It appears there is a recrudescence of domestic violence in Mauritius these days.
In one case, acid was thrown on a household of sleeping persons. A child of 7, victim of this assault, died the week before. In another case, the mother was killed by her partner in the presence of her children. In another case of a conjugal dispute, the dead wife’s body was sawed off before being thrown down a cliff. This week, the parts of a woman’s body were retrieved from a pond and investigations are ongoing to identify the person(s) who might have severed the parts of her body before throwing them in the pond.
Domestic violence has been here for many years. The aggressions have been no less violent than what we are seeing today. The main difference is the number of cases that have come out in public in such a short interval. It creates the impression that cases of domestic violence may be on the rise.
It would appear that several cases have to do with disputes between spouses. Such cases end up in fatal violence against the one who is usually more vulnerable in the couple, notably the woman. What is beckoning us in the present situation is the level of aggressivity employed by the victimizers, leading to brutal death.
There are laws, such as the provisions of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act 1997, and structures (shelters for abused victims) to come to the aid of victims before extremes are reached. Persons who feel challenged physically could have resorted to the protections thus provided to avert the catastrophe. But the fact that this is not happening may indicate that some cases go unreported or take place so suddenly that it is difficult to step in before fatality hits the victim.
In many cases, we note that it is a man-woman clash. Arguments about change of partner and infidelity have allegedly claimed some of the victims. There is no doubt that personal relationships are fast evolving. While marriage and conjugal fidelity is the general norm, this can only hold in a balanced relationship between married spouses or persons who choose to cohabit without actually engaging in marriage.
We are witness to scenes of extreme violence on the screens from all over the world every day. This recurrent violence in various forms may be trivializing the act of taking away the life of a person. No one is immune from its impact and not everybody is able to look upon it with the necessary detachment. Alcohol and drugs consumption widespread. Social network and mobile phone connectivity tends to put persons together with disconcerting speed and thoughtlessness. The educated working woman feels less economically dependent on the husband and does not submit herself to him as in the past, when he could have repressed her easily through economic deprivation.
There is little doubt that parameters of social behaviour are changing fast due to several external influences and evolving personal social views. Adultery and infidelity, which can arouse uncontrolled extreme passions verging on madness, may in certain cases be destroying the fabric that has held families together. The rush towards quick enrichment and status may be taking its own toll on vulnerable persons.
What all this shows is that multiple factors may be acting in different cases leading to a possible escalation of domestic violence. Laws will not be enough to curb this tragic trend, nor will finding scapegoats on whom to attribute failure. It is clear however that we need to re-engineer social interactions if we want to come to grips with growing domestic violence.
We could do what other societies do in similar circumstances: call for serious recommendations from a thorough multi-disciplinary study on how to deal with a problem that may assume larger proportions if it is left unchecked.
* * *
Tertiary Education: We appear to have lost our way
Our society has always put a premium on higher education. Even while we were caught in the grips of colonization, one of our prime aspirations was to do as perfectly as our British teachers and the handful of our own Mauritian graduates who lit up the firmament of our educational establishments at the time. Education of the highest quality has been and will continue to be our opening to vaster opportunities in life.
Rightly, therefore, our leadership has nurtured the idea of developing a strong educational backbone for our advancement. This is why we set up the University of Mauritius as the driving force in educational and research development in the footsteps of independence. So many decades later, we should by now have prided ourselves with some premier educational establishments of high repute, at least at the regional level, had we methodically and rigorously followed the trail left by past decision-makers who saw further than the rest.
Some recent developments, however, indicate that we are not proceeding in the direction of building up our reputation and standing of being host to, at the very least, a few eminent, world-class and ground-breaking tertiary educational establishments. On the contrary, we may be adding to the general confusion whereby international establishments which have firm credentials in their countries of origin, may get mixed up and risk losing out credentials their parent institutions would have earned painstakingly for decades.
The Tertiary Education Commission (the regulatory authority for tertiary educational establishments) has found itself at odds to explain the source of accreditation of some universities which are operating in Mauritius. Some foreign students who had enrolled, based on given understandings with certain of the educational establishments operating in Mauritius found out that there was the risk that qualifications they would earn would not be recognized. So they asked to be paid back and repatriated to their countries. The credentials of some of those educational establishments have been called into question. Even the University of Mauritius saw within the span of one year, the replacement of two of its Vice-Chancellors.
In the midst of all this turbulence, the government has decided to call on British expertise to evaluate certain of the teaching establishments which have set up in Mauritius lately. One would have believed that this should have been the preliminary step before allowing them in.
All this does not forebode well for the ambitions we gave ourselves to become a scintillating regional educational hub. It will be recalled that the teaching establishments of a country like Singapore did not have to go through growing pains of the sort. They chalked out a progressively world-class course for their development, becoming globally reputed centres of higher learning. We had also started on a similar track. Unfortunately, we appear to have lost our way. Without further ado, the best we can now do is to collect ourselves and give our education system a chance to get back its credentials so that it can build upon them afresh.
* Published in print edition on 28 February 2014