Alice Mapenzi Kubo was born in Kenya’s Kilifi District.
She’s been a resident of the Netherlands since 2001, having studied business administration in tourism at Breda University of Applied Sciences, followed by a Master’s in international development at the University of Amsterdam.
She is the author of The Abolition of School Fees in Africa and currently works as the Programme Manager for Africa at Child Helpline International.
In recent years, the Netherlands has made big international headlines. The government fell twice. A politician was banned from entering the UK because of his political views. And then there are the strict immigration policies that forced a Dutch MP to resign and migrate to another country. To outsiders, it may seem difficult for a foreigner to live in this country, but there's a flip side to that coin.
By Alice Mapenzi Kubo
Six years ago, an African friend of mine moved to the Netherlands to pursue a PhD at her own expense. She excelled in her studies and was offered a job as an assistant lecturer. Not so long after she had started her new job, the university assisted in bringing her family over. The kids speak fluent Dutch by now and are already in school. She once confided to me: “This country sometimes has bad politics, but at least if you are here legally, the system works for you and not against you.”
In my case, I have the people and the government of the Netherlands to thank for my education at two Dutch universities. I received studiefinanciering (student grants), just like the Dutch students. My lectures and exams in the first years were, however, in Dutch, a very difficult language. How did I manage to pass?
The education system here is such that students with learning disabilities receive extra support. 'Disabilities' may vary from dyslexia to language difficulties. Unlike in some countries, where deans, if they help, feel they are doing the student a favour, in the Netherlands, the team of deans, student counsellors, university lecturers and administrative staff feels it is their responsibility to ensure students get the help they need. I am grateful to all the university staff who assisted me, and those who taught, did so with passion. Bless them all!
Two years ago in Liberia, to my great surprise, I met a government minister who also had the Netherlands to thank for her higher education. As it happened to be International Women’s Day when we were scheduled to meet, she was extremely busy. Yet she had wanted to learn more about the NGO I work for, Child Helpline International.
“Sorry, my schedule today was hectic and I depart for a mission abroad tomorrow. This is the only time I could meet you," she said. She seemed truly excited to meet a Dutch delegate, so to speak. In view of her tight schedule, though, I couldn't help but wonder why she made the extra effort.
"I have the Dutch government to thank for a scholarship to pursue my Master’s degree at the ISS," she explained, referencing the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. That opportunity had made her profoundly grateful to her host country. As she put it: "No matter how busy I get in life, I will always have time for the Dutch.”