Kids on Dutch Caribbean islands get too few opportunities to shine: Netherlands advocate

Kralendijk, Bonaire
Kralendijk, Bonaire . (Photo: Bgabel / Wikimedia Commons)

Children and young people on the Dutch Caribbean islands have too few possibilities "to develop their talents", Children Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer said in a new report published on Wednesday. On paper the kids on Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have the same rights as other children in the Netherlands. "But in practice, we see that the bar for children in the Dutch Caribbean is much lower", Kalverboer said, according to the Volkskrant. "We have two standards. That can and must not be."

For the report the Children's Ombudsman spoke to about 200 children on the three "special Dutch municipalities". Another 264 kids filled out a questionnaire. The report states that, for all three islands, children in difficult situations did not complete the questionnaire, so the results may be "somewhat more positive" than the reality.

The biggest problem for children on Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius is education. The children are not challenged enough. Especially young people in high school complain about inadequate teachers and missed lessons. Parents aren't always capable, or don't have the time, to help in this area. 

Adults on the three islands often say that the cost of living is too high, and the level of salaries and benefits too low. For children this translates to "poverty" problems at home, resulting in them sometimes eating too little or too unhealthy. Despite this, children and young people give their own lives a high score of 8 out of 10. This mainly has to do with their life at home with parents and relatives. The majority of kids are very happy about this part of their lives.

In the introduction to the report, Kalverboer praises the "great optimism and resilience" of the young people on the Dutch Caribbean islands. More than other kids in the Netherlands, the kids on these three islands know how to make the best of situations that children on mainland Netherlands experience as difficult or unfair. 

Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are considered "special municipalities" of the Netherlands. While the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten are autonomously countries within the kingdom.