Is local politics fun?
This is the question the 16 and 17 year-old students of the Rijnlands International School of Oegstgeest were asked on the sunny afternoon of the 5th of March. Topics such as: what is politcs, what is power and how does this relate to democracy were discussed in an interactive manner. Students as far as the USA, Italy, Egypt, India, South Africa and Belgium got an introduction to how Dutch local politics works. This all in light of the coming local elections on the 21st of March.
A third of the 50 students live in Oegstgeest and some are first-time voters. Present to answer questions and give insight to how local politics actually works, were municipal council members Sven Spaargaren (VVD), Lydie Vellema (D66), Steyn Burger (PrO), Tobias van der Hoeven (CDA) en Liselote Davidson (CDA), Jaap van der Broek (HvO) and Eelke van den Ouweelen (Lokaal). Tips by the youngsters on how to reach young voters included using social media, organising more such face-to-face events and addressing issues that are relevant to them.
The mayor of Oegstgeest, Emile Jaensch, surprised the students by telling them that the building, where the municipal council resides, was historically a mental institution. "Is it heavy to wear?" The mayor's Chain of Office was an intriguing object to one of the students. Furthermore he explained his responsabilities as mayor and responded to raised questions, such as regional co-operation and his view on whether a mayor should be appointed or chosen.
The students left inspired by the local politicians and their drive was to be commended. This feeling was mutual. The politicians are ready to face the upcoming elections! Moderator Lydie Vellema (D66): "I was very impressed by the students' knowledge and skills to debate."
"Especially, many thanks to Mathijs Hekkelman, head of the international school of the Rijnlands, for his co-operation. I hope more of these kind of events will be organised during the next 4 years."