THE HAGUE — A group of Curaçaoan students are about to become homeless in the Netherlands in a few weeks. This could affect tens of students who have been in the Netherlands for barely one year and are being guided by student loan institution SSC. Their lease will not be extended.
This has been causing Chanté (23), who lives in Amsterdam, sleepless nights. Chanté and about 200 other first year students authorized the Stichting Studiefinanciering Curaçao (SSC) at the beginning of the school year to rent a room for them in the Netherlands. That would be for one year.
That should be enough time, according to the SSC, to find different accommodations. “But in the Netherlands we’re experiencing an overheated housing market, waitlists, financial constraints, and now the corona crisis”, so say the students.
SSC itself shows little understanding for the students’ problems. The organization doesn’t see why the students are having a harder time now, is their reaction. “Because the student rooms are being rented out on digital platforms.” Noticeably the lease agreements of other international students have been extended because of the corona crisis.
Curaçaoan students especially vulnerable because of the crisis
The students believe that the SSC shouldn’t ignore the impact of the corona crisis and their vulnerable position. “We don’t have anyone here. No network, no family we can call upon, and no financial strength. We are less likely to be eligible for accommodations in the Netherlands. The SSC has a monopoly over us.”
Chanté has been trying, together with other first year students, to ask for help in whichever way the can. “This stresses me out so much”, the first year student says, while she tries not to cry. “Going into debt for your education is hard enough. Not finishing your school year or stopping earlier because you have to move or look for new accommodations will create more debt. A lot of us are down and are dealing with health issues because of this.”
Next to the stress about their accommodation they are also concerned about their families and friends on the island. Curaçao has found itself in a deep economic crisis since the outbreak of corona. “If the currency devaluates, our parental contributions will decrease”, says Chanté.
“We turned to the SSC and explained the situation. We expected at least a bit of understanding from a Curaçaoan organization. That they turned their backs on us and that they don’t care about our wellbeing, hurts.”
SSC: the students knew what they were getting into
With or without the corona crisis, according to a spokesperson, the students knew what they were getting into. Namely that after their first year of study they have to find new accommodations on their own.
Is it not the students own fault for not being prepared? “We heard that we had to get a subscription to these rental platforms just a few months before we left Curaçao because of the long waitlists”, according to the Curaçaoan students. “Dutch students have a head start, because they usually get a subscription when they’re sixteen. It’s an unfair competition.”
“SSC can’t do anything about that”, is the reaction from the student loan provider. Chanté and other Curaçaoan firs year students will have to leave their rooms. “Because the rooms that SSC has have already been reserved for the next batch of students who arrive at the end of July, we cannot extend the current students’ contracts.”
Problem known for years, no solution in sight
SSC acknowledges that they’re dealing with a ‘problem that returns yearly’, but that they don’t have a solution for it. “How big of a problem it is under Caribbean students, that I don’t know”, says the spokesperson.
“Shocking”, says Chanté. “The first year students who will depart for the Netherlands shortly will experience the same thing we are experiencing now, or worse. We see that a lot of things get arranged for other international students who come to the Netherlands. Why isn’t that the case for students from Curaçao?”
The representative for the government of Curaçao in The Hague is aware of the situation, but refers back to the executing organization SSC.
Extra student debt inevitable
The only option at the moment seems to be the private housing sector. But Chanté and her peers have thus far not been able to find rooms which they can afford with their monthly student loans. “It’s an extremely over-heated market, with high rents. Renters also ask for a security deposit of two times the monthly rent.”
“And during that month, you have to pay the rent of your old room, and the new one.” The SSC provides students the possibility of getting a loan for one month of double rent, if students request it two weeks in advance. An extra debt which the Curaçaoan students don’t want to accrue. Where Chanté will get the money, if she finds a room, she doesn’t know.
Chanté (23) moved from Curaçao to the Netherlands in 2019 to study Nutrition at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. She is also the spokesperson for other Curaçaoan students who will lose their accommodations. This perfectly fits into her life motto: “Doing something for others.”
“I find it important to develop myself in such a manner so that I can contribute to the recovery of individualistic independence of human beings and the mutual dependence on nature.”