Over the past three years the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) received additional funding from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) to support students who are living in poverty. The subsidy was called Opportunities for all Children (Kansen voor alle Kinderen).
The SCS successfully requested additional funding for 2017-2018 (28,181 Euro), 2018-2019 (48,075 Euro) and 2019-2020 (US $30,395). The subsidy was made available to the school to provide breakfast, school supplies, school uniforms and IT devices, all to ensure that the students who would meet the criteria would have equal opportunities compared to their peers. Each year about 30 students benefitted from the subsidy as it related to school uniforms and school supplies and all students were able to participate in the daily free breakfast and fruit programs (+/- 100 students).
The impact of the support was clearly visible in the school and has been a highly positive influence since 2016, said SCS Director Anton Hermans. “Students were able to start the school day with something to eat. They could take a piece of fruit, have a meal and something to drink during the breaks. Students did not have to worry about wearing the same uniform for multiple days or worrying about what to eat and to take to school. They were happier students and happy students learn better.”
As of 2020, the subsidy is no longer made available. State Secretary Van Ark already communicated in a letter to the Second Chamber in November 2018 that the funds were to be redirected to Bes(t)4kids.This program, however, targets children up to the age of 12, and not high school students. This leaves the group of students without a form of subsidy now that Opportunities for all Children has been ceased, explained school director Hermans.
Parents/guardians can request support from the Social Affairs and Labor Department. This support is only eligible for parents/guardians with an income up to US$1,583 per month. “We informed all parents/guardians to request the support and some requests were approved, but there are still students/families who do not qualify and still need support because of their situation. For those students the subsidy Opportunities for all Children was intended,” stated Hermans.
The SCS reached out to the Social Domain of the Public Entity Saba to see how and if they were able to support the students in need. However, the SCS has not received any response yet as it relates to the support for the children in need. The Social Affairs and Labor Department (SZW) has been able to approve 5 support packages so far for 2020-2021. From 2017-2020 yearly 1 SCS student received support from SZW.
Fortunately, despite the COVID-19 crisis and the effects it has on the businesses and the wider community, the SCS was able to raise funds so the school could continue some support for those children who need it.
Hermans said it was Island Communication Services (ICS) that started the initiative. The SCS sent out a flyer to inform the parents/guardians that they could sign up for the meal plan. For US $ 150 per month students would get meals and drinks during regular school days. “ICS liked the idea and wanted to sponsor a child. This inspired the SCS to reach out to other companies and persons to seek support. The response is more than we ever expected. We are very thankful to ICS, E&H, SES NV, Satel, TelCell, SPC, SEC, the Saba Lions Club as well as some individuals for their support in funds or in kind.”
The SCS itself also made funds available to sponsor school supplies as well as meal plans. With the support of the funds and donations in kind, the school has been able to reach most, if not all children at the secondary school for this basic support. This leaves out, however, the students who need more than the basic support. What will and can be done for these students to provide equal opportunities?
For now, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is willing to think along to seek a solution for this group of students to provide equal opportunities.