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Schoolnews: a tribute to the late Vance James Jr.


St. Maarten – Schoolnews is a one-time publication by Jabez Consulting Group International. The 96-page booklet is a tribute to the late Vance James Jr., and in contains one of the last interviews James gave before his death at age 58 on January 1, 2008.
The interview with James took place in November 2007, a couple of months before his death. In it, James professes his support for education in the mother tongue. “I realized that having Dutch as the language of instruction brought too many challenges, too many barriers. I saw that this would limit the opportunities for many of our students,” James is quoted as saying.
James also offered some advice to parents. Know their friends, their fears and their goals, he said, but never say that you are their buddy. “Your relationship with your child is much deeper than just friendship.”
Publisher Robert Espitia laced Schoolnews with interviews with school directors like John Wolff (Milton Peters College), Shareed Hussain (St. Maarten Academy), and Jose Sommers (Dominic High); there are also interviews with former prosecutor Taco Stein, the former manager of Zenitel Rob Hogenboom, and parliamentarian George Pantophlet.
In between these interviews there are articles about the value of studying, communicating with teachers, homework and absenteeism.
The interview with Pantophlet focuses on the MP’s vow to always keep his promises. That goes back, according to the interview, to the day Pantophlet worked at the immigration department where he was one day confronted with a little boy that had been found wandering the streets alone. The boy said that his mom was out with friends and that he did not know who his dad was.
Pantophlet’s advice to children: “Get a good education because when hiring, companies and businesses need a capable workforce and not just a local St. Maartener. Be proud to be a local St. Maartener, but you must know that a good education will take you places you never imagined you would go, local St. Maartener or no local St. Maartener.”
Former prosecutor Taco Stein, asked about how to deal with troubled youth, mentioned prevention and adequate staffing of the relevant institutions with social workers. For the kids themselves, Stein said, “I want to see training opportunities, as opposed to punishment, community service and prison time.”
But when asked how to deal with the rise in youth crime, the former chief prosecutor pointed to the government: “One thing would be pressure from our community to motivate government to change things for the better. It’s not that the government does not want to do it, but the possibilities are limited. We need to stop talking about changing things and simply do it.”
Publisher Robert Espitia organized a seminar entitled education: the lifeblood of St. Maarten in 2007, and the publication of Schoolnews is a follow up of that seminar. Espitia realized that the schools he attended in the eighties are these days encountering challenges like gang violence. Schoolnews is his contribution to tackle these problems.
Espitia dedicated Schoolnews to the late Vance James Jr. “When I first arrived in St. Maarten from my native Colombia in 1974 I considered Vance to be one of my mentors,” he writes in the magazine. He followed James’ radio program Sound of the shell and admired his gift for public speaking.

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