Issuu on Google+

2012

A: Bezuidenhoutseweg 93B, 2594 AC The Hague T: 0031-(0)70-215 6067 E: ssfsxm@gmail.com F: Stichting Soualiga Foundation


1


Board of Soualiga Foundation (Carol Voges, Maria Charles, Perry Geerlings & Aishira Cicilia. Garrick Richardson is not pictured)

Organizing committee members (l-r): Melissa Gumbs, Ana-Iris Louisa, Vayolette Laguerre, Garrick Richardson, Perry Geerlings (middle), Deshanna Richardson, Aishira Cicilia, Carol Voges and Maria Charles (not-pictured).

2


Abstract

The following is a minimal social research study organized by Stichting Soualiga Foundation (SSF) to identify and document the factors that positively or negatively influence the academic performance of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands, and the reasons that they, after their studies, decide to stay in the Netherlands, return to Sint Maarten or seek their opportunities elsewhere. The following report is the documentation of the perceptions held by the individuals that took part in the SSF Student Forum held on the 20th of April 2012.

3


Acknowledgements Stichting Soualiga Foundation would like to thank the following individuals, groups and companies. Without your contribution and support this initiative would not have been possible. First and foremost, we thank every student, recent graduate and young professional that attended the student forum on April 20th 2012! We appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. We would also like to express our profound gratitude to: The dignitaries that graciously attended: Her Excellency, Prime Minister, Sarah Wescot-Williams (via Skype) The Honorable Governor of Sint Maarten, Eugene Holiday The Honorable Minister Plenipotentiary, Mathias S. Voges The former Minister of Education, Dr. Rhoda Arindell The former Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary, Richard Panneflek

Our premium sponsors for their generous contributions: The Government of Sint Maarten through the effort of the Sint Maarten Tourist Board Foundation Cadastre & Land Registry The Windward Islands Bank G.E.B.E. UTS The Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague

Our Supporters, Organizing Committee and Moderators for all their hard work and assistance: Mrs. Ramona Thomas of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet

4


Mrs. Margie van Gijn of the Cabinet of Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten in The Hague Organizing Committee members: Vayolette Laguerre, Deshanna Richardson, and Melissa Gumbs Auxiliary Moderators: Edwina Hodge, Natascha Artsen and Mikael Daal Sint Maarten Student Support Services (S4), with special thanks to Mrs. Roos Leerdam-Bulo

Our valued contributors for your help in making the student forum a professional and memorable one: Hi5 Dutch Diversity (Ms. Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan and Mr. Jared Hiwat) Bitmakerz Vayla Photography Asylum Radio Small Island Unity JOBO Promotions

And last but definitely not least, our supporters on the day who helped to make everything flow as it should: DJ Spy Kevin “Suppakidd� Petrona Rynel Richardson Ryan Geerlings Laura Bijnsdorp Shawn York Mel Lake Lervin de la Rosa

5


6


7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction .............................................................................................................. 10 1.1 Background Information ..................................................................................... 10 1.2 Problem Outline.................................................................................................... 11 1.3 Relevance of Report ..............................................................................................12 1.4 Objective of Report ...............................................................................................13 1.5 The Research Question .........................................................................................14 1.6 The Sub-questions ................................................................................................14 2. The Research Methodology .......................................................................................16 2.1 The Research Strategy .......................................................................................... 17 2.2 The Research Design ........................................................................................... 18 2.2.1 The Data Collection Method ......................................................................... 18 2.2.2 The Research Population ...............................................................................19 2.2.3 Data Resources ..............................................................................................19 2.2.4 The Sample Design ....................................................................................... 20 2.2.5 Data Analysis Methods ..................................................................................21 2.3 The Execution ...................................................................................................... 22 2.3.1 The Preparation ............................................................................................. 22 2.3.2 The Execution on the Student Forum .......................................................... 24 2.4 The Findings ........................................................................................................ 30 2.4.1 The Findings Sub-question Section 1 (What are contributing factors) ........ 27 2.4.2 The Findings Sub-questions in Section 2 (Returning Successfully) ............ 35 3. The Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 38 3.1 Sub-question Section 1 ........................................................................................ 38 3.2 Sub-questions in Section 2 .................................................................................. 40 3.3 Sub-question in Section 3 ................................................................................... 42 4. The Recommendations ............................................................................................. 43 Appendices .................................................................................................................... 47 Appendix A: Event Itinerary ..................................................................................... 48 Appendix B: Discussion Guideline Moderators........................................................ 49 Appendix C: The SSF Information Form ................................................................... 51 Appendix D: Responses Sub-question Section 1 ...................................................... 55

8


Appendix E: Responses Sub-question Section 2 ...................................................... 58 Appendix F: Moderator Reports ............................................................................... 62 Appendix G: Biographies Board Members ............................................................... 87

9


1. Introduction

This chapter serves to provide foundational information on the motivation and relevance of the research that was carried out. In section 1.1, background information on the foundation is provided and in 1.2, the purpose and objectives of the research carried out are given. The problem outline is covered in 1.3, and in the succeeding segment (1.4), the relevance of the research is expounded on. Finally, the chapter is concluded with the research questions and sub-questions in sections 1.5 and 1.6 respectively.

1.1 Background Information SSF operates under the official title Stichting Soualiga Foundation. As is prescribed by Dutch Law, the word ‘Stichting’ is used in the designation, however in everyday activities the name Soualiga Foundation is preferred. Although there are a myriad of organizations set up to serve the social, cultural, political and economic needs of ‘Antilleans’ (as we are still referred to by Dutch society) in the Netherlands, these are largely focused on people of Curaçaolenian and Aruban descent. After seeing the deficiency of organizations that catered to the specific needs of Sint Maarteners in Holland, the Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten, the Honorable Mathias S. Voges, proposed and initiated the establishment of Soualiga Foundation, so that we could have ‘we own thing’. Therefore, on October 11th, 2011 the foundation was incorporated and the Minister Plenipotentiary became the first chairman and charter member. With the arrival of Mr. Perry Geerlings to the Netherlands, Minister Voges resigned his positions on the board, and Mr. Geerlings was appointed as chairman. Soualiga Foundation’s year agenda and activities were subsequently kick-started. SFF also has one other registered board member, namely Ms. Carol Voges, who officiates as Treasurer. In March of this year, the organization welcomed three other members. Ms. Aishira Cicilia carries out the duties of Secretary, Ms. Maria Charles operates as Assistant Secretary and PR Officer, and Mr. Garrick Richardson also functions as board member. In addition, the board of SSF assembles special organizing

10


committees (volunteers) to assist with the organization and execution of their projects and activities. The aim of the foundation is twofold: firstly, it seeks to be a haven for all St. Maarteners living in the Netherlands, and secondly, it exerts every effort in the development and promotion of country Sint Maarten and Sint Maarteners here in the Netherlands. As such, SSF acts as a bridge and catalyst in stimulating and empowering capacity development in persons and entities from Sint Maarten, encouraging these to assist in and/or make contributions to the nation building efforts of country Sint Maarten. In light of the aforementioned objectives, Soualiga Foundation’s first initiative was the SSF Student Forum. This was held on the 20th of April 2012 at the “Evertshuis� in Bodegraven. The main goal of this event was to bring together students, recent graduates and young professionals in order to discuss and document factors that affect the academic performance of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands, as well as to look at how they can return to Sint Maarten successfully after completing their studies. The information gathered as a result of this meeting forms the central construct of this report.

1.2 Problem Outline Every year between fifty and a hundred Sint Maarten students travel to the Netherlands to pursue a tertiary education at a college or university with the help of study financing by the government of Sint Maarten. However, it is an unfortunate fact that a significant amount of Sint Maarten students experience many difficulties in their efforts to achieve academic success within the four to six-year timeframe allotted by the government for a tertiary study. In a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Netherlands, students from the former Netherlands Antilles have the highest percentage of college dropouts than any other ethnic group in the Netherlands. 1

1

According to the Centrale Bureau van Statistiek Jaarboek Cijfers in Onderwijs 2011, students of Antillean and Aruban descent are the most frequent school dropouts. Retrieved from http://www.cbs.nl/NR/rdonlyres/FC6D3388-0F9E-4129-8F2B-5t3022BA3F774/0/2011f162pub.pdf on July 24th, 2012

11


Naturally, this brings with it a number of consequences – the most prevalent being the enormous debts due to prolonged study financing loans, and (more recently) the ‘langstudeerboete’ (if a student does not graduate within the apportioned time, he or she will receive a fine amounting to €3.063,- on top of the ‘wettelijke collegegeld’2). And in addition to the complications during their studies, many graduates are impeded by the lack of opportunities on Sint Maarten once they have completed their studies. This is one of the reasons that many of young professionals choose to remain in the Netherlands, or seek out opportunities in other parts of the world. Once integrated in their adoptive countries, it becomes even harder for them to repatriate because of diverse personal and economic ties such as relationships, children, mortgages, etcetera. Sint Maarten, with its new country status, is at a very auspicious time. At no time more than now, does Sint Maarten need its skilled and educated so that it can continue to develop both structurally and sustainably. Needless to say, if the above mentioned trend is allowed to advance along these same lines, Sint Maarten may soon undergo a ‘brain drain’ and feel the magnitude of the consequences that this entails.

1.3 Relevance of Report The underlying motivation for the student forum, and ultimately this report, is the desire to see St. Maarteners and country Sint Maarten succeed. SSF does not make any claim on being the only organization that has endeavoured to find and/or contribute to solutions to the aforementioned problem. Admittedly, there have been similar activities in the past where this issue has been discussed. However, the forum was set apart by its goal to carry out an objective study, and collect data directly from the target audience affected.

2

Retrieved from http://duo.nl/particulieren/studeren/collegegeld.asp on August 15th 2012

12


For any progressive policymaker, this research can offer valuable primary information about the perceptions3 of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands. As a result, policymakers are not only able to get a first-hand account of the problems that students face, but are also presented with the students’ candid view on how they feel these should be solved. Where these perceptions line up with reality, this information can be very useful to create and/ or amend policies regarding education (or the preparation for studying abroad), the repatriation of Sint Maarten students, and labour on the island. Alternatively, where perceptions are tainted, efforts can be made to improve on these through communication and other initiatives.

1.4 Objective of Report As mentioned above, the objective of this report is to provide the relevant policymakers on Sint Maarten with (first-hand) information regarding the hardships that Sint Maarten students face when they embark on a tertiary study in the Netherlands, and to highlight possible solutions aimed at addressing these. Furthermore, this document reports on the perceived factors that encourage or dissuade Sint Maarteners from returning home once they have completed their studies. It is wished that this information will be considered when creating policies regarding education and the aforementioned target group in the future. N.B.: The information (problems and solutions) contained in this report was provided by Sint Maarten students, recent graduates and young professionals (further information regarding this will be provided in Chapter 2: Research Methodology).

3

SSF views the data collected at the forum as the personal viewpoints, experiences and perceived reality of the participants.

13


1.5 The Research Question Research is in essence searching for answers to solve a problem. In section 1.3, the problem statement was outlined. But before policymakers can take the initial steps to develop solutions to this problem, information is required – not just any information, but the right information. This can only be achieved by asking the right questions. To reiterate, the purpose was to find and collect the right information/data as to why students were not achieving the desired academic success, and why they chose not to return to Sint Maarten after their studies. Therefore, in order to attain the aforementioned objectives, the following central question4 was designated: What are the factors that contribute to the success or failure of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands, and what aspects are important for the successful return to Sint Maarten?

1.6 The Sub-questions As can be seen from the central question above, the query is composed of two different questions: 1. What are the factors that contribute to the success or failure of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands? 2. What aspects are important for the successful return to Sint Maarten? These, in turn, are made up of several components. By systematically answering these sub-questions, the central questioned is also answered. The sub-questions were divided into sections according to the areas of interest of the study. The first section regards the factors that influence the students’ abilities to successfully complete their studies. The second section concerns the factors that influence the students’ decisions to return to Sint Maarten, and the third segment allowed students to provide policy makers with possible solutions.

4

The central question serves as the red thread that links the different elements that make up the research process. It sets the parameters for what is to be measured, and consequently, the knowledge to be garnered.

14


Section 1: What are the contributing factors? Preliminary research among a smaller focus group identified the following factors to be areas of influence on student academic performance: educational, personal, social and financial. It was important to put these factors to a larger group to ascertain if these factors were indeed correct, as well as to identify other factors that the first focus group may have missed. The sub-question: 1. What are the educational, personal, social and financial factors that influence a Sint Maarten student studying successfully or unsuccessfully?

Section 2: Returning Successfully The same process was used for the second section. Not only was it important to understand why students choose either to stay in the Netherlands or return to Sint Maarten after their studies, but it was also necessary to gain understanding about how they viewed themselves and the role of policy makers in the process as it regards the latter. The sub-questions are therefore: 2. Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? 3. What are the criteria for a successful return? 4. What do you feel is the government’s role in this? 5. What is your own role in this? 6. Why would you not return to Sint Maarten?

Section 3: Solutions (from the students’ perspective) In the third segment, the objective was to get the students to actively participate in solving the problem. The sub-question: 7. What are possible solutions for the improvement of negative areas?

15


16


2. The Research Methodology The Industrial Research Institute (2010)5 defines methodology as the way of searching or solving the research problem. This chapter on research methodology serves to justify the research problem and outlines other points which are very relevant to this research, namely: the research strategy and design, the target group, the sample size, and the execution of the research. According to Dawson (2002), Kothari (1985), & Kumar (2005), research has three definitive attributes: ‘1. It should be undertaken within a framework of a set of philosophies (approaches); 2. The researcher should use procedures, methods and techniques that have been tested for their validity and reliability; 3. It should be unbiased and objective.’ SSF does not, by any means, distinguish itself as an expert within the field of research, however guarantees that every effort (within its power) was expended to uphold the aforementioned requirements. In section 2.1, we discuss the research strategy selected and in 2.2 the research design as a result of the strategy is covered. How the forum, and thus this study, was executed can be found in section 2.3.

2.1 The Research Strategy The two major philosophies or approaches represented in research are quantitative and qualitative research. The first research approach can be defined as ‘the precise count of some behavior, knowledge, opinion, or attitude’. (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 710) Qualitative research, on the other hand, can be defined as the use of ‘interpretive techniques that seek to describe, decode, translate, and otherwise come to terms with the meaning, not the frequency, of certain phenomena.’ (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 710)

5

Industrial Research Institute (2010) Research management. Michigan: Industrial Research Institute

17


The purpose of the research was to find and gather information about the whys/opinions/reasons/meanings/justifications/etcetera

connected

with

the

successful/unsuccessful academic performance of Sint Maarten students, and their repatriation after completing their studies. This considered, the most suitable approach was the qualitative research approach. The outcome of the study depended entirely upon the participants’ contribution and insights on the issue, and the central and sub-questions where open-ended (which basically means that the questions posed are broad enough to go into any direction and that there is no prior knowledge of how participants will answer). These are all characteristic of qualitative research.

2.2 The Research Design Research design is the blueprint for fulfilling research objectives and answering questions. (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 711) In other words, the research design contains all the practical steps that were carried out in the research. In section 2.2.1, we discuss the instrument used to collect data. In section 2.2.2, the research population is presented. The sources of the data is identified is 2.2.3, and in 2.2.4, the sample design is explained. The section is concluded in 2.2.5, where the method used to analyse the data collected is presented.

2.2.1 The Data Collection Method Focus Groups The main method used for data collection was focus groups. Focus groups, a much used tool in qualitative research, were used because they were the most useful in generating background information about perceptions and impressions. This method goes beyond merely answering questions (as is the case with other data collection methods such as questionnaires) to having the participants express themselves openly and honestly. Focus groups can be defined as ‘a panel of people (typically made up of 6 to 10 participants), led by a trained moderator, who meet for 90 minutes to two hours. The facilitator or moderator uses group

18


dynamics principles to focus or guide the group in an exchange of ideas, feelings, and experiences of specific topic’. (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 178) There were two focus groups over a time interval of three months. The first focus group was exploratory in nature, held within the first month, consisted of 10 people and took a minimum of two hours. The objective was to obtain insights for further research and to refine of the central and sub-questions. The second focus group was held two months later, and was attended by fiftysix (56) participants at the SSF Student Forum. The purpose of this focus group was to answer the research questions posed.

Participant Observation The other data collection method was participant observation. Participant observation ‘exists when the observer enters the social setting and acts as both participant and observer’. (Cooper & Schindler, 2008) Moderators led the group discussions, participated in the survey, as well as reported on the dynamics and opinions of their groups. The moderator reports can be found in Appendix F.

2.2.2 The Research Population A research unit is the entity that was analyzed in this study. In this case, the research unit is: a student from Sint Maarten that attends/attended a tertiary college or university in the Netherlands. The sum of these units is referred to as the population (all Sint Maarten students attending a tertiary college or university in the Netherlands).

2.2.3 Data Resources It has already been established that the main purpose of research is to find answers to the research questions. These answers can be obtained from different

sources.

This

can

include:

‘people,

organizations

or

institutions, texts (published, including virtual ones); settings and

19


environments (visual/sensory and virtual material); objects, artefacts, media products (textual/visual/sensory and virtual material); and events and happenings (textual/visual/sensory and virtual material).’ (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 162) Within the framework of this study, the best people to answer the central and sub-questions were individuals that experienced studying at a tertiary college and university in the Netherlands themselves. Three specific data sources were demarcated: 

Students: all students, from Sint Maarten, that are currently pursuing a tertiary education in the Netherlands, with a study grant from the Government of Sint Maarten.

Students: all students, from Sint Maarten, that are currently pursuing a tertiary education in the Netherlands, without a study grant from the Government of Sint Maarten.

Recent graduates: former students, from Sint Maarten, who have obtained a degree from an institution that offers tertiary education in the Netherlands.

Young professionals: individuals from Sint Maarten, who have completed a tertiary study, and are working in the Netherlands.

2.2.4 The Sample Design6 Despite the researchers’ best efforts, they did not manage to secure an official account of the research units (for example: an official log or register of the names of the students currently studying in the Netherlands). Nevertheless, through its different advertising and PR efforts, eighty-two (82) participants from all over the Netherlands registered for the event when a minimum of seventy-five (75) participants were expected.

6

‘The basic idea of sampling is that by selecting some of the elements in a population, we may draw conclusions about the entire population.’ (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, p. 374)

20


On the day of the student forum, fifty-six (56) participants attended. Of the fifty-six attendees, thirty-three (33) people returned a filled-out7 survey from which data was measured. Although this is a relatively small sample, it representativeness can be substantiated by the fact that every research unit was 100 percent representative of the target population. As is common in most exploratory researches, a nonprobability sampling8 approach was taken. This is viewed as a less precise method than probability sampling, but it was selected because it was more convenient (less timeconsuming and easier to execute) and feasible considering the target populations (with the probability sampling, the researcher would have to determine the exact population of all Sint Maarten students currently in the Netherlands). In this study, the following nonprobability sampling method called snowball sampling was used. Snowball sampling is where participants refer other participants with the same characteristics.

2.2.5 Data Analysis Methods Qualitative data9 analysis is generally thought to be much more complex than quantitative data analysis as ‘qualitative data describes whereas quantitative data defines’. The following methods were undertaken to analyse the data collected. Operationalization Method In order to ensure that participants understood the constructs of the central and sub-questions, each question was broken down into more 7

Every student was required to provide information specific to his or her own situation. The emphasis is therefore placed on the answers given and not on the amount of replies. 8 Nonprobability sampling is an arbitrary and subjective procedure in which each population element does not have a known nonzero chance of being included; no attempt is made to generate a statistically representative sample’. (Cooper & Schindler, 2008) 9 Data that approximates or characterizes but does not measure the attributes, characteristics, properties, etc., of a thing or phenomenon. Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/qualitativedata.html#ixzz22aWeZmQo on August 8th, 2012 from Business Dictionary.com

21


concrete questions aimed at making answers more measureable in the data analysis. This list can be found in Appendix B. The purpose of this document was to help the moderators to keep the conversation flowing, and to introduce new subjects into the discussion, hopefully leading to other areas that were not considered in the initial focus group.

The Grounded Theory Method The grounded theory may be defined as: ‘the discovery of theory from data systematically obtained from social research’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967: 2). According to Crooks (2001), this theory is ‘ideal for exploring integral social relationships and the behaviour of groups where there has been little exploration of the contextual factors that affect individual’s lives.’ Simply put, the collected primary data (from the participants and the observations of the moderators) was read and re-read a number of times, and analysed for meanings/ (inter)relationships (through coding) that could be developed into theories.

2.3 The Execution The following section provides an illustration of the preparation (2.3.1) and execution (2.3.2) of the student forum. 2.3.1 The Preparation Besides communications efforts through Facebook, Skype, email and face-toface meetings to create awareness for the event and ensure its success, SSF also made sure to involve and solicit the advice of several professionals and educational institutions.

22


The S4 Foundation As the S4 Foundation is the official guardian and representative of the rights and well-being of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands, it was important to involve them from the very beginning. The organization showed its support by sending out emails to inform the students and mentors in their network, inviting them to attend the event.

Hi5 Dutch Diversity Another organization that was consulted was Hi5. This is a cross-media knowledge and network (unsubsidized foundation) that highlights opportunities and connects to both individuals and organizations active in the Netherlands. The mission of the organization is to turn socioeconomic trends into opportunities on an individual and organizational level. In light of this goal, Hi5 offers individuals and organizations a number of services aimed at improving professionalism. Two days before the event, a Hi5 representative gave a crash-course on ‘group facilitation’ to all the group moderators. A total of nine moderators underwent the training.

23


Collaboration with ROC Mondriaan Before the event three SSF board members visited the educational institution ROC Mondriaan in The Hague. Several Sint Maarten students attend this college, and its director has shown himself to be a supporter of Sint Maarten initiatives in the past. After informing him about the goal and intent of the forum, and the very professional role that the participants would play in it, he graciously agreed to give the Sint Maarten students that attended the forum extra credit for their involvement.

Consultation with an Expert in Research During a visit to a presentation at the Aruba House, Mr. Geerlings met with Dr. Hellen van der Wal, who was defending her doctoral thesis on, among other things, social developments of youth on Aruba. Mr. Geerlings took the opportunity to introduce the Soualiga Foundation, and its objectives with the SSF Student Forum. In further correspondence with Mrs. Van der Wal, she gave key advices on how to ensure a clean and ethical research report and her opinion on the results of the study. She mentioned that ‘the strength of the study lies in the fact that the allegations are not empty propositions, but are supported by the research and the students themselves’.

2.3.2 The Execution of the Student Forum The student forum was held at the Evertshuis in Bodegraven. This venue was selected because of its central location; Bodegraven lies within approximately forty-five minutes of every major city in the Netherlands. The event was one whole working day, from 9:00 am to 18:00 pm. The full itinerary can be found in Appendix A. From the onset it was assumed (based on the number of participants that registered online) that each moderator would have eight to ten participants each (give and take a few). However because only fifty-six participants

24


attended, four of the nine moderators were without groups and therefore served as facilitators/observers. Set up Participants were asked to sit in groups of eight to ten people, which consisted of students, recent graduates and young professionals. Each group was led by a moderator who guided the discussions. The topics of discussion were conducted in segments (in the order that as is mentioned above by The Sub-questions), and took approximately two hours to execute. The participants were given the freedom to discuss and debate the issues with one another. However, in order to ensure that everyone had the freedom and opportunity to express his or herself, each person was provided with a special form (see Appendix C) to document his/her opinions. At the beginning and end of each session, each attendee was encouraged by the moderators to document their opinions on these forms. At the close of the discussion sessions, all the opinion forms were collected.

The Panel One important segment of the SSF Student Forum was the panel discussion, which took place after the group sessions. The purpose of the segment was to offer a platform for students to enter into discussions with dignitaries about the factors, hindrances, solutions, etc that they discussed within their group sessions previously so that an exchange of ideas is fostered. The former Minister of Education, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, (who graciously flew to the Netherlands especially for this event) was there to represent her portfolio and address all questions pertaining to education.

25


Her Excellency Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, through circumstances beyond her control, was unable to attend the event. However, the minister still had the opportunity to answer some questions from attendees through a live Skype connection.

26


27


28


29


2.4 The Findings The following section contains the main findings from 33 completed forms collected at the student forum. Participants were allowed to giving multiple answers to each question, fill in information pertaining to their situation, as well as introduce new subjects to the discussion.

The Graphs The findings are presented in the graphs below. The frequencies represented on the vertical axis on the left are indicative of the number of participants that gave a particular answer. The horizontal axis displays the answers given. For all the answers that were given please see Appendix D.

2.4.1 The Findings Sub-question Section 1 (What are contributing factors) The sub-question: What are the educational, personal, social and financial factors that influence a Sint Maarten student studying successfully or unsuccessfully?

The Factors for Studying Unsuccessfully: Educational Factors The most prevalent factors that negatively influence the academic performance of students are (1) the inability to communicate freely in the Dutch language and (2)

30


poor preparation before going to the Netherlands.

Personal Factors The most common personal deterrent in academic success is contributed to procrastination, followed by the lack of assertiveness and motivation.

Social Factors 42, 5% respondents indicated that the biggest social factor that influences their academic performance negatively is issues regarding integration.

31


Financial Factors The most negative financial factor specified by respondents was that the studyingfinancing provided by DUO was insufficient to cover their expenses.

32


The Factors for Studying Successfully:

Educational Factors

Some schools in the Netherlands require ‘allochtone’ students (that have poor Dutch communication skills) to follow mandatory Dutch courses to improve on their Dutch communication skills. Those students that have had the opportunity to take courses such as these said that their performances at school improved. The other positive factor was attributed to a good education system on Sint Maarten.

Personal Factors The most prominent personal factor for positive academic performance among the respondents was assertiveness.

33


Social Factors The biggest success factor mentioned by respondents was their ability to integrate.

Financial Factors Respondents list the financial support from family and a job besides their studies as a positive contributor to their successful academic performance.

34


2.4.2 The Findings Sub-questions in Section 2 (Returning Successfully) The sub-questions: 1. Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? 2. What are the criteria for a successful return? 3. What do you feel is the government’s role in this? 4. What is your own role in this? 5. Why would you not return to Sint Maarten?

Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? The majority of respondents believe it is important to build up country Sint Maarten.

35


What are the criteria for a successful return? Respondents listed a number of factors that influence their decision to return to Sint Maarten, of which the most important is improvement of the infrastructure.

What do you feel is the government’s role in this? The ability to get a job and having good governance were among the most important factors.

36


What is your own role in this? Most students believe that their role is to successfully complete their studies and return to Sint Maarten to contribute to building the country.

Why would you not return to Sint Maarten? Things like corruption, nepotism, and crime were the biggest deterrents for returning to Sint Maarten according to respondents.

37


3. The Conclusion In this chapter we present the conclusion to findings of this study. In section 3.1, the first sub-question concerning the factors that influence student performance is answered. Subsequently, the responses to the sub-questions under the second section are covered in section 3.2.

3.1 Sub-question Section 1 The sub-question: ‘What are the educational, personal, social and financial factors that influence a Sint Maarten student studying successfully or unsuccessfully?’ With regards to Education Factors, the most prominent cause for concern amongst those surveyed was the deficiency in the Dutch language skills of Sint Maarten students. The Netherlands has one of the most prolific educational systems in the world, where topnotch studies are widely accessible to virtually anyone (willing and able to pursue them). And, it has long since been a resource for development for numerous Sint Maarteners. However, the majority of Sint Maarteners face the same problem: the inability to adequately express oneself in Dutch.

This problem,

particularly in a society such the Netherlands 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 Sint Maarteners in the Netherlands. Participants of the forum saw this as an issue that both the government and individuals should work on together. Another important factor for unsuccessful studies were attributed to the (external and internal) preparation that students receive before travelling to the Netherlands to start their studies. Many participants believed that the preparation sessions provided to students before they embark on their academic journeys are inadequate, vague, eleventh-hour, and exclude information that reflects the reality of living in the Netherlands, and the (academic) opportunities available to students. Moreover, the participants felt that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s successful preparation, and eventual disembarkation in the Netherlands.

38


For a large part, the participants attribute the responsibility of getting prepared (assessing themselves, improving skills, carrying out research, working on assertiveness/independence,

personal

administration,

etc)

to

the

students

themselves. They feel that accountability and maturity are the logical consequences of growing up. Regarding Personal Factors, most participants felt that the most prevalent reasons for academic failure were attributed to procrastination and the lack of self-discipline. For some students, leaving Sint Maarten to study in The Netherlands is their first ‘real’ taste of freedom. Depending on the preparation they received while growing up, some cope with this better than others. In the case of Social Factors, motives for poor performance amongst Sint Maarten students are because of problems with integration, discrimination and peer pressure. The most predominant cause is integration. Although we carry the same passport, there are distinct differences between the Dutch and Sint Maarteners (a fact that the Dutch make sure to remind us at every opportunity). Still, many participants indicated that successful integration is possible but it takes some time to achieve. Discrimination (sensitive to where one lives in the Netherlands) is, unfortunately, another factor that occurs and is a cause for discouragement amongst students. Not accustomed to being on the receiving-end of discrimination, some Sint Maarten students find it very hard to cope with situations of prejudice (particularly discrimination in school e.g.: being ostracized by colleagues and teachers because of insufficient Dutch language skills). It can break confidence and motivation. A universal phenomenon among students worldwide, peer pressure is another factor that impacts academic performance. Sint Maarteners in the Netherlands tend to be a closed group; they do not often socialize with people from other cultures (outside the former Netherlands Antilles). In a comfortable social situation it is easier to go along with the group. That notwithstanding, the negative influences of peer pressure is not only secluded to social networks in the Netherlands, but can also include pressure from back home. Some participants admitted that they felt compelled to act/do / study/etc. certain things that they do not want to do from parents/ guardians, etc. (e.g.; start a study they did not enjoy, and provide financial care for dependents back home, etc.).

39


Finally, the predominant Financial Factors indicated by participants were that study financing was insufficient (particularly for MBO students), and poor financial administration. In this economic crisis, students are among the most vulnerable groups in the Netherlands. A large percentage of those surveyed, indicated that the finances they receive from DUO was not/or just enough to cover their expenses. Many had to seek alternative sources of income (taking away some attention from school). This considered, there is also the personal element of maintaining a good financial administration. Again, moving to the Netherlands and being on your own is new for many students. Some of which have been privileged enough to have parents that took care of their needs and desires on Sint Maarten. Suddenly, the responsibility and pressures of caring for oneself becomes daunting (particularly in The Netherlands where poor financial administration can have very serious consequences with institutions such as BKR, deurwaarders, de gemeente, etc.).

3.2 Sub-questions in Section 2 The sub-questions: 1. Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? 2. What are the criteria for a successful return? 3. What do you feel is the government’s role in this? 4. What is your own role in this? 5. Why would you not return to Sint Maarten?

Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? The answer to this question was almost unanimous. The participants all have an inherent desire to contribute to the building of country Sint Maarten. The survey showed that the majority of the participants investigated had a healthy sense of responsibility with regards to returning to Sint Maarten to share their knowledge and develop the country.

40


What are the criteria for a successful return? Improvement of the infrastructure, corruption and the economy on Sint Maarten were the most important criteria for the participants surveyed. The following list is a compilation all areas that fall under these areas.  The promises made in the incentive package proposed by the Government of Sint Maarten should be upheld.  Vacancies within the government and private sector should be posted on a central website on a regular basis.  We need to be able to function in the areas that we studied for.  Minimum wage must be increased to a suitable level.  Housing must begin to be controlled on the island, to ensure that students who have lived on their own for years at a time are not forced to return to their parents’ homes because there is nothing affordable.  Increased transparency with regards to laws being established and activity within government controlled companies.  The crime situation needs a feasible and effective solution, perhaps a liaison program with The Netherlands, regarding the thousands of unemployed Dutch policewomen and men. One student suggested sending 100 down for a year, on a rotating basis.  The ICT infrastructure needs to be drastically improved.  Updating of the constitution and laws to offer protection against discrimination and more to all Sint Maarteners, regardless of race, creed, physical ability, sexual orientation and gender, as it does not currently offer this.  New policies towards enhancing existing industry and diversification into new industries.  Combine foreign direct investment with social infrastructure improvement, i.e., foreign companies must contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the roads, schools, hospitals, etc.  More incentives and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs/start-up

companies.

41


What do you feel is the government’s role in this? Participants felt that the primary role of Sint Maarten’s Government in getting them to return home is to ensure that there are job opportunities (so that they can function in the areas which they studied) and good governance. The criteria specified in the aforementioned paragraph are indicative of what participants mean with good governance.

What is your own role in this? When asked this question, the majority of the participants said that they feel that it is their duty to complete their studies successfully and to be proactive regarding Sint Maarten. This means doing everything possible to develop oneself personally and professionally, as well as keeping abreast of development and opportunities on Sint Maarten. Why would you not return to Sint Maarten? This question is closely linked with the second and third question. Factors that would deter Sint Maarten students from returning home are mainly: corruption, ‘vriendjes politiek’, nepotism, the deficiencies in the infrastructure, and the downturn in the economy. Other causes for concern were the small-mindedness of the Government and Sint Maarten society.

3.3 Sub-question in Section 3 The sub-question: What are possible solutions for the improvement of negative areas? The participants gave a list of solutions, which will be discussed in the next chapter.

42


4. The Recommendations In this Chapter we would like to present the solutions and recommendations that were collected from the participants and the moderator reports. These responses answer the third sub-question: What are possible solutions for the improvement of negative areas? It is good to reiterate here that the solutions provided in this section are based on the participants’ perceptions of the situation on country Sint Maarten.

Educational Factors

Negative Areas: Language barrier leads to drop outs, low self-esteem /hard to communicate/family does not speak Dutch

Solutions:  Early implementation of the Dutch language (kindergarten)  Make Dutch speaking mandatory in school  Take early decisions on the language you want to study in  Implement Dutch in all primary schools  Private school should also have (more intense)Dutch programs  Follow Dutch courses once in the Netherlands

Level of education on the island

 Raise awareness amongst the students with regards to the level of education  Raise the level of education

Expectations of the students/poor communication/culture shock

 Career guidance from early  Qualifications for scholarships should be stricter (study applications should also have a motivation letter and references)  Organize visits from colleges in the Netherlands and make it mandatory for graduating students to attend  Job training

(Poor) Preparation

 Start with preparation earlier. Instead of starting in the graduation class, start in the penultimate class

43


 Provide links to useful websites during preparation (e.g.: NS/ ‘gemeente’/ zorg en huur ‘toeslag’/etc)  Make an ‘instruction’ manual for new students explaining what to do in certain instances

Personal Factors

Guidance counsellor at secondary schools: lack of info/ inadequate info/useless assignments

 Guidance councillors need to be re-educated or update themselves of the educational opportunities in the Netherlands (and not advice on the same schools every time)  Have someone in the Netherlands as well, where students are able to consult/get help  Make free legal advice available

S4 not transparent/not enough information

   

Procrastination

 Create awareness (during preparation/training sessions for students going abroad to further their education) e.g.: role paying about situations on how handle situations  Modernize career and culture preparations. In other words, preparations to come to the Netherlands should be updated, so that it is reflective what takes place in real-life modern society.

(Lack of) Confidence

This should be the initiative of the students (to learn):  Research  Go to library to study

Relationships

-

Assertiveness (lack of)

 Surround yourself with a positive and proactive environment  Help each other with

S4 must adhere to the rules Be transparent Provide more information Provide information about the possibilities of carrying out internships on Sint Maarten or other countries

44


projects(unite) Personal problems

 Improve S4 mentor system  Employ professional social workers as S4 mentors

Lack of information on parents Make info sessions mandatory for part/support parents

Social Factors

Financial Factors

Lack of motivation

-

No discipline/ going out (partying)

(Self)Discipline

Time management

-

Not satisfied with choice of study

Introduce compatibility test from early to help students choose the right career path (informed decision)

Negative influences (friends) peer pressure/bad habits

Work on assertiveness e.g.: by having more presentations in class on Sint Maarten

Integration (Integration with international students easier than with Dutch)

 Educate on how to embrace different cultures and learn from others  Have workshops that give students a feel of what they can expect  Extracurricular activities (sports for example is very expensive) should be made affordable  More social events for Sint Maarteners :debates, forums, etc

Discrimination(Dutch more judgemental, easily made the outcast)

 Educate on discrimination and ways of not letting this affect you  Provide information on the areas in the Netherlands where it happens most

Lack of support/ involvement/information on the part of parents

It should be mandatory for parents to attend the preparation meetings with their children.

Bills/IBG-DUO is not sufficient Extra support from government for IBG-DUO not sufficient for MBO students MBO

45


Lack of knowledge about consequences (of financial administration)

Give extra attention to financial subjects and institutions in the Netherlands during the preparation/training sessions. (e.g.: Info about ‘incasso’ system, late fees, fines, banks, interest rates, payment plans, ‘kwijtschelding’, BKR, ‘huur en zorg toeslag’, etc)

Lack of financial support of family or others

Extra financial support from parents and government

Side jobs (takes away from study )

Provide workshops on prioritizing and developing good time management skills

Budget issues

Give information sessions on budgeting and living within your means, and the importance of having good personal administration to avoid extra expenses

Not being able to work/not having a job

Encourage parents to put aside savings for children's education

Insurance

Allow students to choose their own insurance (everybody is different, and each individual wants specific coverage for specific things relative to his/her life)

High house rent/housing situation

 Get a job  Stay with family

46


Appendices 

Appendix A: Event Itinerary

Appendix B: Discussion Guideline Moderators

Appendix C: The SSF Information Form

Appendix D: Responses Sub-question Section 1

Appendix E: Responses Sub-question Section 2

Appendix F: Moderator Reports

Appendix G: Biographies Board Members

47


Appendix A: Event Itinerary

09.00 – 10.00:

Inloop

10.00 – 10.05:

Welkomstwoord door dagvoorzitter van Studentenforum en voorzitter van Stichting Soualiga Foundation

10.05 – 10.10:

Volkslied en Gebed

10.10 – 10.15: Maarten

Inleiding door de Gevolmachtigde Minister van St.

10.15 – 10.20:

Toespraak van de Minister President van St. Maarten

10.20 – 10.25: Maarten

Toespraak door de Minister van Onderwijs van St.

10.25 – 10.30: van zaken uit

Dagvoorzitter geeft de stellingen aan en legt de gang

10.30 – 12.30:

Begin eerste segment: Succesvol studeren

12.30 – 13.30: het restaurant

Lunch ( verzorging en organisatie Het Evertshuis ) in

13.30 – 13.50:

“Small island unity carnival queen crowning”

14.00 – 16.00:

Begin tweede segment : Succesvol terugkeren

17.00 – 17.15:

De Minister President en de Minister van Onderwijs hebben de gelegenheid om het beleid omtrent studie en terugkeer alsook stimuleringsmaatregelen te presenteren aan de aanwezigen.

17.15 – 18.00:

Paneldiscussie

18.00 – 18.10:

Dagvoorzitter kondigt het slot van de bijeenkomst aan.

18.10 – 19.00:

Gezellig samenzijn in het restaurant

19.00:

Sluiting

48


Appendix B: Discussion Guideline Moderators

SECTION 1: Studying Successfully/ Not Successfully In this section we identified possible areas/reasons that cause students to fail. Educational Factors  

Language barrier (i.e.: inadequate level of Dutch communication and/or comprehension skills) Insufficient preparation (i.e.: o The education system on Sint Maarten was insignificant to help you transition from secondary education (high school) on Sint Maarten to tertiary education (MBO, HBO and/or University) in the Netherlands. o Misinformation from educators, study guide, parents, mentors, etc. (i.e.: advice was given to pursue a particular school or study that you feel you were not capable of following at that point) o Negative stereotyping, outlook and/or perception about the Netherlands) Demotivation (i.e.: the inability to obtain and/or maintain desired grades or receiving negative binding study advice from school)

Personal Factors     

Motivation (e.g.: attending classes, being on time, focus, homesickness, etc) Bad study habits (e.g.: procrastination, poor research, etc.) Assertiveness (i.e.: low self-esteem, feeling intimidated by other students, teachers, society, etc.) Addictions (i.e.: smoking, drinking and excessive partying) Personal administration (i.e.: opening and answering mail, updating oneself of social and/or legal issues, organizing and prioritizing finances, etc.)

Social Factors

49


  

Unsuccessful integration (i.e.: feelings of not belonging/not feeling at home, loneliness, or not being able to make new acquaintances/ broadening one’s network ) Discrimination (i.e. racism or exclusion because of your background) Peer pressure (i.e. feeling compelled to be perceived a certain way/ accepted by friends or certain groups) Negative influences (i.e.: associating with individuals that are active in destructive activities)

Financial Factors:  

Insufficient support system back home (i.e. family/ guardians on Sint Maarten are unable to support you financially Forced to take (a) job(s)

SECTION 2: Returning Successfully In this section we look at how we can return to Sint Maarten after completing a study in the Netherlands. 

Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten? (i.e.: what are the socially and personally benefits)

What are the criteria for a successful return? (i.e: what do you believe is important/ needs to be in place in order for you to return home)

What is the government’s role in this?

What is your own role in this?

Why would you not return to Sint Maarten? (i.e.: what factors would cause you to stay in the Netherlands)

SECTION 3: Solutions In this section, please list possible solutions for the improvement of areas you deem negative.

50


Appendix C: The SSF Information Form

Student Forum – April 20th, 2012 The Evertshuis, Bodegraven Important notice: - We value your feedback and hope you can be honest, as this is an anonymous form. - Please avoid abusive language and obscene comments. - Please check the relevant box on the form and fill in the additional information. Section 1: Studying Successfully/Not Successfully Studying Successfully Educational Factors: Yes Problems:

Personal Factors: Problems:

Yes

/ No Solutions:

/ No Solutions:

Social Factors: Problems:

Yes

Financial Factors:

Yes

/ No Solutions:

/ No

51


Problems:

Other: Problems:

Solutions:

Yes

/ No Solutions:

Not Studying Successfully Educational Factors: Yes Problems:

Personal Factors: Problems:

Yes

Solutions:

/ No Solutions:

Social Factors: Problems:

Yes

Financial Factors: Problems:

Yes

Other:

/ No

/ No Solutions:

/ No Solutions:

Yes

/ No

52


Problems:

Solutions:

Section 2: Returning Successfully Studying Successfully Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten?

What are the criteria for a successful return?

What do you feel is the government’s role in this?

What is your own role in this?

Why would you not return to Sint Maarten?

53


Section 3: Creating Solutions Improvements Educational Factors

Personal Factors

Social Factors

Financial Factors

Government

Personal improvements

Other‌

54


Appendix D: Responses Sub-question Section 1 Factors for Unsuccessful Studies Educational Factors

Language barrier leads to drop outs, low self-esteem /hard to communicate/family does not speak Dutch Level of education on the island Expectations of the students/poor communication/culture shock Preparation Guidance counsellor (lack of info) The guidance councillors at the secondary schools: inadequate info/useless assignments S4 not transparent/not enough information

Personal Factors

Procrastination (Lack of) Confidence Relationships Assertiveness (lack of) Personal problems Lack of information on parents part/support Motivation No discipline/ going out Time management Not satisfied with choice of study

Social Factors

Negative influences (friends) peer

55


pressure/bad habits Integration with int'l students easier than Dutch Sports being expensive Discrimination(Dutch more judgemental, easily made the outcast) Lack of support/involvement/info parents Financial Factors

Bills/IBG-DUO is not sufficient Lack of knowledge about Consequences Lack of financial support of family or others Side jobs (takes away from study ) Budget issues Not being able to work/not having a job Insurance IBG-DUO not sufficient for MBO High house rent/housing situation

56


Factors for studying successfully Educational factors

Good education system Mandatory Dutch/ language

Personal factors

Self-motivated Assertive/ not afraid to ask questions Initiative/ studying with peers Focus on school Self-discipline

Social factors

Integration Do not let discrimination affect me Support from parents from a young age

Financial factors

Receive financial support from family Have a job Have good personal administrative skills to avoid extra expenses Have financial security through saving Study financing by DUO is sufficient

57


Appendix E: Responses Sub-question Section 2 Returning Successfully Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten?

Development of the island in every sector (financial/economic/medical/etc)/applying knowledge and experience (nation building)national pride Family and friends/to raise a family Attachment/connection to the island/being home/beaches/sun/good quality of life Combat brain drain/more illegals than locals

What are the criteria for a successful return?

SXM society being more cooperative Wage (enough to pay rent, food, recreation) independence Better housing (cheaper, housing committee) Cost of living (minimum wage) More opportunities More control over private sector Available jobs (also to gain experience)/job training/internships Facilities: basic insurance/infrastructure (roads, electricity)/information on how to return(writing in)/better education system/feeling safe/recreation We need ESPN back Healthy economy

What do you feel is the government role in this?

New source of income for economy

58


Good governance: combatting corruption/mismanagement (requesting id by pawnshops/heavy fines) job and scholarships being fairly awarded/education sys/housing/Zero tolerance nepotism Filter public officials (police and government workers) because we depend on them Hold businesses responsible (pawnshops) regulate chamber of commerce/hiring locals Protect consumer rights/labour laws Allocate the help of our business students/promote our artists that are doing positive things Make the tax system fair, instead of pressure on a few, taxation should be justifiable Stimulate the students to come back/incentives/keep us informed/starter deals Opportunities/job opportunities/minimum wage/central website with job vacancies/being able to grow with your career Building trust Subsidise social events in NL What is your own role in this?

Networking, being proactive/speaking up/giving advice Saving Staying informed about Sint Maarten Assertiveness/responsibility/sacrifice Willingness to return Completing your studies/volunteering/obtaining experience/personal growth

59


Not getting stuck in NL Networking, being proactive/speaking up/giving advice Saving Staying informed about Sint Maarten Assertiveness/responsibility/sacrifice Willingness to return Completing my studies/volunteering/obtaining experience/personal growth Not getting stuck in NL Why would you not return to Sint Maarten?

Education system here is in Dutch better for kids in NL Cost of living compared to wages/making euros Housing Small mindedness/misguided government and society Crime Heat Boring/poor recreational activities Corruption/ ‘vriendjes politiek’/nepotism/lack of structure on the island/bad economy Not up to date No proper vacancies/no stability with jobs Chosen study not equipped for Sint Maarten/no job for musicians Paying off ‘studieschuld’ is faster in euros Travelling from NL cheaper

60


Standard of living Gaining experience/not having finished school

61


Appendix F: Moderator Reports SUMMARY – SSF STUDENT FORUM – GROUP 9

In my group, group 9, we discussed the following factors that have effect on students studying successfully or not successfully during their study career here in the Netherlands.

STUDYING SUCCESSFULLY/ NOT SUCCESSFULLY We agreed that there is a language barrier. No matter if the students to go a Dutch high school or an English high school the level of Dutch is still not up to par. And around the table it was agreed that the language of instruction on Sint Maarten should be carefully looked at. One participant did share that going to both an English and Dutch high school helped her out a lot.

The preparation to come to the Netherlands is not enough. Participants shared how they were prepared to come to the Netherlands starting by in school. In some schools the preparation should start earlier. Not in your 4th year (HAVO) but probably in your third year. Students should be made aware of the thousands of study opportunities pertaining to areas of studies. They shared that too often students choose the typical studies because that it was they hear of. It was also said that the career guidance counselor at some schools need to change the manner in which students end up choosing their study. Now there are test that done, which questions your interest. However participants shared that your interest changes and especially when you come to the Netherlands you see much more options, which pushes a lot of students to switch studies. What should be questioned is what the students are good at. The group also shared that the VOBAS training that is done is not enough. It should probably be done for a longer period and to show the students what the real life in Holland is about.

The majority of the participants at this table shared that they are properly motivated. They also shared that sometimes they have bad study habits. For instance cleaning up their room instead of studying. Or just doing something totally different than studying. Some shared the idea of procrastination, however quickly stated that nevertheless they still get their work done on time.

Most of the participants at the table agreed that they are assertive. However some shared that the level of assertiveness in Netherlands is different and in some situations one would have to

62


adapt and become much more assertive in order to succeed in their social life and also in their study.

Everyone agreed that their personal administration can be better. Some also stated that too often students are not assertive enough or don’t act inquisitive enough to go and find out certain things. When some students receive letters at home they don’t read the small letters or sometimes even words that a printed in normal size. They often read maybe the amount that has to be paid and that’s about it. It boils down to getting into problems with for instance incassobureaus and also deurwaarders. Most felt that this is a personal issue that students have to deal with themselves. And yes bad habits do play a role and has major effects on study careers of Sint Maarten students here in the Netherlands.

All agreed that it is possible to integrate into the Dutch society. However sometimes it is difficult to do so and it also depends on the city you live and study in. Some shared about how they had to learn to be more open and how sometimes classmates point that out to them. Nevertheless, all agreed that mentality wise there is a big difference between the Dutch and the Sint Maarten student. Discrimination is also present. However we all agreed that you have to know how to work with it. We shouldn’t take ‘’tit for tat’’. We should be more assertive and learn that in some situations it is better to stair away and avoid certain discriminating issues.

We also had enough time to talk about social things that can be done in order to motivate students more. One participant shared that most of the time in the Netherlands if you want to get into sports it can cost you an arm and a leg, and sometimes because of that they are force not to play. Some students get their drive for school, through playing sports.

In the group we ended up talking about peer pressure and negative influences together. Some shared that they are of the opinion that students are easily influenced when living in the Netherlands. By drugs and by the wrong crowds, students from Sint Maarten end up doing things that are not right. We then rolled right over into the next factor which was Finances. Some were of the opinion that students sometimes do or carry drugs (and other illegal stuff) because their finances are low.

63


Some agreed that the financial support from DUO is sometimes enough. However in situations like an MBO student it is not enough. Some persons at the table were of the opinion that no matter the amount you receive from DUO you are still able to survive off of that. 2 persons at the table had a job one was written in to a work placement agency and the rest did not have a job at that present moment.

RETURNING TO SINT MAARTEN AFTER COMPLETION Pertaining to returning to Sint Maarten after completion of their studies I first questioned if it is important to return. We all agreed and shared why it was so important. The most comments were based on building up the country. The country that we grew up in needs us. It is a sense of pride. To share the knowledge that one attained. At the same time we agreed that our role is indeed to go back and teach and put in place the things what we have learnt here in the Netherlands. We then said that people and government should be open to it. Government should put different systems and policies into place so that when we return we can function in what it is we studied. Some shared also that the private sector should also start to play a major role assisting in the return of graduates. Someone also shared that the chamber of commerce should also play a role. There should be a system developed which tracks or knows what students are up to, how far they are in their study and when can they be expected back on the island. We also discussed that a major factor is the way that things are done in Sint Maarten. That factor actually pushes students to not want to return. After living in the Netherlands for a while, one becomes accustom to for instance, current not going once a week for 2 to 3 hours or making appointments at the Municipality. They also stated that there should be some major work done on the infrastructure of the island. These are little things that can have effect on the decision that one makes, if to return or not.

In the end we all decided that is important to return and we will eventually return. One also shared that she already began networking at the forum in order to see what the possibilities are to work in government based on her study.

HOT TOPICS The group in its entirety questioned the role of S4 and wanted to know if there would be any changes

pertaining

to

the

setup

and

the

communication

of

the

organization.

The group also questioned the chosen language of instruction, and how it would have effect

64


on upcoming students who would like to study in the Netherlands or even students who would like to study studies that are based in the Dutch language like for instance, Medicine or Law. The group lastly questioned the incentive package that the Minister of Education presented in her speech. The group basically wondered what now if a big amount of students, who are studying studies that can hold functions in the government apparatus, decide to return to Sint Maarten around the same time. Is the government financially able to cover that demand? Or will it be first come first serve?

CONCLUSION In short the group agreed that the language of instruction should be carefully looked at. The preparations should also be adjusted students should be aware of what they are ‘’really’’ getting themselves into. They should be prepared earlier and they should know of all their options, pertaining to studies. This choice for a study, should also be done differently with an existing test that test what they are good at and not their interest at that time in their lives. We also agreed that motivation and assertiveness should also be more stimulated. This should happen at a younger age, so actually before students leave to come to the Netherlands. Students should be aware that discrimination exist but not that they have to take every word literally. Also more social events should be kept for Sint Maarteners be it on a serious level or a leisure level (sports). They agreed that financially students should be able to survive from the money they receive from DUO however finances do play a major role in the study career of a student. Participants at this table all agreed that it is important to return to Sint Maarten it gives a sense of pride. There are definitely things that need to be changed, which at the moment may hamper some people from returning to the island. We decided that not only the government had a role to play, but that the private sector alongside the chamber of commerce also had a big role to play. It was suggested that they both try to work together and see what they can come up with. In the end it is all in the interest and the good of our Country Sint Maarten. At last students did state and agreed that the choice of returning to Sint Maarten after completion of their studies remains a personal choice and it sometimes shouldn’t be hammered to much as it is now.

The participants in this group applauded this forum and also stated that something like this should be kept more often, even every 3 months:O. They also shared that next time I should

65


have someone writing down what is being said or a tape recorder. Overall they were very enthusiastic during both discussions.

66


REPORT STUDENT FORUM 2012 By Maria Charles (I was only present for the first session)

Group Dynamics 

My Group consisted of 8 participants, including myself.

Overall, I had a very mature group. What I mean by this is, that the almost all the participants of my group were in an advanced stage of study. Most were in their fourth year and writing their dissertations or they were busy with a Masters’ study.

Only two of the seven people were in the first and second year.

Almost half of the group did not complete their studies within a four-year period.

The reasons for this were: some changed to another study and others were obliged to follow a study route that they did not want but were advised to do (from advisor on Sint Maarten).

Discussions In the first half we centered on the factors for studying successfully and not successfully. Educational Factors: -

Language was mentioned. Most admitted that language was an issue for them, but solutions that they had were: 

Personally Invest in extra Dutch lessons

Make Dutch courses an obligatory part of the preparations to come to the Netherlands. This should be done way in advance.

 -

Socialize with Dutch people and speak Dutch with them as much as possible

External Preparation Preparations to come to the Netherlands were regarded as insufficient. The main reasons given for this was: the lack of knowledge/ and or experience and/or the inadequate know-how of study advisors (example: students were given useless assignments to do as a means to finding the right school and/or information on the schools in the Netherlands were outdated). Misinformation was mainly regarding the school (for example; specific schools were advised without taking into consideration other possible schools), and the way the school systems in the Netherlands work (for

67


example: if you pass your first year in HBO you can apply for a WO). Another factor that was mentioned here is the fact that they feel that their parents are not adequately aware or informed about the differences between Sint Maarten and the Netherlands. Suggested solutions were: 

Train or replace the current student advisors

Have more mentors on Sint Maarten that follow the progress of students throughout their high school career so that advice about future studies are given with all aspects of the students taken into consideration.

Organize a school fair on Sint Maarten, inviting representatives of institutions of higher learning from the Netherlands to tell about the academic opportunities offered there.

-

Internal Preparation 

No one mentioned any personal factors that contributed to studying successfully/ not successfully.

-

Motivation/Stimulation The participants placed the responsibility for motivation on themselves. Most said that they actively problem-solve, research, investigate, etc issues when necessary. Others mentioned that when they did not feel up to it that they:

-

Seek out someone you can trust to talk with

Keep reminding themselves of why they are here to study

Find (Sint Maarten) role models to look up to

Study Habits Here again, participants showed a lot of responsibility in that they strived to be the best in their class. What this means for them, preparing well for classes and exams, asking questions, being creative, and being assertive.

Personal Factors -

Assertive. Please see above

68


-

Personal administration. Please see above. They did mention that there is temptation to spend money on expensive or unnecessary things such as cell phones and brandname clothing. 

There are cheaper options available for things such as food, clothing, etc. Students need to realize that they are students and not living on their parents’ pocketbook.

Everything in the Netherlands cost money and not paying your bills can have serious consequences. The students need to be educated on things like: BKR, Deurwaarders, the significance of entering into a legal agreement.

-

Bad habits No one wanted to specify. The most that was said is that there is a good balance between partying and studying, but they do know people personally who have bad habits (smoking weed, drinking, partying and not studying). The reasons they give for this is they feel that these people are not motivated enough or that they lose focus.

Social Factors -

Integration was an issue that was thoroughly advised by everyone. They all felt that they have managed to integrate but did admit that this took a while to happen. They advise that: 

Students coming to the Netherlands should have a thorough course where cultural differences are explained. This way culture shock is minimized.

Give yourself time and be open-minded.

Join associations, foundations, groups, clubs, etc as much as possible. This makes it much easier to form friendships.

 -

For those who can, come to the Netherlands on a visit before moving here.

Discrimination was much discussed. Many of the participants experienced this, some cases where very extreme (Example: one participant was threatened with a gun by a Neo-Nazi, one was refused a job based on the colour of her skin, another was severely teased for being black and the best in her class, another was given a hard time by teachers). Discrimination happens mostly outside the Randstadt (Rotterdam, Den

69


Haag, Leiden, Amsterdam and Utrecht) and were more prevalent in towns where not many black people live. 

When selecting a place to live, people should be aware of this.

There are institutions in the Netherlands where complaints can be made about racism; students should be aware of this.

-

Peer pressure was not really an issue for the people in my group. They again mentioned that students should be focused and self-motivated, keeping in mind the reason that they came to study. Some mentioned that there is a lot of pressure from parents or dependants back home. Solutions were: 

-

Don’t be afraid to fail. Dutch students fail too.

Negative influences. No one really admitted to having negative influences. 

They did advise that it was not such a good idea to hang around only with Sint Maarten people, as it is easier to follow negative influences when you are comfortable in an environment.

Financial Factors -

Financial support system.

Some admitted to having no financial backing from

parents which caused them to supplement their income by getting another job. Sometimes this put extra pressure and time constraints on them with regards to studying. The temptation is also there to make money and forget studying. Solutions: 

Provide students with lessons on budgeting

Educate students on their rights, such as zorgtoeslag and huurtoeslag, getting back money from the belasting, etc

70


1st Annual Stichting Soualiga Foundation Student Forum

Moderator: Edwina Hodge Date: Friday 20th, 2012 Group: 3

Group dynamics The group consisted of 6 students, 1 business professional and the moderator. The educational background of each participant created the perfect discussion atmosphere, in which all participants did not feel compelled but rather comfortable in expressing what was on their minds.

The day was divided into 2 sections and then divided again into the following topics: 

Section 1 o Factors

Educational factors

Personal factors

Social factors

Financial factors

Section 2 o Returning to Saint Maarten 

Why should one return to Saint Martin?

What is the criterion for returning to Saint Martin?

What is government’s role in the process?

What is the role of the student returning?

Why would one opt to not return to Saint Martin?

71


As a group we choose to discuss and highlight the sub-topics under each factor, which would allow us to gain the most accurate information necessary. Considering the dynamics within the group (experience and maturity being the positive factor), we saw it fit to discuss problems and solutions simultaneously instead of separate in the hope that this would be a more positive approach. Section 1: 1. Education al factors o Language barrier 

The participants within group 3 felt that there is a language barrier which stems from the lack implementation within the educational structure on the island of Saint Martin. They are led to believe that it would not be as difficult (misinformed) when they reach to the Netherland but upon arrival they are faced with the hardship of the language along with other factors. To make the problem worse when students approach the S4 Foundation requesting advice on this matter they are then inaccurate advice and at times nil advice.

The participants suggested a possible solution to bridging the gap on this issue would be to gather resources on the island of Saint Martin before deportation to the Netherlands. Meaning; it should be made mandatory for students planning to go to the Netherlands to follow a Dutch course enabling them to better handle themselves academically and socially in the Dutch community and then continuing that course for a month upon their arrival in the Netherlands. They also feel that the students should take it upon themselves and realise that they have a problem and take the necessary steps in facilitating themselves to do better in the areas where they experience grievances. They can do this following a Dutch course at the school as they are provided by many schools for students whose native language is not Dutch.

o External and Internal factors pertaining to the preparation in coming to the Netherlands 

External factors 

The participants felt that the external preparation in coming to the Netherlands was sufficient but that there should be some

72


alterations to the focus group that should include the parents. Doing this would make the parents aware of what struggles await their students upon arriving in the Netherlands. Other to that they feel that the sessions in Saint Martin are descent and even useful but lacking in crucial information and vague when in the Netherlands. Where it pertains to the S4 Foundation and the government of Saint Martin the participants felt that there were a few issues such as improper housing arrangements, lack of insurance, non-existent book funds, faulty mentor system, inconsistency issues, lack of communication and of course a lack of strategy. 

Where it pertains to the modification of the focus group unto the parents; the participants felt that it should be made mandatory for the parents or concerned guardian to attend 2 information sessions and sign off that they were present. Doing this will ensure that the students and parents are fully aware before their children embark on their journey. Furthermore pertaining to the S4 Foundation and the Government of Saint Martin, the participants deemed it valuable and in the best interest of all participating parties and/or stakeholders that a strategic, implementation and evaluation plan be put together in order to solve or at the least minimize the issues in the abovementioned paragraph.



Internal factors 

The participants felt that the internal factors pertaining to the preparation was has mostly to do with the attitude/maturity and education level of the students coming to the Netherlands. When arriving students experience a huge culture shock and if not prepared they spiral out of control and sometimes they do not find their way back. They also feel that the level of education on the island does not fully prepare them for college life. They sometimes feel inadequate in comparison to the students of the Netherlands.

73


The issue of attitude and maturity lies with the parents and/or guardians of the students. The participants were very honest in saying that they don’t want to tell anybody how to raise their child but did mention this famous proverb: “it takes a village to raise a child”. The level of education has to do with government and their evaluation of their education system. The participants are not aware if so called evaluation takes places but if it hasn’t please know that Saint Martin is in desperate need of one and that it should be of priority in order to pin point the problems and from there on establish a goal.

o Motivation/Stimulation 

Motivation is a trending issue amongst many young people worldwide. What much can we say other than the fact that it is lacking. Who is responsible for this? The parents and the students are equally responsible for ensuring sufficient motivation is present.

This issue can most certainly be solved with the right resources. The participants suggested a modified screening process where it pertains to the choosing of students for scholarships from Saint Martin. This suggestion was brought to the table after it was mentioned by the former Minister of Education Dr. Rhoda Arrindell that they were doing a return on investment research. The exact solution is as follows: students should have to deliver a list of references and a motivation letter along with their study application to be evaluated in order to receive a scholarship. This of course will ensure that the right students are chosen considering the lack of funds. No system is flawless; therefore to increase the reliability and validity of this modified process we also suggest there be psychological intake interview as a complimentary method to the references and motivational letter.

o Study habits 

The participants feel that study habits are something personal and should be dealt with before one arrives in the Netherlands considering that this is a cause for students failing, dropping out and/or even changing studies. They feel it is common sense to know what works for

74


you and what doesn’t and to make the necessary adjustments needed in order to assure progress. 

This issue can be solved or minimized if there is light shed upon the issue in Saint Martin during the S4 information sessions as well as throughout the local high schools by means of the student guidance counsellor.

2. Personal factors o Assertive behaviour 

The assertive characteristic of the Saint Martin students varies from student to student depending on the way in which they were raised. The level of assertiveness interacts with self-motivation on many levels.

Such an approach can be taught from a young age and the responsible parties are the parents and the various school boards. There are certain programs on the island of Saint Martin that do offer that level of confidence which students need in order to become assertive. Examples of such programs are: The baby think it over at the MPC as well as the Girl Power initiative. This gives the students a sense of ambition, drive and of course motivation which translates into them becoming assertive human beings.

o Personal administration 

There is the issue of struggling to be independent. Some students were never taught how to budget and some students have no idea how to go about money.

This can be solved if parents create a basic awareness from at home. The S4 Foundation concentrates one of their sessions on budgeting but the participants felt it is not focused enough on the problems the students encounter. It is very basic. This should be a session where both parent/guardian and student should be present.

o Bad habits and the role they play 

What can we say about bad habits? They are bad for a reason and should be dealt with before students embark on their academic journey to the Netherlands.

The participants could not come up with any solutions to this issue or than the fact that the parents should pay more attention to their children

75


and the students should be more aware, honest and objective about themselves. 3. Social factors o Integration possibilities 

Saint Martin natives are very much Americanized as a result of the high exposure to the American culture. This makes it difficult to adjust ourselves to the Dutch culture. The participants were as honest to say that Saint Martiners are accustom of being the centre of attention and feel offensive when we are told otherwise.

The simple solution to this a change of mentality. Saint Martiners should be more aware of their surroundings, try to understand the culture and be analytical and of course adjust accordingly. Hang out with Dutch natives and not only Saint Martiners could be a great solution.

o The role of discrimination 

No participant at the table had ever experience discrimination but was still capable of shedding some light on the issue. Their views were identical in saying that Saint Martin students are not fully aware of discrimination at that level due to the lack of such behaviour in the Saint Martin community. We (Saint Martiners) discriminate in our own community against people of other nationalities but are not fully aware when it happens to us. Therefore when it does take place, it is considered to be cruel and capable of breaking ones motivation and self-esteem.

The solution to this problem would be more awareness in the school curriculum.

o Peer pressure and negative influences 

Students pay a stagnant ear and eye to peer pressure because they are ultimately not aware of what it is and effects of it. There is a lack of self esteem and the morals and values of some of the students are distorted because of the lack of a role model within the community of Saint Martin.

The participants started out by saying the following pertaining to this topic: “Not to beat a dead horse but let me get my bat”. Peer pressure

76


could be easily dealt with if a better mentor system was in place and not the current flawed or even in some instances non-existent system bragged about. They insisted that there be someone in place that the students could constantly count on and not only when it best fit the needs of the so called mentor’s currently in place. The solution for the mentor system is as follows: there should be a collaboration effort between the S4 Foundation and the Government of Saint Martin to employ a handful of permanent employees educationally equipped in the field of a social worker. Furthermore the participants felt that if students were to have morals and values, a higher self-esteem and a better way of thinking that the majority of work would have already been achieved. 4. Financial factors o Financial support system and Part-time job 

The financial support system and part-time job issue is a personal one and one that varies from student to student depending on their situation. The participants recognizes that there is a problem but was also honest enough to say that it is a characteristic and pride issue of Saint Martin natives to not ask for help because they don’t want to be seen as incapable of handling their business. Therefore they wait until the problem has progressed into something so big that they don’t have a choice but to ask for assistance.

The solution to this is simple as mentioned earlier under the sub-topic personal administration. Parents and students both should attend mandatory financial and budget sessions from the S4 Foundation. Parents should also realise that their children are still theirs and they have a responsibility to them, and not to just be glad because the Saint Martin and Dutch government took their son’s and/or daughters off their hands permitting them to not worry for their wellbeing anymore. Government should put strict regulations in place from in Saint Martin to avoid students from ending up in financial predicaments. They can do this by evaluating the parents and not only the students. The participants made mention that they are not saying the students should have to suffer because of their parent’s short comings but there should

77


be some type of common ground and/or transparency on the parent’s behalf. 

Section 2 o Returning to Saint Maarten 1. Why should one return to Saint Martin? 

The participants acknowledge that it is important to return to their island to help build the community considering that they were given the opportunity to further their education by the Government of Saint Martin. They also mentioned that they are not happy with what they are returning to. Which they feel fit enough to call an unsure future for them and their family due to the way of doing business in Saint Martin. The other reasons are highlighted below in point 5.

2. What is the criterion for returning to Saint Martin? 

Some of the participants were not aware of the criterion for returning to Saint Martin but when made aware had an issue with 1 of the criteria’s: the 6 month period for returning after finishing one’s academic journey. They feel that this specific criteria is unrealistic at most because if we were to return to the island we would be lacking in experience, therefore not being able to fully contribute what is expected.

3. What is government’s role in the process? 

The government’s role in the process is very simple. The participants are very much aware that do not have the experience of some in persons in the political and/or government sector but feels that guidelines need to be implemented. There should be a better customer relationship management/marketing (citizen management) system in place hoping that there is already one. If not then one should be invested in as this will facilitate the government in implementing a more efficient tracking system. If the tracking system is absent at the moment then that should also be

78


something on the priority list of investments. Furthermore a transparency/accountability system is of epic value as this will ensure the other systems are in place, and effective. 4. What is the role of the student returning? 

The participants feel that their role in this entire situation is very direct: to give back. But they would like to do so whole heartedly which means they would like to have gained the necessary experience.

5. Why would one opt to not return to Saint Martin? 

First and foremost the participants all want to return to their homeland but are inhabited by a mountain of worries being: corruption within the island, confidentiality issues, level of education for their children, welfare issues, ghost workers, pension plans, job security, infrastructure and unification of the people of Saint Martin.

79


Summary of group 4 evaluation for student forum By: Mikael Daal At the beginning of the student forum each student state their name, their study, where they live and how they heard about the forum, this helped each student to feel more relax and be able to share their ideas with each other clearly as possible. After doing that we jumped right into it and I ask them about the educational factors and what they think about the language barrier here in Holland for the St. Maarten Students. The reply what I gain was that everyone felt the same way that the Dutch as language that was thought to them on St. Maarten wasn't up to par with the Dutch that is explained and spoken in school but, this was mostly the feeling of the students in higher education and also base on the type of study your doing. The second item that was talked about was the personal factors that student of St. Maarten encounter for their studies, the answers were all different but it all boils down to how you as a person handle and deal with certain situations as a student. The third item that was talked about was the social factors that students of St. Maarten encounter for their studies. In the group the students felt like this was just like the previous personal factors question and had felt the same way. They came to the conclusion that as a student you have to set your priorities and know what you want to achieve to finish school successfully. The fourth item that was talked about was the financial factors that students of St. Maarten encounter for their studies. In the group this question raise allot of arguments concerning having the financial support from S4 and having a side job. Some students felt that having a second income beside DUO is important if you have certain situation that extra funds is needed and this should have been a choice of the students from the get-go. By S4 Foundation telling the students they are not allowed to work made the students only rely on DUO for financial support when it can be their choice to have an extra income yes or no. So this was 1 of the important things that should be better explained for the new students that will be coming to Holland under St. Maarten government. Returning successfully part of the student forum went as follows; when I asked “Why is it important to return to Sint Maarten?” everyone had more or less the same answer, which is of course to make Country St. Maarten move forward. Then I asked “ What are the criteria for a successful return? ”, for this question everyone had more or less the same answer also which is to finish and graduate from what you have studied for and have the experience behind you

80


to gain a job vacancy faster and better on the island. Then I asked “What do you feel is the government’s role in this? ”, I got mix answers from the group. Some felt that the government isn't that helpful when it does not concern the government “priority list” (List of positions the government need). The other student felt that the government should have a website where the job vacancies could be more clearly seen in the government sector and in the private sector. They also answered that the government need to keep with the incentive packages because, some students don't want to go back to the island and live in their parents’ house until they could find their own place. Then I asked “What is your own role in this?”; I also got mix reaction from this question. Some students answered that it is hard to get a job on the island when most businesses don't have a place to put you because, you’re over qualified so this makes it harder for students to say that they will just go back and just work in the field that they are over qualified for. Then is asked “Why would you not return to Sint Maarten? , everyone had more or less the same answer which was St. Maarten government needs to fix up their act and make the students that has finish studied welcome and needed on the island. The Solution that our group come up with and agreed on is that the government should start improving the education on the island from primary school in order for the students could get into the learning curve more earlier make the right steps to continue their academic years on the island.

81


Soualiga Foundation Student Forum Moderator Report Moderator: Melissa Gumbs I led my group through the discussion template, as we had discussed. My group identified the following contributors as to why they do not Study Successfully and why they believe they would not be able to Return Successfully: I.

Study Successfully a. Personal Factors: Procrastination was a serious issue within my group, which is to be expected, as this affects students worldwide. b. Social Factors: i. Discrimination: No one in my group had ever experienced blatant discrimination. However, I understand that this was not the case with several other groups, and my members did acknowledge that they knew of fellow St. Maarteners who had had incidents in their cities related to racial prejudice. Thus, it was not ruled out as an impacting factor. 1. Solution: Better preparation for the realities of Dutch culture and attitudes towards foreigners, as well as identification of the cities in which these incidents occur on a regular basis. Also, providing the students with information as to what authority they can report any such incidents to. ii. Financial: We tied this into the social factors discussion for one main reason, and that is, that many members of my group felt that they were not financially secure enough to enjoy a social life. This in turn fosters a sense of loneliness, as there is no additional social interaction outside of school, which can lead to depression. Additionally, failed social integration contributes to drop-out rates and negative study results. 1. A preparation course on budgeting before and after arriving in The Netherlands and highlighting social activities that don’t require much money. c. Pre-Arrival Issues: Those students in my group expressed the urgent need for a reevaluation of the preparatory courses currently conducted on SXM for those students travelling to The Netherlands for further study. As I had a decent mix at my table (MPC and other schools), I received feedback from both ends: i. MPC: Currently MPC has a begeleiding (spelling?) program, whereby the students take aptitude tests (among others) to determine “what they’d be

82


suited for” in their adult life. There is no true guidance within this program. Many described attending it and doing nothing, while the teacher in charge did other work or did not show up at all. This is alarming, considering high school is where most individuals begin to form an opinion of what career-path they would like to begin their working life in. Other students commented that they did not feel enlightened with regards to what majors and minors were available to them. Thus, upon their arrival and this discovery, they tend to switch their study one or more times within their first year. This prolongs the study duration. ii. St. Dominic etc: The English schools stated that their biggest roadblock was the Dutch language. It is taught as a subject at their schools, however, it is not intensively delivered. Thus they have not attained a sufficiently functional level of Dutch by the time they arrive in The Netherlands. These students were particularly concerned, along with the MPC students, at the outgoingMinister’s comments about contemplating switching the language of instruction to the language that the students speak, which would be English. They also expressed concern over the lack of guidance counselling with regards to available fields of study in university. 1. This is an issue for the school boards, thus, perhaps an approach to them to see IF government can assist in any way with planning and executing measures to improve these areas. iii. The VOBAS courses were ruled as not sufficient enough preparation. The general consensus was that guidance counselling and the VOBAS courses should start a full year in advance to adequately prepare the students for departure. In addition, the idea of compiling and maintaining a “bible” of sorts to be distributed to new students was discussed. It would be a go-to guide for them, with regards to any situations that may arise or procedures they may encounter. II.

Return Successfully a. Criteria for return: i. Government’s Role: 1. Minimum wage must be increased to a suitable level. 2. Housing must begin to be controlled on the island, to ensure that students who have lived on their own for years at a time are not forced to return to their parents’ homes because there is nothing affordable.

83


3. Increased transparency with regards to laws being established and activity within government controlled companies. 4. The crime situation needs a feasible and effective solution, perhaps a liaison program with The Netherlands, regarding the thousands of unemployed Dutch policewomen and men. One student suggested sending 100 down for a year, on a rotating basis. 5. The ICT infrastructure needs to be drastically improved. 6. Updating of the constitution and laws to offer protection against discrimination and more to all Sint Maarteners, regardless of race, creed, physical ability, sexual orientation and gender, as it does not currently offer this. 7. New policies towards enhancing existing industry and diversification into new industries. 8. Combine foreign direct investment with social infrastructure improvement, i.e., foreign companies must contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the roads, schools, hospitals, etc. 9. More

incentives

and

support

for

small

businesses

and

entrepreneurs/start-up companies. b. The Student’s Role: 1. To study as successfully as they can and do their utmost best to achieve the desired result in the allotted time, thus not costing government additional funds. Final Thoughts: My group was well-mixed, with newer students and older students (in terms of years in Holland), and so I trust that their updates on the counselling in the high schools are accurate. They all expressed a desire to return home, but also stated that they would not do so unless things changed. While they acknowledge that they are the change, they stated that several of their pre-requisites for returning could have been met by government decades ago (minimum wage, housing control) and that even these bare minimums being improved would lead to more students wanting to return home. They expressed dissatisfaction with the incentives package, saying they feel it trapped them in a government job and many of them did not want to work for government. Ironically, many expressed their concern that the then-sitting government was hanging by a thin thread, and that it would not take much to make the “powder keg explode�. I was contacted by a couple of my group members after the actual fall of government, many of whom wondered if this was the Sint Maarten they wanted everyone to return to.

84


Aishira Report on student forum I believe the student forum was a great success and a great first initiative of SF. Preparation: We hit our objectives by thoughtfully thinking and discussing things through and communicating to our target groups. Via Fb, email, skype, face to face meetings. Communication between the board members/organizing committee was a great. We were thoroughly informed, attended meetings and kept each other informed. Delegation of work went smoothly. Pilot with Mondrian students: we successfully collaborated with the school to get our students involved. Of the 11 only 2 showed up, that to me shows a lack of respect and interest on the part of the students. Not coming is one thing not informing us is another. We need to carefully look at this, on ways we could have improve on our part and to what extent it was the students’ responsibility. The day of the event: board members/organizing committee and moderators knew exactly what they were supposed to do, everyone was very active in their task. Any setbacks namely not enough students attending were promptly fixed and everyone adjusted to the situation. That for me shows that we have strong and dedicated members. Participation of the students on the day of the event was great. Everyone listened and adhered to our rules and respected our ‘commands’ (besides the minister who did not adhere to here time limit). The discussion with the moderators went very smoothly from my point of view. This is one of the proudest moments. Panel discussion: was also very good. Adjusting by letting the Prime Minister skype us was very good and another very proud moment. Having the dignitaries present showed that our initiative was relevant and important enough for them to attend. Despite some of the comments by our minister of Education being experienced in my opinion, as insensitive. Contribution by dedicated and professional third parties in the way that we did it, is almost or just as important as government backed initiatives which can heed (the perception of) bias. I am very honored to be working with a group of people that share the same (ultimate) goal for St. Maarten and its people. Looking forward to our next initiative geared to other target groups. Ideas: Sports and Language.

85


Improvements: Next event being in the Randstad and discussion with dignitaries being longer.

86


Appendix G: Biographies Board Members Perry Geerlings – Chairman Perry Geerlings was stationed by the Government of St. Maarten at the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of St. Maarten in The Hague, where he functions as Policy Advisor and Deputy Director of the Cabinet. He also heads the department of Education, Culture and Welfare at the Cabinet.

Carol Voges – Treasurer Carol Voges was born on August 28th, 1985 on the island of St. Maarten. After receiving her VWO diploma in 2003, she continued her studies at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. In 2007 she received the Master of Science degree in International Economics and Finance and in 2008 she obtained the Master of Science degree in Economics. August 2008 she started her career at BMC Groep, where she worked as a financial advisor at several municipalities in the Netherlands. In February 2011 she became Head of Finance and Economic Affairs at the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of St. Maarten.

Aishira Cicilia – Secretary Aishira Cicilia is currently pursuing her masters in civil law. She joined SSF because of the dire need of a representative body for St. Maarteners living in the Netherlands, especially the students. According to Aishira, "There is so much that can and should be done to help facilitate the transition and integration of Sint Maarten students in the Netherlands while still keeping our culture and identity alive. In my opinion SSF represents just that! "

Maria Charles – Assistant Secretary & PR/ Communications Manager Active in the creative and administrative arenas for a number of years, Maria decided to pursue a degree in Communication Management in 2008, a study that offered a perfect marriage of the two. In 2012, she completed her study, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in International Communication Management at the INHolland University of Applied

Sciences.

Within

her

functions

of

Assistant

Secretary

and

87


PR/Communications Manager, Maria is able to exercise her passion for her country and her profession.

Garrick Richardson – Board Member Garrick Richardson is a young Sint Maartener who is currently living and studying in the Netherlands. At the moment he is busy finalizing his Bachelor studies in Law at the University of Applied Sciences in Leiden. In his free time he volunteers where necessary, is always on the go and enjoys living the student life! Being part of the Soualiga Foundation, he would like to get Sint Maarteners active, connected and helping one another.

88


89


90


SSF Student Forum Report