That the Inspectorate of Education is embarking on a compulsory education information campaign (see Tuesday paper) is undoubtedly good news. It’s not for nothing that an increasing number of countries have adopted regulations like the local ones stating that children between four and 18 years old must be in the classroom.
Therefore, it is important that parents, but also school boards, administrators and teachers continue to keep this in mind. Providing information pamphlets to enhance awareness among the various communities in their own languages is thus certainly a commendable initiative.
Knowingly permitting pupils/students not to attend classes on a structural basis is clearly unacceptable and in principle cannot be tolerated, but – as with any other rule – enforcement is the key. That’s why so-called truancy officers were appointed when the legislation in question was first introduced, although it appears the control perhaps understandably had been allowed to slip a bit over time. In any case a bus now has been acquired to help with this highly necessary task. Youngsters out on the street with their uniforms during school hours are to be picked up in a “kind” yet obviously decisive manner and taken back where they belong at that hour.
If there really are people who simply don’t want to send their offspring to school in this day and age, they indeed should be warned or fined if they still don’t comply. The residency status ought not to make a difference, as the law in this case makes no distinction between “legal” and “illegal” pupils/students.
The latter actually caused some confusion in the past, when letters had been prepared with instructions not to enrol undocumented applicants. However, refusing to do so would be a serious violation and the decision was quickly reversed.
Of course, St. Maarten has issues managing the influx of foreigners looking for a better future, but that in itself is hardly a reason to deny children already living on the island the opportunity to learn. After all, nobody in their right mind would ever want to see an immigration raid in the classroom either.