Organizers say student forum was a success

POSTED: 04/26/12 12:56 PM

St. Maarten (DCOMM) – Last Friday, the board of the Soualiga Foundation left the Evertshuis in Bodegraven elated at the rave results of its first-ever student forum. The event was visited by Sint Maarten students, recent graduates and young professionals hailing from different parts of the Netherlands, each looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to the discussions of the day. These discussions centered on the identification and documentation of the different factors that hinder Sint Maarten students from achieving academic success, as well as deliberating the issues concerning returning to Sint Maarten. The forum was aptly themed Studying successfully, returning successfully.

The forum opened with word of welcome by SSF Chairman Perry Geerlings, followed by the national anthem and a prayer. Consequently, the attendees received addresses by the Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges and Education Minister Rhoda Arrindell, who flew to the Netherlands especially for this event.

Other dignitaries in attendance were Governor Eugene Holiday and the Vice Minister Plenipotentiary Richard Panneflek.

Essentially, the message being sent to students was: make the most of the (privileged) opportunity to obtain a tertiary education – for yourself and for your country and return to help build it.

After the speeches, the forum really came to life in the discussion groups. Participants were divided into a smaller group led by a moderator. In the first half, attendees discussed the educational, social, personal, and financial factors that affected them personally during their studies, and made suggestions of how to combat these negative components. In the second half, the groups discussed returning to Sint Maarten and gave their reasons for returning or not returning.

“Judging by what I saw and heard from the participants, I know the student forum was successful. It confirms the urge and need of our people here in the Netherlands to meet regularly and discuss issues that affect them in the Netherlands, but also to discuss issues at hand back home in St. Maarten, Perry Geerlings said. “Some even suggested that we organize something like this every two to three months. So for me we achieved what we set out to do. I am really proud of my board and the organizing committee.”

“Now that the forum has concluded, we have a tremendous task on our hands in processing the collected data of the day and come with possible recommendations,” Geerlings added. “The processed data and recommendations will be bundled and presented to the government of Sint Maarten with the urgent request to take them into consideration and come to an active policy that may support successful studying and returning successfully by our students, graduates and young professionals in the Netherlands.”

The day culminated in a lively panel discussion between attendees and the Minister of Education, whilst the attendees were also able to post their questions via the Skype connection to the Prime Minister.

All the attendees received a nice courtesy package thanks to the generous contribution of the Sint Maarten Tourist Board. The student forum was also made possible with the support of: Cadastre Land Registry, TelEm Group, GEBE N.V., The Windward Islands Bank Ltd, UTS, the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten and JOBO Promotions.

SSF would also like to extend special thanks to Ramona Thomas of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, who was instrumental in helping to secure funding for the event.


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