Furious reactions to statements by the Minister on special needs education: ‘Now talk to parents and teachers on Bonaire’

June 12, 2022 | Marit Severijnse

KRALENDIJK – Parents have for years complained about the lack of good education in the Caribbean municipalities to e.g. children with autism. An interview with Minister Wiersma (Primary and Secondary Education) about special education in the Caribbean municipalities attracted attention.

Minister Wiersma believes that there is indeed ‘a good network of expertise’ on the island. According to the minister, the problem often lies with the parents themselves, who have ‘difficulty in accepting help’ for their child. The statements give rise to surprise among parents and educational staff.

In practice, it is difficult and expensive to get help, they say. “I got mad when I read his answer,” Vanessa Tunk says. Since 2016, she began seeking help for her daughter with autism. “Year after year, we have visited all emergency services. But nothing changed at the regular school. ”

‘I honestly do not really know what it is’
Minister Dennis Wiersma wanted just before the interview with Caribbean networks first know what the questions were about. He would then quickly consult with a top official before responding to the camera. “Because I have to be honest, I do not really know what it is.”

Marie Craane is a speech therapist for children with autism and their parents. She also has a child with autism. She is surprised that the Minister states that parents in the Caribbean often do not receive help themselves. “Because that’s not my experience.”

“Parents may not always be able to formulate a request for help easily or clearly because they do not know what the options are. But they need guidance and help from professionals. ”

‘Children even drop out’
Another parent * does not want to answer by name, because Bonaire is a small island. “I have seen many children in practice who needed special attention, but who did not get it. These children were sent from post to post with my child! “

“The children went on without mastering the teaching material because they were not helped intensively by aid organizations. As a result, they have even dropped out of secondary education. ”

“I gave my child the help he needed – with all I could – after all, to be able to go to exams.”

‘You hear parents asking for help with after school’
This is not a problem in recent years, but also now, says a parent who would like to respond anonymously *. “My talented child does not get the necessary attention in primary school either. This is because there are about ten children in the class who need special attention. The teacher is under too much pressure. ”

“Then I see at the after-school meeting that other parents almost beg the leaders to help their children with autism with homework help. It is not possible in school because the expertise is lacking. ”

Ordinary schools offer insufficient help
The correct thing about Minister Wiersma’s statements is that there is more and more expertise on Bonaire to guide children with autism, Craane says. “There is a positive development, such as a pilot in childcare. There is a special class for students with autism from mavo to vwo. ”

But that does not mean it has been arranged properly, she notes. In fact, it is often problems that the parents are not to blame for. ”For example, some children need to be in a small group, in an environment with a very low stimulus and need to have a fixed structure. These are specific educational needs that the school cannot meet. ”

‘Only parents with money can afford private school’

Knowledge and expertise for special education is available at the private school Het Koraal, parents say. Although this school is approved by the Danish Education Authority, the school is not supported by the government.

“It is unbelievable that a child with autism on Bonaire only has access to appropriate education if the parents have an above-average income,” said parent and speech therapist Marie Craane.

“In the European Netherlands, parents have the choice between choosing special education. Why is it different for the Caribbean municipalities?”

“Het Koraal is the best example of how it should be done, so the minister should fund that school,” says parent Vanessa Tunk.

‘Minister has absolutely not dived into islands’
Barbara Huveneers also followed the interview with Wiersma. She has two children with autism, a trained teacher and is a care coordinator in education on Bonaire. “I was taught to count to ten before I answered. I was almost 10,000 and the steam was still coming out of my ears. The minister has definitely not dived into the islands.”

“It is completely ridiculous that parents have to pay extra for their child to receive an appropriate education. It is something that all children have a right to. ”

“Instead of investing in information, it now stands to reason that parents are not open to help. We live in a very small community with a culture of fear. Unfortunately, knowledge and experience in the classroom is not yet so far everywhere that parents can assume that their child will not actually get a stamp. ”

* Anonymous comments are listed as an exception, provided the identity is known by the reporter and the editors.

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