English teacher Marisoli Joseph (seated) with some of her new students at SMTF


CAY HILL--The popularity of the World Bank-funded Emergency Income Support and Training Programme (EISTP), managed by St. Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF), continues to exceed all expectations.

  The new six-month cycle, which started in the first weeks of June saw enrolment figures increase by 36 per cent. There are now 1,087 persons enrolled in the EISTP programme at SMTF.

  "We are of course very proud and extremely happy that so many people have enrolled in our programme," said Program Director Sergio Wolff. “It is a testament to the hard work all stakeholders are putting into this programme, but more importantly, it shows the need for training and income support on the island even two years after Hurricane Irma,”

  Enrolled students receive financial support (stipend) for attending classes and successfully completing the programme, as well as medical coverage and a small transportation allowance. In addition to classes in hospitality, culinary arts and construction, the programme now offers students courses in English as Second Language (ESL) and St. Maarten History and Culture. The two new courses are given in collaboration with University of St. Martin (USM).

  “The majority of the local workforce consists of people who are not native English speakers or were not born (in St. Maarten). Our students are very eager to learn English, as many of them never had the opportunity or money to take formal English classes,” explains Duzanson, who is Head of Communication and Counselling at SMTF.

  The ESL classes are designed to teach students the basics of the English language over a period of twelve weeks. It includes vocabulary, grammar and also practical listening and conversational skills. The nine-week cultural programme delves into the history and culture of St. Maarten and covers all the important social aspects. Both programmes were a long time in the making and have been very well received, it was stated in a press release.

  “We had students leaving the classes giving us high fives with big smiles; thankful for the opportunity. Especially the ESL students were very appreciative to finally get a chance to learn English,” Wolff said.

  Even students who were born and raised in St. Maarten are very happy with the Cultural Programme.

  One local student said she learned things about St. Maarten she didn't even know existed or had occurred. The EISTP is the only social programme in the country that provides direct financial support to participants in the form of a biweekly stipend. It caters to persons who are unemployed or underemployed and provides training in hospitality, culinary arts and construction. It is a collaborative effort financed through the World Bank between the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA, the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) and the SMTF.

  Persons, who would like to participate in the programme are first vetted by the Labour Department. Criteria such as immigration status, level of unemployment and residency are used to determine eligibility. Once eligibility has been established by the Labour Department, the applicant is transferred to SMTF to complete the enrolment process. Interested persons can contact the Labour Department or call SMTF at tel. 520-7574 for more information. SMTF is located at the Hillside Christian Schools’ Asha Stevens Campus in Cay Hill.