Directness and prejudice, language development delays and a confusing tax system. Caribbean students face all sorts of problems in the Netherlands. They face study delays or even drop out, warns the National Ombudsman.
The students often have no idea what awaits them in the Netherlands. (Photo: Dalia Madi)

Directness and prejudice, language development delays and a confusing tax system. Caribbean students face all sorts of problems in the Netherlands.

Lees in het Nederlands

They face study delays or even drop out, warns the National Ombudsman.

It is survival of the fittest says 24 year old Business Administration student Karman from Bonaire about his move to the Netherlands. “The culture is completely different than in the Antilles. Here you really need to stand up for yourself and arrange everything yourself. And you also have to deal with loneliness. And you need to be able to live with the prejudices that everyone has.”

This is one example from a report entitled ‘Kopzorgen van Caribische studenten’ (the concerns of Caribbean students) that was published by the National Ombudsman today. Every year around 1,600 young people from Curaçao, Aruba, Saint Maarten and the Dutch Caribbean eagerly start studying here.

Running into problems
In practice, they run into problems for a host of different reasons. The students often have no idea what awaits them in the Netherlands, states the report. It is not only about studying, they also need to find accommodation and work out how public transport works.

One problem is that many young people from the Caribbean start their studies with language delays. They are expected to master Dutch to a high level at university or universities of applied sciences. But this is not easy if their mother tongue is Papiamento or English.

And then there are all sorts of bureaucratic struggles. Caribbean students do not have citizen service numbers on their respective islands and do not have a DigiD to arrange their affairs when they arrive. They are also not eligible for a healthcare allowance. If they apply for one by accident, they have to pay back a lot of money later.

A different sense of humour
Perhaps more importantly, Caribbean students are not always welcomed with open arms by their ‘blond haired blue eyed’ classmates. The latter are sometimes judgmental and can be direct and in your face. The difference in humour also makes making connections difficult.

The report warns that these elements together can mean that the students see themselves as second class citizens. They suffer more from psychological problems, have study delays and even drop out.

Action
The Cabinet must take action now, writes the National Ombudsman to Minister Van Engelshoven of Education. He argues for better information and psychological support, and for access to Dutch basic healthcare insurance and healthcare allowance. Further, the system for paying back study loans should be improved.

The researchers sent questionnaires to 624 Caribbean students, held in-depth interviews and round table discussions, and approached more than 15 organisations including the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the study funder DUO, student accommodation bodies, and organisations that support Caribbean students.

HOP, Evelien Flink