Students welcome end to S4 (St. Maarten Student Support Services)

POSTED: 05/11/15 5:48 PM


St. Maarten -Students generally were satisfied with the news that the St. Maarten Government will be terminating the service level agreement with St. Maarten Student Support Services S4 in the Netherlands effective July 1, 2015. Students contacted the Today Newspaper this weekend and expressed “joy and relief” at the news. Student Timothy Colli told this newspaper that “you work with S4 in the beginning of your studies to get to Holland, when you arrive, be ready to fend for yourself.” Colli is in his second year of studies in the Netherlands.

Two student guidance counselors will be put in charge of the students. Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Affairs Rita Bourne-Gumbs informed study-financing students by way of letter in March that she has decided to terminate the agreement with S4. The business management student explained, “speaking of my experience I can’t say for all the children but here goes, When you arrive in Holland, they help you with everything, bank, house etc. After a month in your house, they want you to pay them a down payment. S4 takes it out of your book or laptop allowance that you have to get from them but they withhold the monies. S4 then convinces you that going to all these lectures and workshops with them will help you which three quarters of the time, it doesn’t, because its things you already know.

“Their rules are too strict and they do kick you out if you don’t keep up with their standards, they stop paying your insurance. After fending for yourself and make do, you get a letter from your insurance that you have to pay your premiums on your own and most of the time S4 leaves you out to dry because they never started paying the premiums in the first place. Requesting book money is another hurdle, you don’t get what you are promised. When you complain and inform them that you will go to the media, you get a warning letter with the help you ask for. In my experience, get to Holland and start to handle your affairs on your own because S4 does nothing to support you. This is why a lot of students do it on their own”.

The student did however say on a positive note that “When you are in a situation, they do help you out a lot, no matter what or how long it takes, they take their time to help you. They provide good assistance when you need specific papers from St. Maarten”. The Student welcomes the idea of councilors being the ones to go to as of July 1st 2015.

No official announcement has been made as yet by the S4 Foundation that has more then 30 staff around the Netherlands in charge of Students studying there. The foundation also caters to students from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. This logistic still needs to be worked on by the islands as the foundation had that core responsibility. Students however questioned why the Minister of Plenipotentiary in the Netherlands takes over the services from S4. The Study Financing Department will also play a major role in the change. As of July 1, 2015, students will have to communicate directly with the Department of Study Financing (DSF) in St. Maarten about their books allowance and other study-related matters such as medical insurance premiums. DSF will become responsible for processing all requests for tickets, book money and medical reimbursements.

According to . Effective July 1, 2015, study-financing recipients pursuing their studies in the Netherlands for more than one year will be responsible for paying their own medical insurance premiums. However, they will be eligible for reimbursement of the cost of their medical insurance premium on submission of proof of payment, a valid insurance policy of the insurance broker NNAM and valid proof of enrolment and study results.

To ensure that study-financing recipients are not affected negatively by this new measure, all students may request an exemption from having to pay their own insurance premiums for a period not exceeding six months. The St. Maarten Government wants to make students more independent and responsible for their own affairs. The main factors of the care provided to first- and second-year students will be “empathy, concern and interest, effortlessly trying, attentive and support.” The main factors of the guidance will be empowering and advising. The main factors of the supervision will be encouraging of autonomy.

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