The Minister of Education is and always has been an educator at heart, and is solely motivated by this fact to work together with others to bring improvements to education in order to meet the needs of our population. It is rather disappointing that an initiative such as Education on the Move (EOM), aimed at bringing much needed awareness about education and collaboration within the community, is being touted by the opposition as a political move, especially seeing their recent, obvious interference in ongoing discussions in education, as well as the school bussing issue.
The Minister’s record speaks for itself, she has always sought to bring more voices into the discussion before decisions are taken, sought the approval and input of those expected to carry out initiatives, and worked towards same whether in our out of government. Many of the initiatives now coming to fruition were part of the priorities of the Minister since 2012, which started with education conferences at all levels. Some of the initiatives have progressed while others had slowed down due to changing priorities with the changes in government over the years. However, the Minister was still pleased to see that many initiatives remained ongoing, as it is the organization which executes most if not all of them. The Education Care Center, more after school programs, IT in the classrooms and more opportunities for our students’ needs in special education, sports and arts to be met, as well as the extension of the school day are still priorities for the Minister. However, the implementation of the latter had to be postponed due to lack of clarity among stakeholders including teachers and parents, budget constraints, as well as the environment of current classrooms not being up to par. All these issues must be dealt with before we can execute the extension of the school day in a responsible manner.
The Minister would like to thank the EOM committee for standing together as educators in the Ministry as well as out in the field of education, for meeting weekly from the beginning to come up with ways to motivate the community to be more involved in education and to motivate teachers and educators to keep on giving their all. Their dedication to achieving this goal continues to inspire the Minister even in the light of the political games that continue to be played with such sensitive topics. Do not be discouraged by those who seek to derail your vision.
The Minister did not run to the papers crying politics when the opposition sought to cause discord among teachers; she simply met with teachers and management to reassure them that the organization was diligently working on their concerns. Nor did the Minister neglect to meet with the school bus owners association once she realized that the policy framework and terms of reference that had been approved by the UP led government (August 2015) had not included any discussion with the school bus owners, and that the TEATT Ministry was actually working on its own policy and presented it to the school bus owners in October of 2015. The Minister just sought to clarify the situation to all concerned, after realizing that the former government’s two ministries were not working together to resolve the school bussing challenges and halted the process to allow collaboration. Currently the two ministries are working together to come to a viable short term and long term solution, which will be shared with the School bus owners association.
This Minister has been a reading volunteer at her son’s school as soon as she was working in the Philipsburg area, and has continued to be present, while never taking a picture to make a political statement. The Minister has always supported reading initiatives whether in or out of government, reading at Literacy events, whether at the Library or just recently at USM. The Minister has consistently sought the support of other parents and volunteers to give their time to the youth, whether in schools, after school activities or organized sports and arts. It is through this initiative that the Minister charged her staff to establish a committee which would work on the promotion of Education within the community, the “how” was left up to them.
The Minister challenged schools and members of the community to D.E.A.R. on Friday last as a first activity of EOM, and because it was not done for political gain, did not see it fit to go to schools and take pictures doing so. However, the Minister did encourage schools and parents to post pictures of themselves reading. Minister Jacobs was very pleased to attend the Oranje School Book week opening ceremony on Monday morning and say a few words to the school on the 29th anniversary of their Book Week celebration. This initiative by a school is a great example of Education on the Move and will be encouraged in all schools. All schools will be expected to execute a program geared at promoting literacy in the students, staff and parents of the school. The recently held literacy activity of the MAC Browlia Milliard grade 2 teachers at USM was a pleasure to experience and one the Minister would repeat in every school given the opportunity.
EOM simply seeks to highlight best practices that are already in place and encourage others to do more to promote education and learning in and out of schools. The Minister also looks forward to reading to a group of students on Thursday morning as part of the Book week events planned by the Oranje School.
As the Dutch saying goes, “Zoals de waard is vertrouwt hij zijn gasten” which means, the host judges his guests as he himself is! So if the UP feels that this promotion of education is political, it is only because that may have been their motivation, had they thought of it. The Minister of ECYS Ms. Jacobs stands on principle of working towards improving all areas within the Ministry she is charged with, and looks forward to the communities support for the initiative which will benefit the students and lifelong learners of St. Maarten. Education remains the most powerful tool to change St. Maarten, but all hands are needed on deck. Thank you St. Maarten for the support of this initiative.