Minister Jacobs: Not just a marketing issue, not just a culture issue, it’s a St. Maarten issue

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PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Silveria Jacobs in Wednesday’s, March 1, Council of Ministers Press Briefing, updated on issues within Division of Public Education.

After having received a list of grievances last year 2016, from the various public schools, meetings were held with both management and teachers, and those grievances were brought forward to the ministry, Minister Jacobs informed.

Areas of complaint covered, lack of a discipline policy; serious issues with discipline within schools; children with learning disabilities; adherents to the school curriculum; lack of parental involvement; day to day maintenance of school premises, among others.

The Department of Education, Department of Youth Affairs, Head of the Division Inspection and Exams Head of the Division Public Education, and the Secretary General hosted a meeting where these concerns were brought forward and brainstorming and action planning took place on how to facilitate solving some of these grievances.

“The plans are currently underway, some of them in the beginning phases, others as they are long-term still need to begin. Some of the maintenance issues have been dealt with, which could be dealt with promptly. Others have been assessed and are awaiting final approval for financing so that the work can take place,” the Minister explained.

In collaboration with other departments and divisions within the ministry, the Student Support Services Division (SSSD) had conducted several workshops last year geared toward helping teachers deal with the many behavioral issues they face in the classrooms.

Parenting workshops were also held, and the Ministry has also worked within this year’s plan to put emphasis on the parental platform, which gives parents a bigger voice. Each school will have its own Parent Teachers Foundation (PTF). This will give parents “that avenue in terms of bringing the voice and complaints and the grievances, not just to their school, but having representation on a platform where all schools are represented so all parents of all schools…can look at areas where they can collaborate,” the Minister elaborated.

She also mentioned that within the Ministry “we’ve had some complaints about compliance as well, so these are areas that the same standards that we hold other school boards to, that we also have to hold Public Education to,” she said.

The Ministry will collaborate with Division Public Education in making sure that “they are compliant, that the necessary assessment of teachers are done to make sure that the quality of education continues to improve.”

Minister Jacobs acknowledged the process can be tedious, but assured “there is quite a lot going on behind the scenes, trainings, lots of meetings, and the Division Public Education. We are looking at completely restructuring that, so no steps can be taken until we find a proper structure because you cannot hold people completely responsible for things where within the structure itself it doesn’t leave them the room to progress.”

“Also the process to go through the entire system, to get the financing approved, this causes a lot of unnecessary delay, so we have to find ways in which to get this division so I’m awaiting a final report as to what would be the best structure for St. Maarten, seeing the way our laws are put in place, and by this I hope to have put some of the fears to rest within the teaching corps and within the public that nothing is being done,” she stated.

Minister Jacobs promised that once “I’ve gotten this last report pertaining to how we should move forward in restructuring Public Education, I can be able to divulge on a more detailed basis some of their specific grievances within the school.”

The SSSD are planning an International Caribbean Wellbeing Conference for August 6-8. It is seeking to promote positive development, and wellbeing of children, parents, families, schools, and communities. Government is also a partial sponsor of this conference. Several private sponsors had to be brought in as well.

The St. Maarten Youth Council is a collaborating partner as well as St. John’s University of New York, “which has helped us in the past in terms of testing our children with their learning disabilities, etc.”

The Culture Department, in collaboration with the Ministry of TEATT recently held meetings with board members of the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF), last Friday.

“Some of the discussions that we held last week centered on the points of concerns and bottlenecks of the SCDF, as well as the points of concern of government as it pertains to our largest cultural festival Carnival. Some of the concern of our Ministry is the impact of carnival on education and youth,” the Minister outlined.

Certain trends over the years leading up to Carnival time include “the growth of youth alcohol, and other drug consumption, during this time, the low school attendance as well as a safety during the public jump-ups and parades,” she stated.

“Some of the events organized are solely adult-oriented activities, and in the coming weeks we will have several more meetings, and then host a joint press conference in order to invite and inform the public of the type of changes we expect to see from 2017 in terms of what do we really want to call our culture on St. Maarten in terms of Carnival, and the impact of the cultural aspect,” Minister Jacobs continued.

The Ministry of TEATT also had some concerns in terms of cultural tourism, the importance of marketing Carnival in the most productive way and ensuring safety of participants “because we believe that over the years Carnival continues to grow.”

“Six different ministries mentioned and I am hoping that the general public gets the feel of it’s not just a marketing issue, it’s not just a culture issue, it’s a St. Maarten issue,” she emphasized.

She updated on the Division of Study Financing, which submitted the statistics on study financing requests. The application period ended on January 16, and the Committee will peruse the submitted documents next week.

Some 164 applications were received for varying places of study within the Caribbean, the Dutch Caribbean, the Netherlands, and in St. Maarten, with the larger number being to the United States.

High schools students requesting study financing came from the St. Dominic High, Milton Peters College, HAVO and the IB program of St. Dominic High and CXC at St. Maarten Academy. Also about 76 were received from students, who have already finished school. And 29 from students already attending college.

The areas of study were computer science, ICT or Game Design with 21 requests; biomedical sciences, pre-med 17; human resource management 16; business management 14; psychology 12; hospitality and tourism management 8; elementary education 7; nursing 7; social and sociology, social worker pedagogue work 7; and electronic technical engineering, which all fell in the top 10 choices of what students applied for.

After March 1, no changes can be made in the applications, so most of the information that had been lacking from January should have been finalized and submitted by yesterday, so that next week the committee would have a full dossier to revise.

The Minister said her Ministry is in complete support of the SXM Doet project in which several schools have registered. “We have embarked on a project for the public schools. Three were identified to do a positive mural depicting one of the themes such as, peace, love, unity, tolerance,” she noted.

“I want people to respect art and so as a way to not just brighten up a school, but to have the students, staff, the community, the teachers be involved in a project together to promote something positive,” Minister Jacobs said.

SXM Doet will take place March 10 and 11, and preliminary work will start, so any volunteers who would like to assist in the preparation of the wall can contact the Ministry. The three schools identified are: the Marie Genevieve de Weever, Ruby Labega and Leonald Connor Schools.

“I am looking within the ministry for volunteers. The general public is welcome to go online to register to be a volunteer, to assist us in creating a strong statement, which we hope the school would be able to embody in its actions on a day to day basis, and therefore bring us into a more positive atmosphere,” The Minister concluded.

The Education Ministry cabinet can be reached at 520-0285.