Every budget over the last ten years and beyond shows that education consumes the greatest part of it. But instead of things getting better, our education product is lagging far behind. We have been reading about so many problems within our public educational system that it makes us hold our head and bawl.
All indications are that our private schools are being better managed. We are therefore, somewhat surprised that after so many years of talking about it, no decision has been made to date to privatize public education.
Our largest secondary school, if media reports are correct, is planning to establish an English curriculum because we are not having sufficient students stream into the Dutch system at that school. No clear-cut plans have been established for our students leaving our secondary schools in 2016 to find suitable employment.
The installation of solar panels on our schools to cut back on electricity consumption hereby providing the various school boards with tremendous savings that can be used to strengthen our educational programs. Time after time calls have been made to the NA-led government and the UPP-led Parliament of St. Maarten to reduce the commercial rates that NV GEBE is charging our school boards. These fees are in excess of NAf. 26,000 a month. Once again the savings derived from this reduction can be invested to upgrade our much needed educational product.
Yet, the two largest established political parties in government, the National Alliance and the United Peoples Party-led opposition have seen it fitting to be quarreling in public about a program Education on the Move.
Education is a lifetime investment and we expect both the government and the Parliament of St. Maarten to come up with programs that will better prepare our students to further their studies and enter the job market. Only the prepared will inherit the future.
Within the next couple of months many of our young students will be leaving the secondary schools. Some of them will go on to further their studies abroad while others will remain here to enroll at the USM or NIPA and at the same time seek employment.
Unfortunately, all of this will be happening at the end of our 2015/2016 tourist season with many businesses cutting back on employment. These decisions will make it next to impossible for our young people to find employment in the off-season.
In spite of all these shortcomings, our government – both the Council of Ministers and the fifteen members of the Parliament of St. Maarten – refused to enact legislation that would put our young people to work during this summer of 2016 and beyond.
The One St. Maarten Peoples Party, realizing the importance of making sure that our young people find employment had submitted a law that was passed in October 1989 in the Parliament of the former Netherlands Antilles. This law is commonly referred to as the Lei di Bion and would have encouraged the business community to employ young people between the ages of 18 to 25 for one year and received a tax incentive. Unfortunately, the government and Parliament of St. Maarten without any exception have turned their backs on our young people. They have not adopted this legislation with the proposed changes to fit the needs of the young people of St. Maarten and neither have they presented any type of legislation or programs that would provide our youth with gainful employment.
We hope that both these two established political parties the NA and the UPP would engage in meaningful debates about issues affecting the lives our people such as the high cost of living, health care for all, improvement of our educational product, a living wage and not starvation wages, an increase in pension for our seniors and much, much more.
“St. Maarten is in a hurry and we can’t afford that type of petty politics from both of those parties anymore,” said Lenny Priest, leader of the OSPP. We don’t need any more fake quarrels. Our people are wiser and they can’t be fooled that easily anymore.