PHILIPSBURG – Chair of the Education, Culture, Youth & Sport Committee (CECYS) Member of Parliament (MP) Silveria Jacobs met with UNICEF liaison La-Toya Charles and Community Mobiliser Suzette Burton-Moses on August 28, 2018 to receive an update on and discuss activities and programs covering a wide scope of areas aimed at improving education and youth on St. Maarten post Hurricane Irma.
The organization played a key role in the Ministry ECYS being able to restart schools, and offered much needed support in providing technical assistance, with social emotional support assessment and training, as well as assistance with local school-feeding programs in collaboration with the Red Cross.
According to Charles, UNICEF requested and has received funding for activities in 2018 from the Dutch Red Cross and the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). Together with UNICEF’s local government partners, they have identified the need to provide technical assistance on a government level with the further development of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework, inter-ministerial child protection systems, and strengthening of the early childhood development sector.
La-Toya Charles, UNICEF liaison stated, “At this point, our concern is that while rebuilding school infrastructure (the hardware) has already been prioritized in St. Maarten’s immediate recovery needs, vital features to rebuilding a disaster resilient education sector will be ignored; i.e. child-friendly facilities conducive to 21st Century Learning, aligned school disaster management on a national and school level linked to regional and global models, … quality early stimulation for all children 0-4 years old, and creating safe and protective learning environments where children are protected from harm (the software)”.
UNICEF’s plans, for a post hurricane Irma Saint Maarten, in collaboration with the Government covers many social and economical aspects. Some of the areas covered in the plans are: Situation Analysis, Return to Happiness psychosocial support training, After-school activity mapping and material support, Anti-looting campaign, Life skills education through sports, Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE) training and School Safety Guidelines. Community Mobiliser Moses, who has ties to the island, remains on island for the duration of the program and is working together with the relevant persons within the ministries and the community to get the programs off the ground.
MP Jacobs was pleased to learn of the continued collaboration with the Ministries of ECYS and Justice in particular as it pertains to, early childhood development, child protection, improving our safety nets for youth, various training programs including those aimed at bringing awareness to adults and children alike, as to the harmful effects of looting on our society, as well as the necessary assistance being provided for the finalization of the school safety guidelines.
MP Jacobs further thanked the representatives (Charles & Burton-Moses et al) for their continued dedication and hard work, and promised to continue to follow up with government on these topics to ensure continuity and the necessary budget being made available to secure continuity of programs, that have been long awaited, to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children and youth. “This can definitely be seen as a silver lining coming out of the disaster!” the MP is quoted as saying.