Van Deventer-Maas Stichting

Although the Van Deventer-Maas Foundation was established in 1947, to understand its history we need to go further back in time to 1880, when the young Conrad T. (‘Coen’) van Deventer, recently graduated from Leiden University’s Law Faculty, and his young bride Elisabeth M. (Betsy) Maas, left for Indonesia where they lived for 17 years, first in Ambon and later in Semarang. Van Deventer was a friend of the Regent of Jepara and in 1881, on a visit to the Regent’s house, he met the Regent’s 12-year old daughter R.A. Kartini.

Coen and Betsy returned to Holland in 1897, and in 1899 van Deventer published his article ‘Een eereschuld’ (‘a debt of honour’) in the journal De Gids. He argued that the Netherlands had the moral obligation to return to Indonesia some of the many millions which had been extracted from the colony, by large-scale investments in the Indonesian people’s welfare.. Van Deventer devoted the rest of his public life to colonial policy issues, and was the principal spokesman for the new so-called ‘Ethical Policy’. In 1905 he was elected as a Member of the Dutch Parliament, where he consistently spoke up for provision of more and better education, irrigation, credit facilities, roads and railways, emigration from Java to Sumatra, and regulations to combat opium addiction.

In 1912, shortly after his election to the Dutch Senate, Coen and Betsy made an extended return visit to Indonesia. This visit confirmed their impression that colonial policies had so far done little to promote education, with only about 5 per cent of Indonesian children (and hardly any girls) having access to formal education. He and Betsy had been greatly influenced by the letters of Kartini. Within a few years Coen and Betsy and their and his friends collected funds to establish four new Foundations: The Kartini Fund, the Van Deventer Foundation, the Tjandi Foundation and the Max Havelaar Fund – the four foundations which were later incorporated into the Van Deventer-Maas Stichting - all aimed to promote education for Indonesians.After van Deventer’s death in 1915, his friends and Betsy Maas established the Van Deventer Foundation in his memory, to provide secondary schools for Indonesian girls.

The Max Havelaar Fund and the Tjandi Foundation gave interest-free loans to a small number of young Indonesian students to study in the Netherlands. Being among the very small numbers of Dutch-educated graduates in the early 20th century, most of them rose to positions of influence in colonial society and in the new Republic of Indonesia after independence.

The Kartini Fund and the Van Deventer Foundation, and the fourteen schools which they sponsored, made a difference in the lives of much larger numbers of Indonesian girls and young women – several thousands in the period 1913-1942. By the end of the 1930s the seven Kartini Schools were enrolling about 1500 girls each year – many or most of them from relatively modest social backgrounds - for a good quality education, until their activities came to a virtual standstill with the German occupation of The Netherlands in 1940 and Japanese occupation of the Netherlands Indies in 1942,

Although she never visited Indonesia after her husband’s death, Betsy Maas took an intense personal interest in the Kartini and Van Deventer schools. She contributed money to them, served for more than 20 years on the Board of the Van Deventer Foundation, and kept in contact by post with the teachers, pupils and alumni of the Van Deventer Schools. Each graduating student received a letter of congratulation and a silver pencil as a personal gift from Betsy Maas.

Coen and Betsy Maas had no children. On her death in 1942, 84 years old and more than 25 years a widow, Betsy Maas left a large part of her considerable wealth to establish a new foundation, the Van Deventer-Maas Foundation that was to have as its main objective ‘to promote the provision of education to, and the development and education of Indonesians, in particular the education of Indonesian girls’. More than 60 years after Betsy Maas’ death, the VDMS continues to use the income from this bequest to promote the ideals of R.A. Kartini, Coen Van Deventer and Betsy Maas, in accordance with her wishes.

The Van Deventer-Maas Stichting was formally established in April 1947, and in its early years supported a useful but rather scattered set of activities and projects. This was understandable in the situation of newly-independent Indonesia, recovering from the two difficult decades of the 1930s Great Depression, the Japanese occupation and the Independence war. All kinds of institutions and individuals were in need of help, and the sources of formal, institutional support (whether by government, bilateral or multilateral aid programmes or by the large foundations such as Ford and Rockefeller) were only beginning to come into play. In 1979 the Tjandi and Van Deventer Foundations were incorporated into the VDMS, as had been previously done with the Kartini Fund, and the 1980s and 1990s saw a re-focusing of the VDMS’ activities, returning it closer to its basic mission of supporting Indonesian education. Another important change was the shift in scholarships provision from The Netherlands to Indonesia, as the availability quality of tertiary education in Indonesia improved.

Currently the VDMS provides about 800 scholarships every year to talented young Indonesians of modest backgrounds, in 35 universities and colleges and one secondary school. VDMS also provides short courses to its scholarship recipients to enhance their soft skills (i.e. personal, social and intellectual abilities) and possibilities in the job market. In keeping with the VDMS statutes and the ideals of Betsy Maas, in recent years women have been recipients of 68 percent of all VDMS scholarship awards.

The VDMS Board in The Netherlands Board sees to the good management of the Foundation’s assets and income, decides on any changes in the Foundation’s strategy and policy, and approves the annual budget and accounts. The Indonesia office has the task to implement the Foundation’s policies (the scholarships programme, capacity-building projects and training courses, alumni relations etc.) in Indonesia. In 2017 it is planned to establish a new Indonesian Foundation, the Yayasan Van Deventer-Maas Indonesia, with its own Executive and Advisory Boards.