Compulsory Education- No Budget 2010

The following are issues that were posed during the DPs’ weekly press conference, from Island Council Member Maria Buncamper Molanus.


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Island Council Member Maria Buncamper Molanus

Philipsburg – St. Maarten

March 15, 2010

DP Press Conference



Are our children getting into school?

No budget for compulsory education in 2010

Leading up to the introduction of compulsory education the many valid concerns expressed by all involved, government as well as the general public, consumed our daily conversations, the airwaves and more. In fact it would be fair to say that the situation whereby children were not going to school was, in fact is worrisome. Council member Maria Buncamper-Molanus stated that after much careful deliberation, postponement and preparation, the first phase of the implementation took place although the Island Ordinance on Compulsory Education has not yet been approved.

The Council member continued to state that the Law on compulsory education goes back to 1991 and would become applicable to St. Maarten 1996, however the implementation was to be regulated by Island Ordinance. A draft Island Ordinance was prepared but when sent to the Governor General, it basically hit a legal snag so to speak, where it concerns the inscription of children without a legal status into the our schools.

Nevertheless in 2008 the DP Government started with a phased implementation of compulsory education on St. Maarten for children of the ages 4 to 6.

The NA/Heyliger/Laveist government took office in June 2009 and saw this as a possible political pawn and shouted "all children must be in school".

"I must agree that all children must be in school" says the DP Council member, but the question is now, how the implementation is going; have all children living on St. Maarten been placed in schools that meet the requirements set by law to be considered an adequate learning institution? Have children regardless of their residency status all been placed in school? For the sake of argument, have children with legal residency or even a Dutch passport all been placed in the classroom, are they all experiencing equal rights, equal opportunities and are they progressing. (Theme International Women’s day).

According to the former DP Commissioner, the answer to these questions is clearly no; otherwise there would be no request for children not attending school to register at the department of education.

The NA lead Government today, has realized that it was easier said than done!! The fact of the matter is that the phased approach started in 2008 by the DP Government has quietly been picked up by the NA/Heyliger/Laveist Government and is being implemented. An article appeared in the media on February 16th 2010 in which parents where being invited to register children ages 7-9, starting on February 22nd and ending on March 8th. All this: in the connection with phase two of the implementation of compulsory education, which was started in 2008 by the DP Government. In Fact the 2010 draft budget policy document for education refers to the implantation of phase II of Compulsory education.

Council member Buncamper-Molanus stated that the DP faction has observed that the financial component is missing for the implementation as the relevant budget post in the 2010 draft budget is zero! When questioned about this by the DP faction in the Island Council the answer given was:"The reason for this situation is budgetary restrictions". Mind you in 2009 an amount of 1.450.000 was budgeted for educational programs and compulsory education, Naf 250.000 and Naf 1.200.000 respectively. This was not repeated in the 2010 draft budget although the policy document does refer the phase II implementation of Compulsory education. There are children that come to St. Maarten without any previous education, others with major social issues and others in need of remedial teaching. Now with the BTA, this situation could get even worse.

The Executive Council seems mum on the subject so what is the status and what is the government’s plan? Are children who arrive on the island guaranteed a place in the classroom the following day? Are children born on the island guaranteed education the moment they become the age of 4? Are children who bear the Dutch passport guaranteed equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all? What happens to the Dutch nationals, who are told there is no space? What is government’s plan for these kids?

DP Council member Maria Buncamper-Molanus concluded by saying: "we are interested to hear from the Executive Council what the situation really is and how it is being handled. The implementation of compulsory education did not only place the responsibility on parents to ensure that their children go to school; it also placed the responsibility on government to make education available for all the children".