She has 12 years of professional experience as a teacher. Still, Simone from Surinam does not come to work in the Netherlands, while there is a great shortage of teachers here. She would love nothing more than to stand in front of the class, but the current rules make that nearly impossible.
Due to family matters, Simone* (34) and her 6-year-old daughter moved from Suriname to the Netherlands in February this year. She was short of cash, had even sold her car to pay for a plane ticket, and hoped to get a job as a teacher soon. But it turned out differently, with the result that she cannot afford a house and has to go to the food bank.
Little chance of a job
“I tried it through a temp agency, a flex placement agency, a secondment agency,” sums up Simone. “I got a lot of positive reactions, I went to different schools but was always told that they couldn’t help me apply for a work and residence permit.”
To be allowed to work in the Netherlands, people like Simone must apply for a work and residence permit from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). But the chance of such an application being successful is very small, says general coordinator Maarten Goeziens of the Rotterdam Undocumented Support Center (ROS).
Minimum 3500 euros per month
Why? “The main distinction that is made is whether someone is from the EU or not. Someone from Poland or Portugal can come here without much trouble,” he explains. “But if you come from outside the EU, you must already find an employer in your home country who will offer you an employment contract. That contract must then meet all possible conditions. It must, for example, be a one-year contract. and the salary at least 3,500 euros per the month. Many employers cannot meet those conditions”.
Schools often don’t want to burn their hands, notes Simone. “I am often told: there is no point in applying for a work and residence permit, because IND will reject it anyway. It is not the school managers’ fault, because they say: if it is up to me, I can get employed.”
CEO from Singapore
According to Goeziens from ROS, the rules are designed to make it easier for companies to recruit highly trained employees from abroad. “The companies really appreciate that. Of course, those companies pay much higher wages than, for example, education or healthcare.”
It is logical and necessary that there are laws and regulations so that not everyone can come to work in the Netherlands, emphasizes Goeziens. “But there should be more room for secondarily qualified foreign workers: people in the construction industry, people in care. We see that the current rules are really only suitable for a company like Philips that wants a top manager from Singapore. It happens. also on assembly lines, while you could bring supply and demand together on the labor market much more logically.”
Teachers without classroom teaching
Meanwhile, Simone notices from her environment that the demand in the Dutch education system is high. “I have nieces here who are all complaining. One is starting a college education and one is starting HAVO 5. They all say: we have teachers for the class who have not received any teacher training.”
This frustrates Simone: “They just open a book and read it. The students don’t understand everything, but they just put those people in front of the class because they have Dutch nationality. Then it doesn’t matter if they eat cheese.”
Special ties to the Netherlands
According to current regulations, it is possible to recruit teachers from other EU countries. “But to be honest, I think: you want to address countries within the EU, but those people do not speak Dutch at all. You then have to invest so much in someone, because that person still has to learn your language and adapt in all possible areas,’ says Simone.
“We have been a colony of the Netherlands in Suriname for so long,” she continues. “Dutch is our mother tongue. So I don’t know why it is made so difficult for teachers from Surinam. We have a special bond with Holland. Why don’t they want us?”
‘Education has become a business model’
With his ROS foundation, Goeziens would like IND to reconsider the current procedures and working methods. “We understand that as a government you cannot tolerate that everyone from all over the world can come to the Netherlands. You have to agree on laws and regulations for that,” he says.
“But the education system is also designed for foreign students. It has simply become a revenue model that we can no longer do without. And yet we make it extremely difficult for certain groups.”
Lack of occupation
Goeziens believes that IND should look much more at cases per person and provide tailored solutions. According to him, they could work with the list of so-called ‘shortage occupations’ – a list that the UWV already regularly publishes. “Who do we really need here and who don’t? Look at the market for supply and demand and what is urgently needed in the Netherlands. Agree with students that they can study here if it is a sector, where the need is great.”
“The problems are so great that it is almost impossible to manage with Dutch staff,” says Goeziens. “Using the list of shortage companies to select foreign labor therefore seems to me a logical idea. Large shortages in education, construction or childcare could be solved in this way.”
Going back is not an option
For Simone, everyday life now consists of uncertainty. “I don’t know how to go on because going back is not an option for me,” she says. “Where do I get the money to pay a ticket back? And if I can go back, I’m on the street with my child. Because I don’t have a home there anymore, I don’t have a job. I have nothing.”
Simone and her daughter are currently keeping their heads above water with food packages from the food bank. In terms of accommodation, they commute between Rotterdam and Amsterdam with various relatives and acquaintances. “But everyone’s been having a hard time lately, so you don’t want to push yourself too hard.”
Daughter offers comfort
The hardest thing for Simone is that her young daughter inadvertently learns a lot from her problems.
“As a mother, I try to stay strong, but there are times when the tears just come,” she says. “My daughter notices the situation when I’m sad. Then she tries to comfort me. Then she says: ‘Mom, everything will be fine. You just have to find work.”
* In order not to interfere with her license application, Simone only wishes to tell her story anonymously. Her real name is known to the editors.