Prime Minister issues Back to School Message

August 9, 2023  -PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten— As Prime Minister of St. Maarten, an educator at heart and dedicated parent, I take time today to say a few encouraging words to all students, parents and educators starting school today, whether it is as a first timer, or returning to continue this very important journey in life. Nelson Mandela stated these words which have shaped my life and the way I work: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and “Education is the great engine of personal development.” In recognition of this, education becomes all our business as we seek to build a Nation ensuring St. Maarten and her people are stronger and more resilient to all that happens in the world.

To our students starting for the first time at whichever level, be it kindergarten, secondary or tertiary school, I say to you, congratulations. Congratulations on the first step in the next phase of your learning and growth, as education is a lifelong journey. I encourage you to never grow tired of learning and developing into the very best version of you. The nerves, excitement and fear you feel for the unknown ahead is necessary, so use it to channel your energy towards being open to all the new experiences you will have. Grab every opportunity to learn something new, to explore yourself, our country, and the world as you find what you are truly passionate about.

To the returning students I say pretend today is your first day ever. Yes, remember that excitement of your very first day. There are so many children around the world deprived of an opportunity to go to school. Today is a day to do even better than you did last year, especially if you know you did not do your best. Know that what you put in, you will get out. So put your best foot forward and keep on trying even when things seem difficult. Overcoming difficulties helps us to grow and appreciate that achievement even more.

Start your new school year with gratitude for your parents, family, teachers and all who make it possible for you to be able to go to school. Make use of every opportunity to be best you can be, as well as to be as kind, compassionate and caring to your classmates, peers, teachers and all who you encounter on your day.

Parents, you are your children’s first teachers, it is your responsibility to train them to be great citizens for St. Maarten and the world. It is the most important job in your life. A life, which you’ve brought into the world is a precious gift, to guide, nurture and mold to be the best they can be. Schools are places where this development is continued, but your role is critical. Pay attention to ensure that your child continues to grow and develop, by knowing what they need to learn, ensuring they have the tools and space to do so, and checking on their progress with their teachers. Ensure they get enough rest, healthy food and movement. A balanced life allows for proper development. When you need help in any of these areas, ask for it. As a community and government we are here to support active and positive parenting. It indeed takes a village and we must build strong children to ensure our country survives. We cannot speak of a future without acting towards it today. We all play a role.

Parenting is an awesome responsibility which never ends, I wish you much courage, strength, hope, and faith as you step into that responsibility towards your children today and every day. There is a famous quote from a poem by William Ross Wallace, “The hand that rocks the cradle controls the world.” Never forget your influence and your impact in the lives of you children.

To the school family of teachers, caretakers, management, and all staff, I say a special thank you. You have chosen to work in a field that can be the most impactful to the individual child, parent, and family and by extension to the entire island and the world. To teach is to touch lives, and I’d like to add, once you are part of a student’s day, you are making a difference, so do so with intention. Make each encounter with the child entrusted to your care one that builds them up, helps them on their journey, and positively impacts their development and their lives.

I pray that you start your new school year with hope, faith, and love. I pray that you touch the lives of our students positively with compassion and equity, that you model the behavior you want to see in our youth. As educators you work together with a team, which includes parents. Nurture that relationship as well in the interest of your students.

We, students, parents, and people of St. Maarten on a whole should all give thanks for the bus drivers, school custodians, administrative and auxiliary staff, teachers and assistants, care coordinators, social workers, psychologists, management and staff, school boards and staff and Ministry of Education. Without all these mentioned our students could not have schools to attend.

May God bless all, students, parents, and educators, today and everyday as you go through this new school year. Your journey starts with a single step, step into it with an attitude of gratitude, with goals of success and happiness and continue to work at it each day.

Congratulations as you start on the journey of school year 2023/2024 – May all your dreams come true, and all your goals be achieved! Believe it, work for it, achieve it!

Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs

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