We have five basic or elementary schools on the island; four of them are Catholic. They are under the direction of the R.K. Schoolbestuur (Roman Catholic School Board), and at the head of the board is Nilva Wout. Once a teacher herself she has been the director of the board since 2001.
Nilva was born on August 10, 1959, in Rincon. She was raised in a family with seven brothers and sisters. Even as a small girl she always wanted to be a teacher. She and her brothers and sisters all liked books and loved to read. When Nilva finished elementary school she went to high school in Curaçao, continuing her education at the teachers' college there. "I remember that time as the best time of my life," she says. "I liked to study and there was freedom to learn." She had many friends and, as she says, "It was a nice social time and a great experience."
She returned to Bonaire in 1980 and started teaching the sixth grade at Kolegio San Luis Bertran, the elementary school in Rincon. At that time she was the youngest teacher in the school. She had a good working relationship with all the other teachers, the children - everyone.
Deciding after 10 years that she would like to become a teacher of Dutch she went to Holland to the University in Tilburg. But after beginning those studies she changed her direction and began studying literature and linguistics. It was very easy for her, she says. She found the study very interesting, and she felt very much at home right away. Because she was an older student many of the younger ones came to her for advice. She felt she got a well-rounded education in Holland, and when she returned to Bonaire in 1993 she began to see things in a different way.
She started working for SEK (Sekson Edukashon y Cultura), organizing courses for teachers, including courses in Papiamentu. Through experimenting she found that it is better to begin using Papiamentu exclusively for educating young children. She believes the way we teach our children Dutch here is not the ideal way. (Then and now all courses are taught in Dutch.) Nilva maintains that "The lessons should be given in Papiamentu. Everything should be in Papiamentu, as well as the books. I have always wanted this and I hope it happens in the future." A questionnaire was sent out to teachers, children, parents and others, asking whether they thought Papiamentu should be the main language in the schools. Most of the people replied that it should be a mixture of Dutch and Papiamentu.
In 1998 Nilva went to work at the SGB (high school) part time as a Dutch teacher. Her reason was because she had a little boy, Kendrik, and she wanted to spend more time with him. "But," she says, "It was very difficult. You cannot have good contact with the children and the other teachers because the school is just too big." Nonetheless she worked there for three years.
When she saw an advertisement in the paper that they needed a Director for the Catholic School Board she applied and got the job. "I find the job has a lot of variety," she says, "and I like it. I must check to make sure everything goes smoothly at each of the schools." She believes the schools here are very advanced, and "Now that we have the new educational foundation system we should be successful." She also believes the Skol di Bario (neighborhood after-school program) is very good, but the organizers need to work a little harder.
The message Nilva Wout would like to leave us with is that everyone needs to take education more seriously. The young children need to read more and seek out information. Parents need to spend more time with their children. She also hopes that in the future there will be a high school in Rincon because she notices that when the children of Rincon come to Playa (Kralendijk) they often drop out very soon. She hopes that everything will go well with the new system and that it will be successful.