Prime Minister William Marlin delivered a back to school message on Monday, as schools in Sint Maarten returned to class nearly four weeks after Hurricane Irma ravaged the island.
There’s no question that having the schools back in session is a big moment for those in the community. Of course, anything that happens to help things get somewhat back to normal is welcome. But giving kids a place to go and grow is a very big step in the right direction that can’t be understated. It’s not just rebuilding structures that’s taking place, it’s also rebuilding a community that’s underway.
As of today, all schools have electricity and water. That’s a big achievement that deserves to be lauded.
Here’s the full text of Prime Minister Marlin’s message:
People of Sint Maarten,
Especially All the Teachers, Students and Parents
Monday, October 2nd will be four weeks since school was rudely and violently interrupted by the most powerful storm ever recorded in the history of the Atlantic Hurricane season. It has been four weeks of a gruesome, life-changing, traumatic experience and some may even question the wisdom of going back to school now, so soon after our island was so severely devastated by Hurricane Irma, which in seven horrifying hours, turned our lives upside down.
Indeed, government recognizes that many people are still hurting and that this may not be the ideal moment to resume school. Yes, there are teachers who have lost their homes, parents who are still trying to piece their lives together and students, many of whom have no previous experience of a calamity like a Category 5 monster storm, trying to make sense out of all the destruction.
I hear you and believe me when I say I feel your pain. As an educator for most of my life, nothing gives me more anguish than to see what you are going through and how many of our parents have been left with no other reasonable choice than to send their children away in order for these to be able to continue with their education elsewhere. I am sure had they known then that we would be reopening schools this soon, they would have taken a different decision.
But we have been through a similar situation before with Hurricane Luis. And if there is any lesson Luis taught us 22 years ago, it is that there is no ideal moment to resume school after a disaster the magnitude of a Hurricane Irma. Every opportunity to get our lives back on track should be grabbed with both hands. And if we truly believe in providing the best education we can for our youth, no matter the circumstances, then now is as good a time as any to start school again, especially seeing that our Minister of Education and the Education Recovery Team in conjunction with the various school boards, has done everything to make sure that the minimum standards are met to ensure that schools can begin again.
Reopening schools is a key element in our recovery and reconstruction efforts. Definitely, Sint Maarten will never be the same again after Irma and Maria. I believe in the resilience of our people as demonstrated by the massive and collective clean up initiative that has made our various districts look as if they only suffered a few bruises here and there after the merciless pounding they endured just four weeks ago.
I commend that indomitable spirit which is part of the Sint Maarten DNA. Yes, we may be knocked down by a vicious super-heavyweight storm, but we are back up long before the count and are dancing like a butterfly around the ring of life again.
A few days after Hurricane Irma hit us with all her might, I heard a young student on the radio say he wanted to know when schools will resume. More than just being bored at home, with no water or electricity, I believe that young student was really missing school. He was missing being in a classroom with his peers, learning and of course socializing. I am sure he missed his teacher, too. He knows that he needs the knowledge his teacher imparts on him, because intuitively, he realizes that knowledge is power and education is a right, not a privilege for our youth. It is, indeed, one of the universal rights that we cannot allow any hurricane to knock down.
To that student and others like him, I say welcome back to school. Your future and the future of this island that you are called to inherit depends on the kind of hunger for knowledge that you have shown.
I know it has not been easy for you, nor for your parents and teachers, but by the grace of God, here we are again, rearing to go, because we won’t allow anything to stop us.
I want to seize this opportunity to thank all, and I mean ALL those who have helped in the recovery clean up, especially those who got our schools ready for reopening.
Government is also very grateful for the assistance received from our partners in the Kingdom, particularly the Dutch government, in providing materials and especially the temporary schools, desk, chairs and other materials.
Our National Recovery Plan is expected to be completed this week. It will serve as the blue print for the rebuilding of our young nation. Out of every disaster comes an opportunity for meaningful change that would lead to a brighter future. With the reopening of our schools, we are together taking a very significant step towards rebuilding a better, stronger, and smarter Sint Maarten.
I am counting on each and every one of you – teachers, parents and students as well as school boards, education officials and the community at large, to make this a very successful school year in spite of all the odds.
This is Sint Maarten.
God bless each and every one of you and God bless our beloved island.
I thank you.
Prime Minister of Sint Maarten,
William v. Marlin
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