Thanks to his work placement, De Fockert is somewhat used to the committee rooms of the Dutch Lower House. He will be spending a lot of time there in the coming year – for instance, to keep an eye on what exactly is happening in terms of the newly to-be-reintroduced student grants.
De Fockert is the only male on the board, but he doesn’t care about that, he says, full of enthusiasm. “We all clicked at once and I’m looking forward to it!” says the 25-year-old student. Along with chairwoman Terri van der Velden, official secretary Lara Slaats, member without a portfolio Wieb Devilee and treasurer Melanie Rozengarden, he will enter into office on 25 June. Starting from that day, ISO’s new board will promote the interests of 800,000 students in the Netherlands.
The red-haired student and sailing coach is currently doing a master’s degree in International Public Management and Public Policy at EUR, but does not live in Rotterdam or The Hague. “My circle of friends is very close. We’ve known each other ever since primary school in Lunteren, a village in Gelderland. We all moved to Utrecht together at the time, and I ended up staying there. It was fun. It helped me discover first Amsterdam and then Rotterdam as student towns, mostly.”
In your capacity as a student, what kind of problems have you encountered?
“I myself noticed that, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, when we spent most of our time at home for two and a half years, students I was close with were experiencing mental health issues. It’s absolutely vital that we’re given a chance to make the most of our potential, but there was hardly any opportunity for that. Personally, I didn’t really get to experience the stereotypical student life either. It was harder to get to know people and there were fewer things to do. It’s a bit better now, but students are still struggling with it.”
Why did you wish to serve on ISO’s board?
“Although the last couple of years have been a bit disappointing due to the pandemic, I did really enjoy being a student, so I thought it might be a nice idea to pay it forward to students in the Netherlands. I will get started at the ISO in late June, which is also when I’m graduating. So life will be hectic for a bit, but I’m confident I’ll be able to work hard right from the start.”
You did a work placement with the Considerati consulting firm, which specialises in public policy. Did you learn anything there that you think will come in handy while you serve on ISO’s board?
“I’d say I probably have an edge when it comes to knowledge of politics as practised in The Hague. I’d regularly visit the committee rooms in The Hague during the course of my degree programme, and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science too.”
Your job will be to promote students’ interests in politics. What exactly does that mean?
“I’ll be spending a lot of time talking things over with representative bodies – for instance Erasmus University’s advisory board. In addition, I will talk to people in The Hague – politicians, ministers and political assistants, political parties. The objective is to discuss the interests promoted by the representative bodies with them and to convince them by presenting solid arguments.”
What do you hope to achieve by the end of your year on the board?
“There’s a lot going on at the moment, but student grants will definitely be reintroduced. I really want to make sure that this is done in a way that benefits students as well. I myself have a considerable student loan to pay off. I’d like to see that change now. By now the politicians in The Hague have begun to realise that they must be more lenient to students, but we have to make sure that they don’t lose sight of our point of view. I want students to have a less heavy workload.”