Statia School of Medicine charter in limbo: Students protest outside government building

POSTED: 12/11/13 6:55 PM

St. Maarten – A group of restless and anxious students of the University of St. Eustatius School of Medicine on St. Maarten (USESOM) gathered outside the Government Administration Building on Monday to protest the delay in their school being granted an official university charter. Without such a charter the medical school cannot become accredited and recognized in the United States, rendering its medical degree worthless. The students and representatives of the school were anxious to meet with Minister of Education Patricia Lourens and ask for further clarification.

After some delay, and complaining about how difficult it was to meet with the local minister of education compared to the President of the United States, the school’s representatives eventually met with the minister as well as Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. Because the main representative of the group said that he was scheduled to leave the island this morning, an emergency meeting was convened by the ministers, which also included members of the prime minister’s cabinet and the secretary general of General Affairs.

The urgent request for a charter from the Legal Department of General Affairs was discussed.  It was agreed that the department would review the situation and give an advice on the matter within a week’s time.

But things may not go as smoothly as hoped by the students. When contacted for a comment on the plight of the students, former Vice President of Operations Joe Johnson, who resigned recently from the school, said, “The owners have not met their obligations, financial and otherwise,” suggesting the university did not comply with its tax obligations, among other things, in both Statia and St. Maarten. He also indicated that the owner and his daughter have resigned from the corporation that runs the medical school.

When asked if it was true whether Minister Lourens was difficult to meet, Johnson didn’t hesitate to say said that the minister was in fact very easy to meet with, and a very serious and responsible person.

Student spokesman Brandon Kirschner explained that the people who met with the minister and prime minister “recently came on board, and were part of the general reconstruction plan, with plans in place to make the school a better place.” Kirschner said the students were prepared to wait outside as long as it would take to be given an audience with the minister. “This is very important in our education; and in our lives really. Without this charter, and without putting these two gentlemen in front of the minister of education our future as physicians is kind of grey.”


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