POND ISLAND–The collaboration between St. Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF) and University of St. Martin (USM) has produced a second crop of students who received their certificates at USM on Saturday, and are now empowered with the knowledge of the country’s local history and culture.
The programme was made possible through the devolution of monies from the Trust Fund. The St. Maarten History and Culture course is a specially designed 12-week course that was first provided to participants of the Emergency Income Support and Training Programme (EISTP) as part of their hospitality training at SMTF.
The course has been so successful that, in his congratulatory address to the second group of graduates, USM President Dr. Antonia Carmona Baez announced that the course material will now be included in the regular curriculum of USM. “Everyone must know the background of the island,” he stated.
Addressing the 147 graduates and their families during the graduation ceremony, course coordinator Josianne Fleming-Artsen highlighted the fact that the students can now speak with one voice through the knowledge they have gained.
SMTF Programme Director Sergio Wolff said the course filled a void he had experienced when he first came to the island in 2005. “I was working for Disney Cruise Lines at the time and we could not find any good information on the history or culture of St. Maarten. This course material certainly fills that void.”
National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) Director Claret Connor stressed the need for the students to share the knowledge with others, and also highlighted the importance this information plays in the recovery and healing of the nation.
During the St. Maarten History and Culture course, students look at the history of the island going back to pre-Columbian days all the way to the present. Subjects like local flora, fauna, the role of slavery, the economy, music, food, folklore, etc. are discussed in depth, it was stated in a press release. Students also complete group projects, political role plays and each major subject is closed off with an exam. A full-day excursion to visit all the important sites on the island that the students have learned about during the course, is reserved for the end of the programme.
Several students made use of the opportunity to address those present at the graduation ceremony to express how grateful they were for the opportunity given to participate in the EISTP, and also for the knowledge gained during this particular course. “I now have the option to actually work as a tour guide,” commented a student.
The graduation ceremony ended with a poem, which was written and delivered by USM teacher Roberto Arrindell, called “Come le’ we go back to the good ol’ days when…” Fitting for the occasion the poem took the audience on a journey through St. Maarten’s history and culture and recounted the old stories, habits, folklore, beliefs, superstitions, games, food, etc. that make St. Maarten, St. Maarten, the release said.
EISTP is financed by the government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by NRPB. The programme caters to persons who are unemployed or underemployed (working part-time, less than 20 hours per week). All enrolled students receive financial support (stipend) for attending classes and successfully completing the programme, as well as medical coverage through Social and Health Insurances SZV in addition to a small transportation allowance.
The un-(under)employed can sign up for courses in Hospitality, Culinary, Construction, St. Maarten Culture and History (which is an integral part of Hospitality and Culinary), English as Second Language and Basic Literacy.
SMTF partners with USM and NIPA on some of the courses. The goal of the programme is to provide temporary income for the unemployed and underemployed, while equipping them with the tools necessary to achieve full gainful employment.