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Soualiga Newsday Features (1532)

Required to ‘inburger’ abroad? Your two-year-old should start school too, say MPs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The children of parents who were required to pass integration exams before they came to the Netherlands should by law attend pre-school so their Dutch is up to scratch when they start ordinary classes, according to two of the four coalition parties. 

The right-wing VVD and the Christian Democrats say this will ensure the children are not at a disadvantage when they start formal schooling at the age of four. 

‘Too many newcomers end up claiming welfare benefits,’ CDA MP Pieter Heerma said in Tuesday’s Telegraaf, while adding that children from households where Dutch is not the main language start off with a disadvantage. 

‘Pre-school should be a requirement, not an option, VVD MP Bente Bekker said. ‘After all, we expect newcomers to do everything they can to participate.’ The measure can be introduced in 2020, when local authorities again assume responsibility for the integration of new arrivals. 

MPs are due to debate planned changes to the integration (inburgering) system on Wednesday. Basic exams Bente told DutchNews.nl via Twitter that compulsory pre-schooling would only apply to people required to pass basic integration before they come to the Netherlands and not, for example, to American nationals. 

Expats who want their children to go to pre-school because they will go into the Dutch school system and don’t speak Dutch are currently excluded from classes.  (DutchNews)

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St. Martin at Cuba international book fair

SINT MAARTEN/CUBA - St. Martin’s Lasana M. Sekou was among 57 authors, editors, scholars, translators, and publishers from around the world invited to the 28thannual International Book Fair of Havana, Cuba, February 7-19, 2019. 

While in Cuba, Sekou was a panelist on “Literary creation, Editorial management, and Cultural policies in Latin America,” according to Iyaimi Palomares, director of the Cuban publisher Arte y Literatura. 

Topics addressed by the speakers included the interruption of literary production during Uruguay’s last civil-military regime; use of digital technologies for added publishing opportunities in Cuba; and publishing multilingual books in St. Martin to reach wider audiences in the region and beyond. 

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Minimum speeds nationwide key in new mobile internet auction

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government should introduce minimum speeds for mobile internet in rural areas to help maintain the Netherlands’ leading role in the field, according to a new report for the economic affairs ministry. 

The report recommends that minimum mobile speeds are included in the technical specifications when new frequencies are auctioned off later this year. 

‘There are still places in the Netherlands where outdoor mobile coverage is inadequate, such as in areas where it is not profitable for providers,’ junior economic affairs minister Mona Keizer said. 

‘The cabinet wants to solve this in the forthcoming auction. Fast, mobile internet which is available everywhere and for everyone is now seen as a basic need.’ The report compilers recommend a minimum speed of 8 megabit per second by 2022 and 10 megabit per second in 2026. 

The ministry plans to hold the frequency auction by the end of 2019, which means it must publish the terms and conditions by the summer.(DutchNews)

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Many teens don’t turn up for meningitis vaccination, death toll rises

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly 14% of the 132,000 young teenagers called up to be vaccinated against an increasingly deadly form of meningitis have failed to come forward, according to figures from the public health council RIVM. 

All 13 and 14-year-olds are being offered the jab against meningococcal W, which has claimed 41 lives since 2015. The publicity campaign started last October. There are sharp regional differences in the take-up rate, the AD reported on Friday. 

In Zeeland, 28% of teens have not yet been vaccinated, in Amsterdam 23%. Zeeland is part of the Dutch Bible belt where many parents do not agree with vaccinations. Last year 22 people died of meningococcal W and a further two died this January. 

The infection most commonly occurs in the 15 to 19 age group and is spread by coughing and sneezing. The virus can live in the nasal passages without causing infection, but if it enters the bloodstream or nervous system it can trigger symptoms similar to gastric flu such as high temperatures, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Around one-sixth of all cases prove fatal, but the death rate is twice as high for 14 to 24-year-olds. People who develop severe diarrhoea are at the greatest risk. 

Pockets of infection 

Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis said in reaction to the figures that Amsterdam and Zeeland could turn into pockets of infection. ‘We are calling together a group of experts to try to find out how to best reach these groups,’ he told the AD. 

The Netherlands is currently grappling with a general downturn in vaccination rates. At the moment 90.2% of Dutch children are vaccinated against potentially serious illnesses such as measles, polio and whooping cough. 

This is below the level of 95% the World Health Organisation considers safe. Some crèches are already taking action by refusing to admit children who have not been vaccinated although this is against the rules, broadcaster RTL Nieuws reported last year. 

Both the VVD and D66 ruling parties back the unofficial crèche policy and there is cross party support for making vaccinations compulsory.(DutchNews)

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Most home carers can cope, but some are unhappy with their lives

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Almost three-quarters of family care-givers say they can combine their job with care duties easily, until their relative needs more intensive help, according to research by the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP. 

Once the friend or relative needs to spend more than eight hours a week on care duties, the pressure mounts up and it becomes more difficult to work as well, the SCP survey found. 

Almost two million people in the Netherlands act as care-givers as well as doing a job, but over 400,000 of them provide at least 21 hours of care a week. One in five people providing intensive help say they are unhappy with their own lives.

At the same time, half of them say there is no-one else available to help out and they feel that they have to step in. One in three working women and one in five working men combine work with care duties, the survey found. 

In 2014, the government of the day introduced a new strategy to cut home care costs. Ministers said they hoped that by transferring responsibility for home care services to councils and slashing budgets by 40% that families, friends and neighbors would clean and shop for the frail elderly and handicapped instead.  (DutchNews)

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MPs call for change on primary school tests, secondary school choice

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Teachers should not take a final decision on what sort of secondary school their 12-year-old pupils should go to until after they have taken their school leaving tests, MPs from the four coalition parties said on Wednesday. 

Since 2015, the role of teachers in deciding what sort of school pupils go to at the age of 12 has been boosted and that of national tests, such as the Cito, downplayed. 

However, MPs now say it is illogical that pupils are given their formal secondary school advice in February but don’t take the tests until April or May. In addition, teachers are unlikely to change their recommendations in line with the test outcomes, MPs say. 

Last year, it emerged that primary school teachers are being pressured by parents to change their recommendations about what sort of secondary school children should go to. 

The survey of 2,000 teachers by the CNV trade union showed three-quarters had faced pressure from parents to recommend children went to a more academic secondary school. 

Dutch children are selected for one of three streams at the age of 12: pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo). MPs are divided about whether the tests should be brought forward, or the recommendations published later, broadcaster NOS said.(DutchNews)

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Unemployment pay bill for former MPs and ministers tops €24m

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Former MPs and ministers claimed over €24m in the special unemployment benefit for politicians between September 2012 and the end of last year, the Telegraaf said on Monday. 

In total, 186 former MPs, 18 former ministers and 15 former junior ministers have claimed the benefit, known as wachtgeld, since the 2012 general election, the paper said. 

The figures come from the home affairs ministry and no names are given. The best ‘paid’ MP has had payments totalling €468,219 during the period while one former junior minister has claimed €482,861 in benefits. 

MPs and ministers who lose their seat or their job are entitled to 80% of their salary for one year. Subsequent payments which can last several years are made at 70% rate. 

Former politicians who get a job which does not pay as much as being an MP can also claim top-up benefits.(DutchNews)

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Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’. 

The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable. 

‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So, I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said. 

There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red-light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. 

Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking. Halsema said Amsterdam’s tradition of open prostitution was ‘increasingly linked to the humiliation of women by large groups of tourists. 

She plans to draw up a package of measures before the summer to address the red-light district’s problems. 

‘Meat market’ 

‘I find it unpalatable. First and foremost, we need to ensure that they are more independent and empowered and are not being abused or used as commodities.’ Meanwhile, a cross-party group of young political activists went further with an open letter demanding an end to the ‘public meat market’ in the red-light district. 

The group, which spans the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA), the progressive liberal D66 group and the right-wng liberal VVD, said the exploitation of sex workers had gone too far. 

Their proposed solutions include requiring women to have lived in the Netherlands for at least a year before they can work legally as prostitutes. In an opinion piece titled ‘Enough is enough, take action in the Wallen ‘, they wrote: ‘We, the youth of Amsterdam, have come to the conclusion that regardless of your point of view on sex work, the current situation cannot be justified. 

‘Whether your view of the value of human life is based on humanitarian or confessional ideas, this circus, this public meat market, is humiliating.’(DutchNews)

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USM launches Part II of its SDG Seminar Series with talks on Innovation and Technology

SINT MAARTEN (SALT POND) - On Wednesday, 13 February, the University of St. Martin will relaunch its monthly Seminar Series highlighting issues and topics of public interest and academic endeavours related to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda endorsed by BAK and UNESCO St. Martin.

This month’s guest speakers include Engineer and Architect Damian Richardson, Business Developer and Innovation Consultant Damien Schmidt and the new president of Sint Maarten’s Chamber of Commerce Benjamin Ortega. The three will offer introductions of 20 minutes each in the areas of Small Island Business Development through technological innovation and infrastructure, which fit into SDG # 9 on the United Nations 2030 Agenda.  Mr. Marvio Cooks is scheduled to moderate the panel and engage the public in a lively discussion. 

According to USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona, the seminars series is a call to promote the production of knowledge, science, research and ideas of innovation already flourishing in St. Maarten and throughout the region, with the purpose of building a university that caters to the social needs, collective hopes and well-being of the country.  

“After a very successful first string of seminars held last semester, in 2019 we will continue to offer the community some intellectual ammunition for sustainable development produced by our own local talent”, said USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona in written remarks to the press on Monday.  “Through critical thinking and fostering public dialogue, we hope to feed our curriculum as well as public policy.”

Doors to the USM Conference Room open at 6:30 P.M.  Following the talks, there will be room for structured public dialogue whereby everyone can participate. USM hopes to see a healthy balance of participants from government, non-government organisations as well as the academic and business communities. 

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SMMC provides training for childcare providers

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) recently provided training in Hygiene Practices, Safety, First Aid and Basic Life support to childcare providers. A total of 83 childcare providers from several Daycare Centers on the island participated in the training. The two-day training sessions were held at the Rupert I. Maynard community center in St. Peters.  

The training was provided on a request from the St. Maarten Early Childhood Development Association (SECDA) and subsequently organized by Mr. Antonio Pantophlet, SMMC’s Manager of Patient Care & the Education Department. 

The objective of the training was to recertify the childcare providers who completed their first training in 2016 and also to educate and certify childcare providers currently working in Day Care centers. This to reassure parents that their children are cared for in a safe environment by skilled teachers who are equipped to recognize and respond adequately during life threatening pediatric emergencies.  

The training was coordinated by SMMC’s CPR coordinators, Ms. Meandra Hazel and Mr. Corwin James, both Intensive Care Nurses and certified CPR/BLS instructors. Facilitators of the course were Ms. Candida Williams, Infection Control Practitioner/Hygienist and a team of critical care nurses from SMMC.

Antonio Pantophlet stated: “Continuous education is the key to the enhancement of knowledge, skills and quality care in any organization.  It is the tool to gain power to be to stand strong and to confront all challenges that may come your way”. 

The care providers who successfully completed the course received their CPR card from the SMMC, which is valid for two years.

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