Reader’s Letter: Significant developments taking place in quality of life areas

POSTED: 02/28/11 12:21 PM

Dear Editor,

During the past two weeks there have been some significant developments with the launch of a number of initiatives that will deal with the quality of life issues of our people in the coming months and years. It won’t happen overnight, but it is a step in the right direction.
One of the first initiatives to be launched is Census 2011 under the banner “Count Us In!” An awareness campaign was started recently and the actual Population and Housing Census will run from April 9th to 17th.

The Census will serve as a baseline for St Maarten and provide recent data on the population structure and socio-economic characteristics of the country. The Census information will be used to develop policies that will have a positive influence on the quality of life of the country.
The next major initiative is the Integrated Neighborhood Development Programme that first started with a need assessment survey carried out in the district of St. Peters. This survey is one of nine to be carried out in other neighborhoods. With the information collected, government is able to identify the needs of and define programs to be developed for the district.
The needs assessment will gather info on housing, neighborhood environment, safety, types of services and programs of which people make use of, and the type of services people would like to see in their neighborhood, if running water is a problem, if children can play outside, health and the general wellbeing of the person.

The Integrated Neighborhood Development Program, an initiative of the Ministry of Public Health, Labour & Social Development, entails the establishment of Community Helpdesks (CHD) to be setup in St. Peters, Dutch Quarter, and Cole Bay in April. The CHDs will coordinate services of various departments and provide a holistic approach to assisting people living in the neighborhoods.
Launched last week Friday is, “Get off the Block, Get on the Bus, Get Busy GB3.”It is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports & Youth Affairs. The pilot project has as its objectives primarily reducing violence, along with poverty alleviation, second chance education and rehabilitation of young offenders.
The gathering of information is necessary in order to plan interventions. Research carried out by the Planning Institute of Jamaica has shown that school gangs are attached to community gangs. The opinion was that this is contributing to tension among communities and the students become more violent. The Jamaica Ministry of Education initiative to combat the problem has been the implementation of the “Dean of Discipline,” a programme where persons have been appointed to a number of high schools with the responsibility of ensuring that students adhere to the rules of the ministry and their respective schools. This initiative was implemented in 2007. The Jamaica “Deans of Discipline” initiative is basically an intervention after young people have fallen through the cracks and ended up on the wrong track.

In Singapore, the Secondary Education Review and Implementation Committee, has published a recommendation concerning secondary school students. The recommendation calls for them to be given greater social-emotional support and career guidance, as they discover their strengths, build character and develop citizenship during the crucial period of adolescence.
The report recognizes that adolescents need strong social-emotional support as they negotiate the challenges and manage their own growth. While schools cannot and should not replace the role of parents in the social-emotional development of their children, secondary schools play a key role and the teacher-student relationship is crucial to students’ development, given the time they spend in school.
In these two examples, based on research that was carried out, programs have been established or will be implemented to deal with the challenges that have been clearly indentified and what interventions are required. As a society we can expect the same from information gathered via Census 2011, Integrated Neighborhood Development Programme and the “Get off the Block, Get on the Bus, Get Busy GB3.” As a nation we can look forward to a number of interventions that would deal with quality of life issues in a long-term and sustainable manner.

Roddy Heyliger

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