A Letter from London: Strikes and Strikers

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Peter Ibbotson

There is rightful concern and alarm over the recent surge in strikes. Strikes have occurred at the Sack Factory, Forges Tardieu, the Sugar Planters Mechanical Pool, the Curepipe Town Council, and the Telecommunications Department. Why are these strikes happening? As Indra Nath rightly pointed out in a paper two weeks ago, workers are being exploited. This exploitation manifests in underpayment and excessive workloads, which I fully agree with. Nath also stressed the government’s responsibility to improve working conditions and wages for workers.

This necessitates the establishment of a wages board and a national wages policy. Despite opposition from Mr. Barrett and the TUC, with whom I have clashed earlier this year, a wages board remains essential until employers voluntarily ensure fair wages for their employees, regardless of the objections from Mr. Barrett & Co.

There is another form of exploitation faced by striking workers, which Nath did not explicitly mention. However, I have been mindful of it for some time. Since the General Election, the Labour Party has held a majority in government. Following the election, certain adversaries of the Labour Party openly declared their intent to embarrass the government by using strikes as a political tool. This strategy mirrors tactics employed by Communist and Trotskyist parties globally. For instance, the British Communist Party, like its French counterpart, openly seeks to achieve political goals through inciting industrial unrest. The current wave of unofficial “wildcat” strikes in the UK is influenced by a Trotskyist faction within trade unions. Similarly, in Mauritius, there are subversive elements, collectively referred to as the Destroyers, who exploit legitimate worker grievances to orchestrate strikes aimed at undermining the Labour MLC’s and their supporters nationwide. Their objective is to disillusion Labour Party supporters.

This brings us to the second type of exploitation. Workers have legitimate grievances, such as being underpaid. However, agents of the Destroyers exploit these grievances to instigate strikes. Demagogues amplify these legitimate complaints and lead workers (against their better judgment) into strikes and other forms of industrial action. These agents are not genuinely concerned with the strike itself; rather, they aim to exploit unrest for their own clandestine agendas. The proliferation of strikes since the election suggests a deliberate, covert movement orchestrated by the Destroyers for their selfish ends.

The Destroyers oppose workers’ progress, industrial peace, and economic advancement. They are staunch adversaries of the Labour Party, socialism, and the entire working class. Their ethos revolves around self-interest, prioritizing their own well-being above all else. They are a blight on the political landscape and must be rooted out like any other parasite.

Regrettably, the Destroyers possess considerable persuasive abilities. They prey on individuals with legitimate grievances, using their misery to fuel their selfish ambitions. The Destroyers are akin to political hyenas and pariahs.

As previously mentioned in this column, the path to socialism is neither easy nor swift. However, it is the path Mauritius must take for workers to attain fairness and justice from their employers. Workers must not jeopardize progress towards socialism by succumbing to the smooth-talking agents of the Destroyers or following their provocations.

Workers of Mauritius, consider yourselves warned; the decision now rests with you.

Primary Education

Last week, I discussed a recently published book on primary education from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office for the Ministry of Education. The book covers various aspects of primary education, including a section on automatic promotion.

The book has received favourable reviews in the British press. The Teacher’s World welcomed the publication, comparing its value to the old handbooks of elementary education. The Times Educational Supplement provided a comprehensive analysis, highlighting concerns about streaming and the detrimental effects of over-preparation for the 11-plus examination.

Several daily newspapers, such as the News-Chronicle and the Times, emphasized the adverse impact of excessive exam preparation on the primary school curriculum. Teachers generally agree that cramming for exams is detrimental, and there is widespread satisfaction that the Ministry of Education has condemned this practice.

The consensus in England and Wales against over-preparation for secondary school selection exams encourages those in Mauritius who advocate for reform in secondary education based on UK practices and theories.

Commonwealth Education

Members of Parliament from all parties are forming a Commonwealth Education Council in Parliament. This council aims to address legislative and other proposals stemming from the Commonwealth Education Conference at Oxford last July, attended by Mr. Beejadhur. I hope to provide further updates on the council’s activities as it gains momentum.

6th Year – No 278
Friday 11th December, 1959

Students in UK

By Bhisma Dev

Many Mauritian students are now considering studying in Europe and India for higher education. However, experience has shown that not all students studying abroad are happy or successful in their pursuits. There are numerous challenges and obstacles that discourage them along the way. It is important for these factors to be communicated to both parents and students. Our young contributor, Bhisma Dev, has written an enlightening article on this issue. An additional article by an expert from England who works with Mauritian students will follow.

The majority of the students who have gone to England are there to pursue a degree or receive training in a profession or trade. However, many choose to study subjects such as agriculture, forestry, pure science, and technology. Most of them face challenging conditions for about four or five years, sometimes even longer.

Any student who travels to Great Britain for academic purposes encounters some, if not all, of these difficulties: environmental changes, financial constraints, academic demands, accommodation issues, feelings of loneliness, race relations, and color prejudice. Unfortunately, some students have been forced to abandon their studies due to these challenges.

Upon arrival in Britain, foreign students from tropical countries like ours often find themselves bewildered by the fast pace of English towns, uncomfortable with the climate, and unfamiliar with the food. Adjusting to these conditions can be initially difficult.

Financial concerns also plague many students who underestimate the cost of living in the UK. Most require guidance on managing their finances effectively, particularly during their initial settlement. Parents and guardians, unfamiliar with conditions in England, may not fully grasp the need for regular financial support, leading to undue stress on students’ health and studies.

It has been suggested that a reasonable annual allowance, covering living expenses, tuition fees, and some travel during holidays, would amount to approximately £550.

Some students arrive ill-prepared for their chosen course of study and find themselves needing to pass preliminary examinations before beginning their intended coursework. This delay often extends their study period beyond the anticipated timeframe, posing challenges in terms of time and financial resources.

Additionally, some students start courses that are not suited to their abilities, sometimes at the insistence of their parents. Changing courses after the first year can lead to further difficulties and necessitate additional funding for an extended period of study.

Regarding accommodation, while hostels offer personal and social advantages, they are prohibitively expensive for most international students. Consequently, the majority must navigate the increasingly competitive market for affordable lodgings. It has been suggested that English families could alleviate this problem by hosting overseas students in their homes, which would not only benefit the students but also address the accommodation shortage.

Feelings of loneliness and homesickness are common among overseas students, who often feel excluded from local activities. Some seek solace in national clubs and societies for social interaction and support.

While these challenges are shared by all international students, those from certain regions also face discrimination based on their race, which exacerbates their difficulties. Despite assertions that students are free to integrate, misunderstandings can lead them to perceive English attitudes as unwelcoming.

Nevertheless, these obstacles can be mitigated through thorough preparation before departure from their home countries. The British Council plays a crucial role in facilitating this transition, providing guidance and resources to help students settle in the UK. Prospective students are encouraged to consult with British Council representatives and familiarize themselves with resources such as “How to Live in Britain” and “Higher Education in the United Kingdom.”

Efforts are also underway through advisory committees and educational authorities in the colonies to inform students about academic prerequisites and other essential requirements for studying in Britain. However, some students still embark on their journey without adequate preparation or a clear understanding of their academic goals, which can lead to unfortunate outcomes.

6th Year – No 278
Friday 11th December, 1959

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