Politics is also for children, according to Children’s Question Time


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  • Guus Diet Sausage

    Political editor

  • Guus Diet Sausage

    Political editor

“I’m Joost, and the minister has just listed all the options for how we can do better, and my question is, how can all these options be paid for?” In question is a primary school student from Ede who is putting climate minister Rob Jetten to the test. Joost was the last in a long line of students who stopped by today for Children’s Question Time, the latest tradition in the House of Representatives.

The plenary hall is full of children around 10 years old in brightly colored T-shirts. Five colors for five classes, each dealing with its own theme with five different priests. “Politics is for everyone, including children,” chairwoman Vera Bergkamp opened the debate.

Nola from Arnhem demonstrates the relevance to her peers by talking about the teacher shortage. “Last year our two teachers quit, and we got a new one – who was very nice – but he is also quitting now,” she says to Minister Wiersma for primary schools and youth education.

According to the girl, there are too few who want to become teachers “and what does the minister intend to change about that?” Wiersma gives an answer that would not be out of place in a real parliamentary debate. Too many retire, too few pupils want to go to primary school, there is a shortage of staff everywhere, it is a tough profession, and the teachers’ plates are getting fuller and fuller.

So it hasn’t helped enough yet, what should you do?

critical student against Minister Wiersma

When the minister then discusses solutions that may or may not have been tried, he is replaced by another student who interrupts. “So it hasn’t helped enough yet, what are you going to do?” Hilarity in the crowd and a compliment from Bergkamp: “A very subtle question”.

The children’s question time is being held today for the fourth time. Prior to this, the students spin nervously on the big blue chairs and can see tightly held cups, but during the debate the students appear quite well prepared.

For example, Prime Minister Mark Rutte must explain why the war in Ukraine receives more attention than other wars. And Social Affairs Minister Karien van Gennip is told she says everyone should put solar panels on their house, “but they’re quite expensive, so how do we get them?” In his answer, the minister says something about subsidies and explains something about supply and demand. “But then there’s the problem that we don’t have enough people to lay them.”

What can we do about the fact that our parents sometimes cannot afford it, a girl asks Minister Van Gennip:

Children ask the cabinet about plans for energy, climate and wallet

Van Gennip is in Parliament to answer questions from a class in Nijmegen on inflation. Danilo, who has difficulty reaching the microphone due to his height, asks the first question. “What will the government do about everything being so expensive?” Bergkamp asks if he himself notices anything about it. Well, not really, the boy hesitantly admits.

However, the minister discusses this in detail, including an explanation of interest rate increases by the European Central Bank to fight inflation. “A little complicated maybe,” she admits to her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade audience. There is therefore no interruption.

Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge does not make it easy for the children either. He juggles the number of homes that have yet to be built. So many of these, so many of those and then add them. “Then what do you come up with?” Jay-Nairo from Almere gambles 50,000, who wants to know if today’s children can later get a house. But 900,000 turns out to be the answer De Jonge was looking for.

It cannot be ruled out that the student will be right in the end, because things are not going so well in the construction industry. And De Jonge recognizes that too. “They say I’m overly optimistic, but it should work.”

When does the IJmeer line arrive?

The follow-up question from a classmate to Jay-Nairo leads to an outburst of laughter in the hall. “When is the IJmeer line coming?”, it sounds from behind the interrupting microphone. De Jonge laughs: “Did you have to ask this question from Flevoland’s deputy or not?” The answer, a little timidly: “From my father”.

Father is unlucky, because the metro from Amsterdam to Flevoland will not be built for the time being, but the Children’s Question Time is there for a reason, emphasizes Minister Jetten in his contribution about the climate. A girl who barely rises above the lectern challenges the minister with a clever question. “Will we be able to say in a few years: This is because we have spoken to Minister Rob Jetten?”

Jetten points to Ward K, where he sits with his ministers. “There are all adults here, and they often tend to think about why things can’t be done or why things have to be slowed down.” But it is precisely children and students who have to keep the adults sharp, he says. “They campaign for the climate, they demand that we do more to fight climate change.”

When question time is over, it turns out that the students didn’t come just to put the heat on the ministers. Pictures are taken with the ministers and signatures are requested. The latter mainly from the only celebrity of the bunch: Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

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