ways to motivate the community to be more involved in education and to motivate teachers and educators to keep on giving their all. Their dedication to achieving this goal continues to inspire the Minister even in the light of the political games that continue to be played with such sensitive topics. Do not be discouraged by those who seek to derail your vision.

The Minister did not run to the papers crying politics when the opposition sought to cause discord among teachers; she simply met with teachers and management to reassure them that the organization was diligently working on their concerns. Nor did the Minister neglect to meet with the school bus owners association once she realized that the policy framework and terms of reference that had been approved by the UP led government (August 2015) had not included any discussion with the school bus owners, and that the TEATT Ministry was actually working on its own policy and presented it to the school bus owners in October of 2015. The Minister just sought to clarify the situation to all concerned, after realizing that the former government’s two ministries were not working together to resolve the school bussing challenges and halted the process to allow collaboration. Currently the two ministries are working together to come to a viable short term and long term solution, which will be shared with the School bus owners association.

This Minister has been a reading volunteer at her son’s school as soon as she was working in the Philipsburg area, and has continued to be present, while never taking a picture to make a political statement. The Minister has always supported reading initiatives whether in or out of government, reading at Literacy events, whether at the Library or just recently at USM. The Minister has consistently sought the support of other parents and volunteers to give their time to the youth, whether in schools, after school activities or organized sports and arts. It is through this initiative that the Minister charged her staff to establish a committee which would work on the promotion of Education within the community, the “how” was left up to them.

The Minister challenged schools and members of the community to D.E.A.R. on Friday last as a first activity of EOM, and because it was not done for political gain, did not see it fit to go to schools and take pictures doing so. However, the Minister did encourage schools and parents to post pictures of themselves reading. Minister Jacobs was very pleased to attend the Oranje School Book week opening ceremony on Monday morning and say a few words to the school on the 29th anniversary of their Book Week celebration. This initiative by a school is a great example of Education on the Move and will be encouraged in all schools. All schools will be expected to execute a program geared at promoting literacy in the students, staff and parents of the school. The recently held literacy activity of the MAC Browlia Milliard grade 2 teachers at USM was a pleasure to experience and one the Minister would repeat in every school given the opportunity.

EOM simply seeks to highlight best practices that are already in place and encourage others to do more to promote education and learning in and out of schools. The Minister also looks forward to reading to a group of students on Thursday morning as part of the Book week events planned by the Oranje School.

As the Dutch saying goes, “Zoals de waard is vertrouwt hij zijn gasten” which means, the host judges his guests as he himself is! So if the UP feels that this promotion of education is political, it is only because that may have been their motivation, had they thought of it. The Minister of ECYS Ms. Jacobs stands on principle of working towards improving all areas within the Ministry she is charged with, and looks forward to the communities support for the initiative which will benefit the students and lifelong learners of St. Maarten. Education remains the most powerful tool to change St. Maarten, but all hands are needed on deck. Thank you St. Maarten for the support of this initiative.

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