Religion was the foundation
There was no spiritual care for Protestants, until the Dutch government, i.e. the State, forced a preacher to visit Bonaire. When Reverend Arend 1. K. Meyer was appointed as preacher for Curaçao by Royal decree at the end of 1841, this was conditioned to obligatory regular visits to Bonaire. This obligation lasted until 1860.
A year and a half passed before rev. Meyer to complied with this duty and on July 2, 1843 the first “one public sermon for the protestant community” was delivered. This took place at the home of the widow Mrs. J.J. Debrot. In 1845, 86 Protestants lived on Bonaire. A small church was inaugurated on March 9, 1847.
Then there desire for a school
In 1848, esquire Isaak Joh. Rammelman Elsevier Jr., standing in for lt. governor Rutgers H. Esser whom he would succeed within a few months, all of a sudden decided to allot 800 Dutch guilders to start a public school. This was placed under the care of a protestant teacher, who also taught religion: Willem F. Meinhardt. Meinhardt in deed arrived in 1848 and started his school in 1849.
Appointed by government decree on April 30 that year, on an annual stipend of 200 Dutch guilders, Meinhardt was the first official teacher on Bonaire.
And a school building!
The preparation to bring teaching to Bonaire left a lot to be desired. Governor Isaac J. Rammelman Elsevier Jr., Esquire, had forgotten to arrange for a school building. A correspondence between the lt. governor and the governor starts in May 1849.
The lt. governor writes to the acting governor, that there is neither a school nor a home for Meinhardt. Rammelman Elsevier shows himself to be an easy-going administrator. He responds that he “counts on the cooperation of the island residents”. lt could not be simpler.
Originally with a second story
The Bonaireans did construct a school, however. We learn that in that same year the amount of 300 Dutch guilders, being the freedom price of the state slave Aldersina (Janga), is given for the construction of a state school. The school - the building next to the Protestant church and adjoining park - was completed on November 14, 1850. Construction cost was 3,254.55 Dutch guilders, of which 537.50 guilders was donated by private citizens, including 292 guilders from Curaçao.
The building originally had a second story which served as the schoolmaster’s home. During the tenure of lt. governor Herman F.G. Wagner (1859-1865) this second floor was demolished.
Low number of students, high level of education
Meinhardt did not have a genereus salary. Also, when he asked if he could deciare the necessary casts for teaching private children, this request was denied. His stipend was later increased to 300 Dutch guilders, however with the obligation to provide free teaching to 15 pupils. Until 1859, the upper floor of the school was also Meinhardt’s home. After that he received an extra 15 guilders monthly tor “house rent indemnification”. The school building was expanded a little bit in 1859, when it had 52 pupils. Meinhardt was provided housing elsewhere. He retired in 1872.
Despite the low number of students at Meinhardt’s small school, its quality of education seemed to have been at a remarkably high level. Even a few children trom Aruba were sent to the school in Bonaire.
From protestant to public school
The state school existed until 1915, which is when the Catholic mission opened a boys’ school (St. Dominicus School) run by the Frères of Tilburg. On the predominantly Catholic Bonaire, there were in fact no pupils to justify its existence.
In the mid 1930’s the favorable economy, as well as education laws adjusted in the meantime (which equated special education to public education), made it possible to open one public school on Bonaire next to the existing Catholic boys’ and girls’ schools. To do so, the church council of the Bonaire Protestant Community approached governor Bartholomeus W.T. van Slobbe for his cooperation on March 22, 1935. Based on the example of the earlier public school with Protestantism, the church council decided to open a public school and not a special protestant school.
From school to restaurant!
On May 16, 1939 the public school, later the Princess Beatrix School and nowadays the Rayo di Solo School, was re-opened in the old small building of the farmer state school. This started with 16 pupils and headmaster was Jacob van Zijl. In the 4 years that he worked on Bonaire he reached a maximum of 32 pupils.
In September 1951 the Princess Beatrix School was housed in the farmer Brian Kazerne (military barracks at the corner of what is now the Kaya Betico Croes and Kaya Grandi). In December 1953 this school had 64 pupils and an additional 10 pupils at the pre-school.
Starting 1951 the ‘Oranjeschool’ building has been used as an office for different government services, such as Timekeeping, the dentist, the ophthalmologist, the social housing foundation (Fundashon Cas Bonairiano), Government information/press office and now a restaurant.