Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel said he is working on a solution for more than two dozen pupils of Excellence Learning Academy (ELA), which threatens to close now that St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) pulled its sponsorship (see related story). He pointed out that since taking office, doing something for special needs students has gotten much of his attention.
An assessment is being completed to serve as basis for a new policy regarding the issue. That sounds reassuring for the long-term, but offers these children and their teachers few direct, concrete answers.
The minister added having given those responsible for the private school information on obtaining subsidy at their request in the past and was waiting to hear from them. However, it is no secret that the relevant administrative procedures are often a prohibitive burden for small, low-budget foundations.
After all, the stated reason SMDF discontinued its grant provided during two years in the first place was due to financial discrepancies. It is thus highly doubtful that the current management’s bookkeeping would be able to meet requirements for direct government support.
ELA’s biggest debt – apart from outstanding rent and utility bills – reportedly concerns Social and Health Insurances SZV, namely about US $61,000 in unpaid AOV old age pension premiums. Perhaps the fact that it involves a public sector entity can help, although any arrangement made must obviously be justified and comply with proper accounting principles.
Nevertheless, this is an urgent matter because the regular education system is simply not suitable for these youngsters. Preparing plans is one thing, coming up with tangible, immediate and feasible alternatives quite another.