Departing Education Minister Arrindell turns to gardening

POSTED: 05/11/12 12:58 PM

“I was driven by a burning passion to make a difference in the field of education” 

St. Maarten – Departing Minister of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth will spend her immediate future on her family and on gardening. Asked yesterday if she was ready to follow Economic Affairs Minister Franklin Meyers and declare herself a candidate in the 2014 election, Arrindell said, “People close to me think that I am not cot of the cloth of a politician. I will do a lot of thinking and soul searching and keep it close to home.”

The Minister called a press conference yesterday morning to mark her departure from her ministry, saying that the latest political developments “have created a new reality that has increased the cynicism with which many view politics and politicians. They have forced me to look back at my reasons for entering the political arena and weigh if those reasons are still valid today.”

Arrindell said that local calypsonians “have reinforced the perception that politicians are a bunch of corrupt, self-serving, greedy, power-hungry people whose trademark is to fool the people, especially at election time.”

She quoted funny man Fernando Clark as describing politics in his latest show “as a profession you enter after having tried everything else and failed. I can’t wait to see how he will depict the recent developments in his next show.”

The Minister noted that, after 19 months in office, she has come to realize that politics is “the art or science of making the impossible possible. It is not a career for the faint-hearted or the thin-skinned; it is not conducive to higher spiritual ideals or morals.”

With a sneer to the new coalition, Arrindell quoted from Ambrose Pierce’s Devil’s dictionary that describes politics as “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

That is not how the minister thought about politics when she joined the United People’s party a couple of years ago. “I was driven by idealism, by a burning passion to make a difference in the field of education where I have worked as a professional for a whole generation. My motivation then and now is the belief that we were going to do the right thing even if short-term was unpopular.”

Arrindell said that her mission was to elevate the quality of education. “We may have been too ambitious, and possibly too overzealous to believe we could have achieved all the lofty goals we set for ourselves in the four years we thought we had. But looking back, I have no regrets.”

The minister noted that the thread that links her four portfolios is the youth. “They form the basis of our party. They are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are not just the future of our island, they are a very real and present reality we must address to secure that future and make it a glorious one.”

Arrindell recapped the highlights of the past 19 months, pointing to the continued implementation of compulsory education, the draft laws on foundation based education and higher education and amendments to the compulsory education law. She also mentioned the development of the curriculum for vocational education and the teacher education program.

She furthermore gave a breakdown of the study financing program for the 2012-2013 school year; there were 237 applications, 203 were granted. “Our students apply to study in places as near as Anguilla and as far away as the Philippines and Thailand.”

Out of the total, 38 received a scholarship to study at the local university. The breakdown of the destinations these students have chosen shows that 88 go to the Netherlands, 46 to the USA, 14 to Curacao, 6 to Canada, 5 to Aruba and six to other Caribbean islands.

The minister said that JS Consulting has done a study into the return on investment from the study financing program.

Under the culture portfolio, Minister Arrindell said that the single most important achievement was getting Emancipation Day legislation to the point where the parliament will debate this on Monday to decide about making July 1 a national holiday. Next year the 150th anniversary of the emancipation declaration will be on the agenda.

The minister said that her ministry is in the process of writing a proposal for the continuation of the Get off the Block, Get on the Bus, Get Busy (or GB3) project. There is a reservation of 200,000 guilders in the 2012 budget for it.

In closing, Minister Arrindell said that she fully endorses the sentiments economic affairs Minister Franklin Meyers expressed during his press conference on Wednesday. “There was never any serious problem among the seven members of the Council of Ministers.”

Quoting that other Franklin (Roosevelt), Arrindell noted: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. That is what happened with the so-called carnival-coup.”

Taking off her proverbial hat to her potential successor Sylveria Jacobs, Arrindell said with a wry sense of humor: “A new sheriff is riding into town and I hope you will give her your fullest cooperation as you did with me.”


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