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WILLEMSTAD – The financial situation of the education system on Curaçao was bad before the corona crisis hit. But now due to the cuts, the situation has worsened according to the school boards. A group of teachers doesn’t know what to do and asked the Netherlands for help.

A notable choice, since it is the Netherlands which imposed cuts to the public sector on the island as part of its demands for a providing the island an emergency line of credit. The Curaçaoan government says that due to this they are forced to cut the benefits for educators by 12.5 percent. A cut of 45 million guilders (22 million euros) is also on the books for the education budget.

In the meantime schools are incurring extra costs to be able to meet the strict hygiene code which has been enacted against corona. That’s something that schools were already unable to guarantee, due to financial difficulties, before the corona virus showed up.

Kingdom affair
“All school children within the Kingdom should be afforded equal rights”, says Jurine Nieddu-Evertsz, teacher and initiator of the petition for help to The Hague. Together with a fellow teachers she created a union during the lockdown: Dosentenan pa un Edukason Nobo (DOEN) and sent a petition the state secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) this month.

Dulce Koopman speaking to Jurine Nieddu-Evertsz (Dutch spoken)

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The management of the special school boards have also bundled their forces and hopes that the Netherlands will support them. According to Maghalie van der Bunt-George of the Vereniging voor Protestants Christelijk Onderwijs (VPCO), education on Curaçao should become a Kingdom affair if the island itself can no longer finance it.

Dulce Koopman speaking to Maghalie van der Bunt-George (Dutch spoken)

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Not all teachers on board
The petition doesn’t have the support of all the colleagues who work in education. The largest teacher’s union in Curaçao, Sitek, believes that this is disrespectful to the government.

The difference of opinion was reason enough for teacher’s union DOEN to be founded and to start the petition. 800 individuals have signed the petition. Nieddu expects that a large part of the teachers who signed the petition will join the union.

Parliamentary questions

ChristenUnie MP’s Eppo Bruins and Stieneke Van der Graaf have submitted Parliamentary questions about the cuts to education in Curaçao, to state secretary Knops and minister Engelshoven (Education).

The MP’s want to know if the proposed cuts are directly related to the demands that the Dutch government made when providing the government of Curaçao with an aid package to weather the corona crisis.

Cutting back on education ‘not a possibility’
“Teachers will experience a major loss of income in the upcoming period due to the intentions of the Netherlands. This can lead to personal financial challenges which no teacher was prepared to meet”, says teacher’s union DOEN. Van der Bunt-George states that ‘it is not an option to cut back on education’.

Maghalie van der Bunt-George on ‘impossible cuts’ (Dutch spoken)

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Last week a new commission was set up which will look into the budget. “We’re hoping that this commission will realize that there shouldn’t be any cuts to education. We see that colleagues within the Kingdom have received a pay raise, that schools get subsidies for dealing with the COVID backlogs. There’s more attention for the scarcity which exists when it comes to educators. We’re also experiencing all those problems.”