I wrote last week about SKOA*, and I am picking up on the subject.

That above mentioned column was also read by the MinEdu and she commented the following: SKOA has not brought forward what additional funds it needs to cover any shortage in fees. It is good to know that all costs SKOA submits are paid by the government. They are 100% subsidized, however they also have other income from other streams such as building rentals to third parties, and school fees etc. Without qualified expenses submitted, the government cannot pay any additional monies. The department of finance can reimburse schools based on their substantiated reporting. Also: The education budget is approx 286 million florins per year; it is equal to anywhere between 4 – 6% of the GDP and 21% of all government expenditure. It’s one of the highest in the world, according to a UNESCO analysis. Is it enough? Of course not, The MinEdu would like to allocate 50% of the island’s budget if she had her way, but the reality is that there are inefficiencies in the system that have accumulated over decades, such as ordering supplies from Europe, so that patterns and habits must change in order to introduce innovations!

Talking to some other friends I found out the following disturbing reality: The SKOA schools, 48 of them, offering education from Kindergartens through high school, belong to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Willemstad. While the real estate belongs to the Diocese, the upkeep of the school in on the government’s dime, and the teacher’s salaries and support staff, are paid by the government. The Diocese doesn’t maintain nor support the school financially. HOWEVER, it dictates and controls the curriculum, including religious teachings across the board.  Really, nothing for upkeep?  Nothing. Also from what I understand it is now public knowledge that half of the board resigned: While the director is on long term “vacation,” other board members resigned. I don’t know what it means exactly, but it cannot be good.

As you all know the issue of school fees is in court, and became totally political when a member of parliament in the opposition party took it over, calling a suggested increase in school fees from Awg 75/year to Awg 125/year , brutal and unfounded.  Another case is also in court to establish the fact that free education here means totally free, not a cent of parent participation.

The mentality of charging everything to the government, and leaving it all in government hands, doesn’t contribute to a successful educational system.

*SKOA, Stichting Katholiek Onderwijs Aruba, the network of Catholic schools on Aruba.