Jeffrey Richardson: The Gate of no Return

This year, after reflecting on the day that our students left to further their studies abroad I started to think about what we are doing wrong or failing to do as Government and as a people, that is causing most of our student population not to return to St. Maarten after completing their studies overseas.  

Every year we celebrate sending our children to study in the Netherlands and other countries.

While many parents, family and friends feel the bitter-sweet emotions of that moment–brought on by the pride of their children’s success– there is also a feeling of sadness that comes with separation, which most parents experience as they watch their children leave home and go out into the bigger broader and potentially very difficult World.

More often than not, it is as though we are watching our children, as they leave the departure hall of our airport, pass through what for many of them have become, the Gate of no Return.

It is also very difficult to shake off the feeling that some of our elected representatives are quite happy that many of the qualified younger generations are indeed going through the gate of no return so that the powers-that-be can continue to be in charge of governing this Country in a manner that only benefits the elected officials and other highly placed individuals. How else can the fact be explained that after almost 40 years of sending our young talents overseas to complete their education, there is still no active program by Government in place to encourage and facilitate their return in order for them to contribute to the society that gave them the opportunity for a better life in the first place?

Government has neither vision nor a plan to re-integrate our young people back into society after they complete their studies and for those that wish to return to their native country St. Maarten. The cry coming from our youth is that they are sent away to study abroad financed by our tax payers monies which is wasted if Government do not get their return on the investment made in our students. However most of them are not given opportunities in their own community to make a difference and serve their country.

We see that young educated St. Maarteners are being treated like second class citizens in this country and are forced to fight long battles to be considered for a job, especially in the field that they studied. Yet, we keep employing "experts" from abroad because of a so called lack of technical and professional skills on the island.

This can never be right.

The people of St. Maarten must make this wrong, right by standing up and letting our voices be heard and defend our children so that they are treated with value in their own country. At times a returning student will apply for a job and never receive a response from the entity that they are seeking employment from. This in my opinion discourages many students from even planning on returning.

The practice of Government to ignore the plight of returning students and in so doing deprive our community of the productive use of talented minds; The attitude of the Private Sector not to seem to care and the attitude of the community to standby and let this continue. I believe that Government wants to continue doing things the same old way. As I said earlier, it works to the benefit of Government if everything remains status quo. I maintain that if we continue to do the same thing the same way with the same people we will always get the same results. At the moment, as far as it concerns re-integrating our young students as productive citizens into our society, this Government is a dismal failure.

Is this what we want for our students who are the future leaders of this country?

Where do we see any of our current leaders training young potential leaders to take over from them once they retire? This can never be right.

I suggest that we ensure that before our young people go abroad to study that there is a plan to place them in the workforce upon their return, so that we do not continue to lose our best, brightest and most brilliant minds to building other communities while their own remain dependent on external expertise. Government cannot continue to ignore our brightest and best brains because they feel threatened by them but Government must embrace these students that complete their studies and are headed back to St. Maarten by creating opportunities for them to assist in building their own country.

Let us begin to treat our children with the respect that they deserve and reward them for their courage and integrity to complete their studies in becoming responsible and productive citizens of this society. Let us turn the tears of happiness mixed with feelings of sadness in parents as they watch their young ones leave, to tears of hope and expectations that they will return as respected citizens of our community. Government this is your responsibility so do not run from what you were elected to do.

St. Maarten can only move forward if we are willing to pass the reigns of governance over to next generation by allowing our children –with guidance– to take St. Maarten to the next level.

This is the right thing to do.

Jeffrey Richardson


Concordia Political Alliance