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NIPA board refuses to sign agreement with ministry

~ MP tells minster to fire board ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Advanced Vocational Education (AVE) board of National Institute of Professional Advancement (NIPA) has refused to sign an agreement with the Education Ministry geared at improving the institute.

The board also has refused to adhere to a seven-point plan of action to improve things at the institute, Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs told Members of Parliament (MPs) during the continuation of a parliamentary session on NIPA and other issues on Tuesday.

The Minister was reporting at the time on a meeting she and representatives of the ministry had with the NIPA board on September 16.

The board’s repeated defiant actions led to MP Maurice Lake urging the Minister to “fire” the entire board, as they were stifling the institute. However, the Minister’s hands are tied.

Bourne-Gumbs told MPs that the primary objective of the meeting had been to obtain an update from the board about the decisions it had taken to remedy the challenges facing the institute and to establish an agreement between the ministry and the board so that solving the problems plaguing NIPA could be shared between the ministry and the board.

She said that although the proposed agreement had not been signed by parties, this did not mean the work had stopped. The ministry will continue to work with NIPA to resolve its many challenges.

She is still concerned about certain issues at NIPA, including the “governance” of the institute. She has requested information about NIPA’s management structure and about the profile functions of the board, the executive director and the director when there was a director, to no avail. The functions of these positions are unclear to her.

She also is concerned about students from the 2014 cohort and how they will conclude their education to receive their certified diplomas. Another concern is the lack of scheduling and insufficient staff.

The Minister said there had been some progress and improvements at NIPA in terms of the validation of courses. She also said that some information had been provided on the 2014 cohort schedule and staff, but answers related to governance and the roles and functions had not been addressed.

She believes the constant meetings and dialogue between the ministry and NIPA have led to the board being informed about the need to adhere to standards of quality education laid down in the law. The Education Inspectorate also has intensified its monitoring of NIPA.

The Minister said she would continue to work with the board to ensure that all requirements were met, as “this is not something that the ministry takes lightly.”

The Ministry’s Secretary-General Jorien Wuite gave a PowerPoint presentation on education and the law during Tuesday’s meeting. MPs present at the meeting weighed in on the issues affecting NIPA, asked several questions, made some suggestions and expressed concern about the issues.

Regarding another agenda point, MPs and the Minister also raised concerns about compulsory education and immigration. It was noted that the influx of children coming to the country without “papers for the island” was burdening the country’s education system.

Bourne-Gumbs also gave a status update and Government’s action plan relating to students who have been placed, or not placed, in schools; as well as students in the Netherlands and other countries abroad who have complained that they have not yet received their study financing funds. The status of the study financing ordinance also was discussed.

Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of a meeting on Monday, September 14, during which the Minister warned that “further action” would be taken against the NIPA board if an “ultimatum” given was not met in the meeting of Wednesday, September 16.

She said at the time that it was “blatantly” clear that quality education was not being provided at the institute. That meeting ended prematurely as she was about to answer questions in the second round, after a roll call showed that there was no quorum for the meeting to continue.

The meeting was requested by the National Alliance (NA) fraction in Parliament.

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