PHILIPSBURG – In Wednesday’s, March 15, Council of Ministers Press Briefing, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Silveria Jacobs first extended condolences to the family of Aniek Arrindell, who had been battling illness and succumbed to it.
In an update on the stabbing incident at St. Maarten Vocational School (SMVTS), the Minister stated, “I know that the incident that is in St. Maarten Vocational Training School has already been publicized, however, I must state for the record that from the beginning that incident was brought to my attention, certain requirements were put forth by me to the Division Head and Management of the school in terms of getting the report of the incident back, which I did receive, as well as incorporating all our stakeholders, the Student Support Services, and holding a meeting, which they came forward with themselves with the parents, which was done on Monday morning.”
With this meeting last Monday, parents were informed on their expected cooperation with the school. Previous to this, a meeting was held at the government building with several stakeholders, Department of Education, Inspection and the SMVTS, “as it is part of our goal to improve the services that we are rendering for the students, who are currently at the school.”
According to the Minister, some of the challenges the school is facing are students with different learning needs, drug use and abuse, a high incidence of aggression, and the school itself not being clearly defined, “so a working group has been established that will help us to define what exactly we would like goals the St. Maarten Vocational Training School to meet.”
“So the Ministry definitely has this as our focus in improving the system,” the Minister said. Student Support Services Division (SSSD) has also received the report.
Some parenting workshops have already been planned, which will assist parents in situations such as these. “What we’re hearing more and more in the schools is parents giving up on their children; parents not knowing how to control their children, so discipline being an issue within the home and within the streets, so therefore of course it will spill over into our schools,” Minister Jacobs explained.
The school has seen some changes over the over the past years, and a more positive culture is being created, “however, we cannot expect change in a day and we do need all stakeholders invested in the process, especially parents, and so I’m appealing to the parents to really cooperate with the school when called, and to be proactive in a sense of working together with the school to ensure that your child gets the best possible outcomes.”
The Minister thanked those at SMVTS and security for ensuring that no further damage was done. The SSSD department and other counselors would also be visiting the school. They are also busy making a crisis intervention plan and security plan, which will be finalized shortly.
SSSD has been updated by the Division Head Olga Mussington on some of the services that the division is carrying out. “One of the goals is to keep families, parents specifically, and the community involved, enabled and empowered. The objective of the parent support groups is to empower parents by increasing their knowledge on various issues that affect the family. These workshops are being held with the goal in mind of having a better informed family working together in the child’s best interest,” the Minister explained.
“These parents support group meetings are designed to provide parents with better support to aid their student. They are provided with once a month sessions for either behavioral or learning challenges being experienced by their children and they’re given pointers, tips and tools on how to deal with particular problems so during 2017 we’ll be extending the support group sessions to parents of other secondary schools in addition to the elementary schools, which were already ongoing,” Minister Jacobs continued.
Parents of St. Maarten Academy PSVE and Academic section are also invited to these parents support meetings. They commenced March 1, and will continue through December 6. A tentative schedule is available and the public should stay involved by looking at government information pages for more information.
Some topics are: dating violence; human trafficking; conscious discipline; STDs amongst youth, including kissing disease; stress management. Other parental education workshops are being planned on anger management; financial management; special needs children and identifying personality traits.
In other news, the sports team arrived in Aruba, but no update was received as yet on the under-13 football team. However, several teams were set to take part in insular games here on St. Maarten and in Curaçao, but due to travelling challenges being experienced by Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, the decision was taken to cancel the inter-insular competition. It was supposed to take part in two phases, and this would have been the first time for St. Maarten.
So, the games which were scheduled for March 24 and 25, will not be taking place due to travel challenges.
The follow up games where athletes had to travel on March 29 and April 2 have also been cancelled by the hosting island. In light of the cancellation, a discussion was held between the Department of Sports and the National Sports Institute to determine if something could be done for those athletes who had trained so hard and were so determined to represent St. Maarten.
“It was determined to have a sort of a Champions competition for the basketball, volleyball and football teams. On the same scheduled days but between the St. Maarteners on March 24, and at the auditorium and on March 25, at the Sports Complex for the track and field. The competition on the Friday is expected to start at 4:00pm,” the Minister said.
Recently, it was the goal to be able to host a joint press conference with the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation, but due to unforeseen circumstances the follow up meeting was not able to be held. “It is hard for us to really synchronize moving forward however, several brainstorming sessions were held in looking at ways to curb children participating in adult activities,” Minister Jacobs informed.
“We believe that this is a concern of the whole community, and we are really trying our best to collaborate as governments with all the entities that are assisting Carnival and taking into consideration the rights of the children, their rights to education and parent’s responsibilities in this. Because during this time it has been highlighted by the Inspection Department that there’s a very high rate of absenteeism and there’s low production during that time,” she continued.
Parents are encouraged to exert “your parental responsibilities in making sure that your under-age children are supervised or at home during the very adult activities. I believe Carnival Development Foundation has already started taking some very strict measures, and I believe that these should increase and we look forward to collaborating with them, and the police force in seeing how this can be done,” Minister Jacobs said.
The Leos Club has been working on alcohol and drug awareness. They are collaborating with the Ministry and with the Division of Inspection. There have been meetings with HIV/AIDS Youth Wing, and several community groups who are working on different aspects of the youth.
“Drugs and alcohol have a lasting effect on your growing and developing brains, and so this awareness program will start soon and we will have an official press conference with the Leos to launch,” the Minister said.
Additionally, Minister Jacobs thanked the SXM Doet organization and all who contributed to assisting specifically the public schools and NIPA. She thanked artists of the mural projects, and those who did the preparatory work, like power washing and priming the walls.
“Volunteerism is something that we continue to push as a Ministry, as I continue to push as a Minister because together we can definitely make a change,” Minister Jacobs concluded.