Each year, some 1,600 ambitious and optimistic young people from Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands arrive in the Netherlands to begin their further education. Unfortunately, many soon face various hurdles and fail to complete that education. The National Ombudsman has investigated the problems that can arise. Some prospective students face difficulties before they even set foot in the Netherlands. On arrival, they must contend with practical matters such as finding accommodation and arranging health insurance. The course itself may not be what they expected, while there can be a significant ‘culture shock’. Education staff and fellow students show too little consideration for the specific challenges faced by this group of Dutch citizens, many of whom go on to experience financial difficulties as they struggle to repay student loans.
The National Ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen, calls on the governments in The Hague and on the islands to resolve the problems Caribbean students are facing. “These talented young people are of immense importance to the future of the islands. It is important that they are able to build a sound foundation for their future career, whether here in the Netherlands or at home. They just need that extra bit of support. Government agencies should not assume they are entirely self-sufficient or know exactly how our complex society works.”
“For young people in the Caribbean, studying in the Netherlands must be an option. Not everyone has the aptitude or desire, but those who do must not be held back by unnecessary obstacles. Good preparation is of crucial importance. I intend to join the ombudsmen of Curaçao and St. Maarten in discussions with the governments in the Kingdom. Our aim is to ensure that prospective students are fully prepared for what awaits them, both in terms of their education and when navigating Dutch society.”
The National Ombudsman’s report ‘Concerns of Caribbean Students’ presents the findings of a study among 624 students and former students from the Caribbean Netherlands. It confirms that many experience a range of problems prior to, during and after their studies in the Netherlands. They receive little specific guidance, are unable to obtain a Citizen Service Number (CSN) in advance, are excluded from Dutch health insurance, and do not understand our system of taxes and allowances. They are unfamiliar with Dutch society and culture. Many accrue significant debt in the form of student loans.
The National Ombudsman calls on the Dutch government, and in particular Ms Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), Mr Raymond Knops, State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK), and their counterparts on the islands, to do everything possible to ensure that Caribbean students find studying in the Netherlands as straightforward as possible. They must actively seek cooperation to remove practical obstacles and provide all necessary support. Reinier van Zutphen: “Our investigation reveals some serious shortcomings. Action to resolve the issues will ensure that future students need not face the same difficulties and can use the qualifications they gain in the Netherlands as the basis of a successful career.”