ST MAARTEN YOUNGSTERS – St. Maarten – The majority of students who will continue their studies abroad are most likely not coming back to St. Maarten to find a job. This was said at a panel discussion, organized for the St. Martin Book Fair 2013, under young students at the University of St. Martin on Friday.

The youngsters think that St. Maarten will not offer enough opportunities for the youth to come back to the island to continue their career. “At the current moment I will not come back,” one panelist said. “There are a lot of issues student’s experiences when they get back and still can’t find a job in their work field.” They said that government needs to be more involved in creating jobs for the future.

“If you love your country but the government doesn’t do the same in providing what we want and need to help developing St. Maarten, I don’t want to stay. It has to be fair and it has to come from both sides,” another one said.

For another student it was more a personal question. “If I become a doctor I would definitely come back to St. Maarten,” he said. “I want to give the people the help they deserve.”

Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, who was sitting in the audience, made a comment to the students saying she did not agree with what some of the students said. “I want to know which country you are thinking of in finding your dream job after your graduation, because I cannot name one” she said. “It is about working your way up in your career; you can’t expect to be a business owner after two days of graduation. It is about working for yourself and for the future of St. Maarten. If we do not come back and if we are not willing to work for our homeland, St. Maarten will not be the same and it will not going to develop without the support of the students we most definitely need for the future,” she added. The comment made by Arrindell was appreciated by the members in the audience, when they gave her a loud applause.

The topic of the discussion was ‘The future of St. Maarten; My perspective’ and was attended by students of the Charlotte Brookson Academy, St. Dominic High School, St. Maarten Academy and the St. Maarten Vocational Training School. Several questions were asked to the panel on the latest topics such as; Politics, Education, Economy, Technology, Environment and the Book Fair.

On the question ‘How will the school systems on St. Maarten look like in 10 to 20 years’, everyone on the panel agreed that it will be more advanced than it is now. It has been better than it was before and said that it hopefully will increase in variety. “Now we are not able to study specific courses, but I hope in the future more courses will be offered to the students so that they don’t have to leave St. Maarten to study elsewhere but stay here,” one panelist said.

Another question was ‘where would technology be in 10 years’, where the majority thinks that St. Maarten will develop the same as other countries. “As we already use computers on a daily basis, in our free time, at school, basically most of the day,” one said. Introducing technology in schools more often they said that it will benefit the educational and environmental sector as well; faster and easier studies and less paper and less books to carry. They saw one problem; the teachers have to be advanced and further educated in these future technologies, something that not everyone said that was going to happen.

Questions on the book fair itself like; ‘what is the book fair about’ was one of the topics that not everyone could answer to on the spot. “If they haven’t told me that this week a book fair was being held, I never would have known,” one of the panelists said. “I think they have to promote the event more, especially at the schools, so that more students are aware of such events.”

On ‘What do you think the book fair will look like in the year 2020’ some of them said that there might not be so many books left because of all the e-readers and other technologies. The majority still had a brighter future for the fair, saying that they hope the book fair will be wider than it is now with more international writers, in making it a worldwide fair.

With the question ‘Today tourism is the number one income for the island. What will the primary source of income be in the future?’ Everyone one on the panel gave a similar answer: yes. Tourism is and will still be St. Maarten’s number one income, they all said. Where some said that St. Maarten is ‘Americanized’ and that the island has lost its cultural heritage, that it have to focus more on bringing the culture back instead of opening a ‘Starbucks’ to keep the American’s happy, others said that the people who are entering St. Maarten by cruise ship often said that this island had more culture than the surrounding islands, but agreed that culture needs to be more preserved and not hidden behind concrete buildings.

The topic: Environment was one that not everyone related to in terms of ‘green energy’. Solar panels and recycling were the two main topics. After the question ‘Does St. Maarten have the potential to invest in green energy’ the panel agreed that solar panels would definitely benefit the environment on St. Maarten and that it would be better for the air and beaches. If eventually these panels would be installed on St. Maarten the panel was a bit skeptical; the costs will be too high and Gebe might not be cooperative with this type of energy, it will not be an easy task, they said. However, a St. Dominic High School student said that the school was raising money for solar panels, this to save money on the schools’ electricity bill.

Another answer besides solar energy was recycling. The dump is getting too big and all garbage goes in one bag, which is not good for the environment of the island, they said.  Even the separation of garbage will be helpful to improve the island and its environment.

The final topic was one the students were most excited talking about: politics. With the question ‘Do you think St. Maarten will stay in the Dutch Kingdom or will it become an independent country?’ Most of the students said that with the current issues the government is in now, they will not leave the Kingdom.  Some of them said that St. Maarten will never be ready to stand on its own, unless some drastic changes will be made, but none of them saw that happening in the near future.

On the current developments one student compared the government with a boat, making it the statement of the day. “Government jumped off a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without any wings or jackets. The boat starts to sink if no one steers it.  If they don’t come back to that boat, we will sink,” he said. “It’s not too late, we have not yet hit rock bottom yet.” – TSXM