Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (3079)

Saba Comprehensive School keeps investing in development students

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The House of Esports to promote safe gaming, a B&B to train in hospitality, the Hell’s Gate Community Center to foster artistic talent and host cultural events for the youth, simulators in technical vocational education, a variety of after school clubs to stimulate leadership and collaboration skills, the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) keeps investing in the development of its students.

A few months ago, SCS opened its House of Esports and Bed & Breakfast at Becky’s House in St. John’s. Named after its first owner, Rebecca Hassell, and the parental home of Franklin Wilson, the house was split up in two: in the front part Becky’s House of Esports is located and in the back, guests can rent a small stay-over accommodation.

“A B&B without the breakfast part,” said SCS Principal Anton Hermans as he gives a tour to visiting representatives of the Council of Education Labor Market Caribbean Netherlands (ROA CN). The accommodation is a simulated hotel room with a bedroom, living room and bathroom where hospitality students can train.

Training area

The B&B accommodation is only incidentally rented out to guests as not to compete with the local hotels, with the sole intention to be a training area for the students. Before, the hospitality accommodation training area was located at the school, but because of the lack of space there, it was decided to move this facility to Becky’s House. Guests staying at the B&B are encouraged to visit the House of Esports next door to partake in the gaming with students.

At the House of Esports, SCS students of Form 1 to 3, students enrolled in the Special Inclusive Education, and children of Grade 6 via Child Focus learn to get better at gaming in a responsible, safe and fun way. “Gaming is not going away, so we want to teach our students how to game responsibly. And, that they need to work on other things as well: sports, education, welfare and health. There has to be a balance,” said Hermans, who added that it was not only about gaming, but that the social aspect was also important.

Feel safe

The House of Esports is a place where everyone should feel safe. That is why the house rules and the code of conduct are always discussed when the students arrive by House Coordinator Valeria Perez Cordero. These include basic norms and values: respect everyone, don’t exclude each other and bring out the best in each other, learn from everyone, say hello on arrival and goodbye at departure, and taking good care of the materials. The House of Esports involves an entire curriculum.

Playing together in a fun, responsible way means that the students always play the same game together, using their school account and the supervisor always plays along. The House Esports from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, came to Saba earlier this year to give training. The House of Esports at Becky’s House is used from Monday through Saturday.

Becky’s House of Esports is supported by the Saba Lions Club and funding for the House of Esports has been requested at the ‘Samenwerkende Fondsen Caribbean,’ a collaborative effort of multiple foundations which supports social initiatives in the Dutch Caribbean. The funding is needed to upgrade the facility with new equipment and provide additional training.

Theater, drama, dance classes

At the Hell’s Gate Community Center, the stage has been fixed and a new floor was put in, with the cooperation of the church which owns the building. The theater, dance and drama classes are now being held there. Youngsters can look forward to movie nights at the SCS pop-up cinema called SabaPlex. Together with Body, Mind & Spirit, movies will be shown as part of the ‘Movies that Matter’ series. The building can also be used for dance events, prom nights, workshops, trainings and information gatherings.

The Hell’s Gate Community Center will contribute to having a place where the youth can come together in a positive manner. “Young people venture too much in areas where they should not be. They need a place where they can safely hang out,” said Hermans. The Saba Youth Council, as a stakeholder, is part of the efforts. The SCS started to use the building, which was used for other activities before, in September this year, with financial assistance from the Public Entity Saba.

Music lessons

The small building above the community center, where the Saba Lace Boutique used to be, is now also in use by the SCS. Music instruments, taken over from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, have been stored there in anticipation of the music lessons that will be taking place there in the near future. The music lessons would become part of the subject creative forming arts.

The music lessons will be organized in collaboration with of the Saba Association of Caribbean States (SACS) and the ‘Leerorkest,’ a successful initiative from the Netherlands whereby all children get the opportunity to play a music instrument. Stichting Leerorkest visited Saba last month to provide more information to educational and cultural stakeholders on the island.

With the objective of promoting culture, the SCS wants to provide quality cultural education, with the assistance of the Netherlands Culture Participation Fund and with the involvement of all local stakeholders that work with the youth. “The idea is that we do this together,” said Hermans.  


As part of the ‘Strong Technics BES region’, together with St. Eustatius and Bonaire, significant improvements were made at the Godfred Bontenbal Technical Center at Cove Bay. One of the modernizations was the installation of simulators, including a Spray paint simulator and a welding simulator, as well as a mechanical lathe. Also, software, computers, furniture were upgraded. The goal is to increase the influx of technical students in education.

Hells Gate Community Center insideThe living room of the B&B training facility at Becky’s House with, at left, SCS Principal Anton Hermans and the delegation of the Council of Education Labor Market Caribbean Netherlands (ROA CN).

BB at Beckys House



New sex crimes legislation will boost court cases, convictions

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – New legislation covering sex crimes will result in a surge of cases, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has told the Telegraaf in an interview.

The new legislation will categorise all forms of non-consensual sex as rape, making it more likely that victims will report cases of unacceptable sexual behaviour, the minister told the paper.

While the use of force and violence may merit tougher sentencing, if free will is not involved, then it is rape, Grapperhaus said. In current Dutch law, rape is only rape if force or violence can be proven in court.

‘We have carefully trained judges who can decide if free will was involved or not,’ the minister said. Police estimate the draft legislation could lead to an extra 550 rape reports a year, and 360 additional ‘informational talks’ with victims.

‘Ultimately, I think we are going to see more convictions, because the norms are being sharpened up,’ the minister said. The aim is to ensure the new legislation comes into effect in two years’ time.

The draft bill has now been sent to the Council of State for its assessment and will be presented to parliament next spring.



Government faces mass claim over coronavirus data bank leaks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A new foundation is preparing to take legal action against the government for failing to properly secure personal information held in the regional health board coronavirus data bank.

Leaks in the system meant that all 26,000 people working for the health boards were able to access private information relating to 6.5 million people, including their vaccination status and if they had been named in a contract tracing thread, the ICAM foundation says.

‘The health ministry has taken an unacceptable risk with private information about millions of people,’ foundation spokeswoman Astrid Oosenbrug told broadcaster NOS.

‘People must be able to trust the government to be careful with their privacy and data security.’ The ICAM foundation says it is taking legal action because the government took a calculated risk, and ignored warnings about the potential for abuse.

In particular, there should have been better monitoring of who had access to what information, the foundation said. Information was wrongly accessed multiple times, with workers looking up information about friends, family, and celebrities.

In several cases, information was sold on to criminals and at least seven workers were arrested and face criminal charges. The foundation is backed by a claim financing company which will be entitled to 20% of any damages.

The foundation is planning to claim €500 for everyone whose information is included in the data bank and €1,500 for each individual whose information was wrongly accessed.



Minister promises to put a stop to boiling crustaceans alive

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Agriculture minister Carola Schouten will put a stop to the practice of boiling crabs and lobsters alive, she promised MPs during Thursday’s debate on her ministry’s budget.

Schouten was reacted to a motion put forward by by pro-animal rights MP Frank Wassenberg in which he asked for a ban on what he said was a ‘barbaric’ practice.

Wassenberg cited British research going back to 2005, and confirmed in 2012 by Irish scientists, which shows that decapod crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters, do experience pain.

Schouten said many restaurants already sedate the animals before they are cooked and that cookery schools are also teaching alternatives.

A European ban may also be forthcoming, she said, but until then she would ‘advocate killing the animals more quickly and in a less painful way’.

In 2018, when Switzerland forbade the live boiling of crabs and lobsters, the PvdD also tabled a motion for a ban, but it failed to get a majority.



Next cabinet may have 20 ministers and 10 juniors, sources tell Telegraaf

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The next government is likely to consist of 20 ministers and 10 junior ministers and will be dominated by the VVD and D66, sources in The Hague have told the Telegraaf.

Talks are still ongoing on forming a new cabinet, but are thought to be nearing completion, with negotiations now starting on dividing up the workload.

In the new look cabinet, which will be the fourth led by Mark Rutte, the right-wing VVD is set to get eight ministerial posts, D66 six, the Christian Democrats four and ChristenUnie two.

In terms of junior ministers (staatsecretarissen), who do not have a vote at cabinet meetings, four posts are likely to go to the VVD, three to D66, two to the CDA and one to ChristenUnie, the paper said.

The current cabinet started out with 16 ministers and eight junior ministers in 2017. The Telegraaf says the expansion in the ministerial line up is a response to the pressure of work which led to two ministers in the outgoing cabinet – Bas van ‘t Wout and Bruno Bruins – stepping down early.



Laughing gas implicated in growing number of fatal accidents: NOS

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 60 people have died in road accidents in the last three years where laughing gas is thought to have been involved, according to figures obtained by NOS.

Police figures requested by the broadcaster showed that nitrous oxide gas was mentioned in 63 fatal accidents and in 362 accidents that left a driver or passenger injured.

Altogether the drug was a contributing factor in nearly 1,800 accidents, including those that caused material damage only. Police are currently unable to confirm whether a driver is intoxicated with laughing gas because there is no way to test for it at the scene.

A test is being developed but it is not known when it will be available. The figures were highest in 2020, when 25 victims died, but 21 deaths have already been reported this year and police fear last year’s figure will be beaten in 2021.

Driving under the influence, aggressive and unsafe driving, and driving without a licence are among the offences most associated with laughing gas.

Legal drug

Although nitrous oxide is a legal drug, its use behind the wheel is a criminal offence, police spokesman Paul Broer warned. ‘It affects the ability to drive. People underestimate the effect of laughing gas, sometimes with dire consequences.

‘There is no blood or saliva test to show a person has been using laughing gas. We have to get our evidence from what we find, and from witness statements from other road users who, for example, have seen the driver with a canister behind the wheel.’

Research published earlier this year by the Trimbos institute shows that over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so.

In some, chronic use of laughing gas can deplete vitamin B12, which in turn can damage the spinal cord. Patients develop weakness in their legs, arms, and trunk, with tingling and numbness that gradually deteriorates.

A ban of the recreational use of laughing gas was supposed to come into effect on January 1 this year but was postponed for lack of money to police the measure. This prompted a number of local councils to impose a ban of their own.

It is now expected a national ban will be in place by the spring of 2022.



More than 600 coronavirus patients in ICU, positive tests levelling off

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 600 patients are being treated in intensive care for coronavirus for the first time since the end of May. Thursday’s daily update from the public health agency RIVM showed there are 2,813 Covid-19 patients in hospital, 10.5% more than a week ago, of whom 605 are in intensive care.

The RIVM reported 23,142 more positive tests in the last 24 hours, the third highest figure on record, though it includes some cases from Wednesday that were reported late because of technical issues.

The number of cases in the last seven days is 2.7% lower than a week ago, while the proportion of positive tests has also dropped marginally in the last week from 22.3% to 20.5%.

The RIVM reported another 65 deaths on Thursday, against a weekly average of 52. A week ago, the average number of deaths was 42. The actual figure is higher because regional health boards are not obliged to report coronavirus deaths immediately.



Big four Dutch cities want lower speed limits to cut road deaths

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht have written to parliament and the cabinet calling for a reduction of maximum speeds on most urban roads to 30 kph, the Parool reported on Wednesday.

The move would lead to a significant reduction in the number of people being killed in traffic accidents, the cities say. Around half the roads in the four cities already have a 30 kph speed limit but more, officials say, needs to be done.

Amsterdam’s traffic chief Egbert de Vries told the AD that 80% of traffic accident victims are injured on roads with a maximum speed limit of 50 kph. ‘Cars used to have too much space in our cities, but now livability is primary,’ he said.

‘If we want to better protect pedestrians and cyclists, then we need to take action.’

In addition, electric scooters, super-fast electric bikes and other light electric vehicles must all move from the cycle lanes to the roads, De Vries said. In 2020, 610 people died in traffic accidents, including 229 cyclists and 41 pedestrians.

Traffic safety research institute SWOV says cutting the speed limit from 50kph to 30kph would cut this by 20% to 30%. Cabinet intervention is needed to change the laws so the lower speed limit can also be imposed on major roads, and to remove the legal requirement to place speed bumps and other traffic calming measures on all 30kph roads.

The new speed limits would come into effect in 2023.



Quarantine couple can go home, KLM and Schiphol apologise to passengers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The couple forced to go into quarantine after one of them tested positive for coronavirus at Schiphol airport left their isolation unit near Groningen on Tuesday night after being told they were allowed to go home Carolina Pimenta and her friend Andres Sanz were taken to the hospital on Sunday after police arrested them at Schiphol airport where they had gone after leaving a quarantine hotel.

Haarlemmermeer mayor Marianne Schuurmans issued the quarantine order against the couple, claiming they were a risk to public safety. Pimenta subsequently had several coronavirus tests, all of which proved negative, leading to the decision to lift the quarantine order.

Lawyer Bart Maes, who represented the couple, said that the couple would now be entitled to considerable compensation for their ordeal.


Meanwhile, the Schiphol airport authorities, airline KLM and the Kennemerland regional health board have all apologized for the way passengers on two flights from South Africa on Friday were treated.

Numerous passengers have complained about being kept for hours on the plane without food or water, the lack of information and the lack of hygiene in the area where they were eventually taken inside the airport terminal.

In total, 61 of the 624 passengers tested positive for coronavirus, and 14 of them have since been found to have the Omicrom variant of the disease.



Dutch bring in new rules to control former ministers’ work for lobby groups

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The cabinet has agreed to bow down to pressure from MPs and bring in tougher rules to control lobbying by former ministers.

The discussion about ministers moving into the private sector came to a head this summer, when infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen stepped down to chair the energy sector association – a field in which she had considerable contacts as minister.

Under present rules, ministers are banned from lobbying in areas in which they had direct responsibility, but that is now being expanded to include all sectors in which they had active influence, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren told MPs.

In addition, they will be banned from taking on commercial contracts from their former departments for a two-year period. They may, however, still take up advisory roles. An independent commission is also being set up to advise on whether their new jobs are acceptable and within the rules.

The rules do not cover MPs, even though research by the Open State Foundation showed that almost one in five people leaving politics go to work as a lobbyist for the private sector.

For example, former VVD MP Helma Lodders now heads the livestock transport association and a new lobby group set up by the online gambling sector.

The Netherlands was criticised in the summer by the Group of States Against Corruption (Greco), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, for failing to meet any of its 16 recommendations, such as establishing a code of practice for ministers and requiring them to declare their financial interests while in office.

Ollongren said that the Greco recommendations would be incorporated into the new lobbying rules.


Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio