Conference Report Part 3


Henk Oosterling on Skillcity

Rotterdam was in the top 10 of Lonely Planet’s best in travel 2016.  In the past Rotterdam was known for its industrial character. A city inhabited by immigrants with low paid jobs and a weaker socio-culturally developed situation. However, in 40 years Rotterdam’s socio-economic infrastructure has changed dramatically. The city turned into a global village. During this period of development, growth was not consistently present amongst all groups. Many lower paid and lesser schooled groups weren’t able to tune in with these changes. This resulted in a lot of school drop out for example. The rate of unemployed individuals within these groups is higher compared to the average rate of unemployment in the Netherlands. This is what also happened in the South of Rotterdam.

The South of Rotterdam is known for its social-cultural and socio-economic situation, which is slowly getting better but there’s still a lot of room for more improvement. Growing up there can bring quite some challenges. Growing up in the South myself, I’ve seen the things Oosterling talked about. And I really admire him for trying to make a change, helping the children to develop themselves to their fullest potential.

Skillcity is a project designed for children growing up in the South of Rotterdam. It provides a bottom up analysis as Oosterling explained, in order to narrow the socio-cultural gap between different groups. It’s an all-round concept, where children in elementary school learn a diverse set of skills or competences. Cultural education and social skills are being connected to give the children a strong foundation. The program contains artistic, sportive, cultural, social and communicative aspects. For example, the children get judo lessons, gardening lessons and learn how to prepare food. The program has the character of a loop, as students of intermediate vocational education (MBO) and students of higher vocational education (HBO) are also participating in the project by assisting the children with sports or cultural activities on primary school (the former) and assisting in care or classroom activities (the latter). Economy students also assist, by helping to make business plans. These students, from MBO, HBO and university also function as role models to the children.

After Oosterling told about Skillcity, there was plenty of room for questions and discussion. Overall Oosterling’s seminar was truly inspiring and beyond expectations and expectations were high. What touched me the most was his dedication to help these children. During the question round someone in the audience asked about Oosterling’s personal background and it turned out that Oosterling once was a child growing up in the South of Rotterdam. He knows exactly what it’s like and he uses his life experience to help others.

By Pooja Guptar 





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