~ Not exploring solutions is unacceptable ~
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Leader of the NOW party (Nation, Opportunity, Wealth) MP Christophe Emmanuel is calling on the Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel to assure and guarantee parents that their children travelling to the Netherlands to further their studies this year will have adequate, stable student housing once they arrive in the country in a few weeks.
The MP said he is very concerned about the status and mental health of St. Maarten students in the Netherlands after hearing from parents of students currently in the Netherlands, that their children still do not have housing since they left in August 2022. MP Emmanuel said he does not want to jump to conclusions, but the Minister must clarify what is happening with St. Maarten students in Holland when it comes to housing.
According to the parents he has been in contact with, Emmanuel said they reported that a number of students have either stopped their studies altogether due to housing issues, while others have returned St. Maarten. Additionally, some parents had to travel to Holland in a state of panic to assist with finding their children homes when the St. Maarten House failed it its efforts.
“I want to stress that these are all reports and I have not been able to get information from government regarding the concerns and reports of these parents. So I am calling on the Minister of Education to update the country on the student housing situation before another group of our best and brightest leaves for Holland,” MP Emmanuel said, adding that the Minister has to also clarify how many of the students that left in 2023 are now back home if that is indeed the case.
The shortage of student housing in the Netherlands has been a pressing issue for several years, with significant implications for students. The country’s popularity as an international study destination, combined with a growing domestic student population, has exacerbated the housing shortage in major university cities. It came to a boiling point in 2022 with some in the Dutch government asking universities to suspend accepting international students.
Moving to Holland, the MP stressed, is already a cultural shock for St. Maarten students, with adjusting to that lifestyle a challenge for most. “When you add the financial strain for students and their parents on top of that, it becomes a lot to bear. Many have to allocate a significant portion of their budget to housing, leaving less for other essential expenses,” the MP said.
“Inadequate housing conditions can negatively impact students’ academic performance and well-being. Without stable and suitable living arrangements, students may struggle to focus on their studies. The stress of searching for housing and the uncertainty of finding suitable accommodation can lead to mental health issues among students. This includes anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation,” the MP explained.
MP Emmanuel also lamented about the role of the St. Maarten House and if the institution is effectively in its role for St. Maarten students. He noted that the Dutch government intends to construct almost 3,000 additional student housing per city by 2030. With that in mind, MP Emmanuel questioned if the officials at the St. Maarten house are thinking forward and looking at ways to position St. Maarten students to have an easier time acquiring such housing in the future.
“Some of us know the housing system in the Netherlands and we know it is not easy. But not doing anything to spare of students this burden is also not acceptable. Explore the possibility of communicating early with housing corporations which can possibly lead to the allocation of more housing units specifically for St. Maarten students. Find new ways to support our students in their housing search and provide guidance on navigating the rental market, not just give them online links,” MP Emmanuel said.
“Government has cut its study financing recipients down to less than 30 per year now. Government and the St. Maarten House should explore engaging rental properties a year in advance to secure space for such a small group. In fact, consider paying a year in advance. Cut out useless entities such as the Integrity Chamber from our budget and put that towards our students and their well-being in Holland. On our end there are possible solutions to explore. But Or does this government prefer to focus on vanity projects nobody asked for and not the well-being of our children?”