1975-1985 Dries van den Akker

Reminiscing about Sint Maartenscollege…

In the late seventies Sint Maartenscollege was a school full of various personal and creative initiatives. Headmaster Father Muskens managed to control all of this with his witty humour and a form of restraint that demanded respect.

Dick Schuur (Social Science), who sent the pupils of the upper school off to find out what student life was like, what the consequences were of refusing to serve in the army, what it was like to live on of your own? and expected them to report back about their findings.

The question ‘Is there life after Sint Maarten’s?’ was answered by Sjoerd Arts, Ton Andringa, Henk Ruhe and a few other enlightened souls who designed a lesson-synopsis which crossed all department lines.

Jan Nieboer with his own original view of Physical Education. Jan van Luyn who by himself designed a completely new educational structure.

Jan Heykoop and his educational reforms for the HAVO-department. The training-week in Vormingscentrum Gees for the HAVO-4 classes. At one point we had a coach who was into Baghwan. He practiced emotional blackmail on the pupils, which was such an irresponsible thing to do that we sent him away. During the usual variety-show we managed to get over his nonsense by ridiculing him and laughing aloud at his antics.

The play Bloed en Liefde, written by Godfried Bomands, directed by Gerard Korfage and performed in 1979 by colleagues, in which I – a Jesuit priest – playing the part of Charles V, had to abduct Rina van Maanen and carry her off on my shoulders.

Chris Fictoor with new forms of Musical Education.

The noble mr. Verheyen who performed the Punic (or Persian?) Wars with a wastebasket on his head and waving his pointer-stick.

The exciting ‘Paris Project’ designed by Teun Bakels and Marion de Grijs, which taught the first-formers how to find their way in the Paris city-centre .

I remember how, when Father Muskens left the school, we honoured him with a Muscantate, written by us, composed by Chris Fictoor and performed by students, colleagues and parents.

And last but not least the assemblies, sometimes in the gymnasium of the Wijert building, sometimes in a city church, once even in the great St. Martin’s Church, where four girls from class 2 or 3, in tight-fitting leotards, danced near the altar, to which my colleague Father Kemme remarked: ‘That’s something I could never afford to do.’

These assemblies were based on the Eucharist, but ever more playful and inventive. The traditional form no longer caught on with young pupils. So we found other ways to convey the rich content of Holy Mass. Such as the impressive funeral service in the Wijert gymnasium for Hanneke, the first-former in her wheelchair. ‘We should take to the streets with banners saying: “We do not agree!”’

Which brings me to the subject of the unparalleled ‘Brugklasteam’, the team of first- form class-teachers who met every Monday afternoon in the Wijert building. After one of those meetings, to break the tension of the long in-depth discussions, we decided to play a game of soccer in the hall downstairs. I shot the statue of the Virgin Mary right off her pedestal and thus decapitated Her. Sister Florentia lovingly and quietly repaired the damage.

A change in the policy of pupil-acquisition. Each year we could accommodate 180 new pupils in the first year, and each year nearly 300 pupils applied. Which of them had priority? Catholics of course. And so-called SMEP- cases (children with social, medical, educative or pedagogical indications).We held serious conversations with the parents to find out how sincere they were when they said they were Catholics. We had discussions till late at night to stand up for the people we had personally talked to. At one point the assessment-team wondered whether the Child Jesus would have been accepted if He had applied: not a Catholic; complicated family situation; not the biological child of an elderly father; an enterprising, intelligent and headstrong child. Eventually He would have been accepted as a serious case of SMEP.

At the beginning of each schoolyear we organized camps for the first-formers. I remember one year when we arrived at Schiermonnikoog with 180 pupils. We discovered that no food had been ordered for this group. Panic all around. The shops were about to close. So off to the supermarket, on the double. The manager remained icily calm. ‘Let’s have a seat first.’ But 180 pupils were waiting for their dinner! ‘And now for pen and paper…’

One phenomenon I should not forget to mention were the report meetings, chaired by Father Muskens. The colleague for Chemistry once remarked that a certain pupil ‘should have a pat on his bottom.’ An overenthusiastic Dutch colleague threatened to block the promotion of a first-former to grade two. Father Muskens put an end to the discussion by remarking: ‘Come on, sir, that’s exactly how you got your promotions.’

The sky was the limit. Everything was possible. Everything was put in practice. Too much. Until it was no longer possible. This was the period when, under headmaster Henk Ruhe (during how many general assemblies?) the organizational structure was completely overhauled. There was a lot of long-winded verbosity, sometimes beautifully and unintelligibly worded. Henk Ruhe enjoyed the hullaballoo: ‘After all this is a self-willed school, where anybody’s initiative and contribution are valued…’

Dries van den Akker SJ

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