French Language in Peril!

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

News and Views

Le Bec de la Plume in Le Mauricien of December 6, sharply pecks at the Director of Education and threatens the ghost of the Liaison Officer (for Liaison Officers have ceased to exist).

But what is the complaint of Le Bec de la plume? An essay was omitted in the French paper of the last primary school scholarship examinations. This was enough for him and for le Cernéen to shout sacrilege. Are not the Director of Education and the ghost of the Liaison Officer out to wipe out French culture, language, tradition and civilization in the sweet Ile de France?

Perched high above the mass of the population Le B. de la P. seems to ignore that the mother tongue of the substantial number of pupils living in the rural areas is unfortunately not French, and that French has always been a handicap to them. Last year about 3,000 children failed in the 6th standard examination because the French paper was beyond their reach. In a competitive examination, unless the French paper is reasonably easy, the non-French speaking pupil is swept away by those whose mother tongue is French.

Until French was a compulsory subject in the English scholarship examinations, few pupils whose mother tongue was not French could compete successfully with the French speaking pupils. Le Bec de la Plume should know that the non-French speaking population has up to now meekly tolerated French being foisted upon them. It is time for some people to free themselves from the age-old prejudice that whatever comes from them should be submissively accepted by others. The non-French speaking population will not, we vouch, even think for a moment to impose their mother tongues on the French people.

* * *

What this inconsistency?

Some time back a heated debate took place at the Leg. Council on a motion of the Government asking approval of the House to increase customs, tariff on rubber shoes in order to protect a local concern: The Hwa Kong Rubber Shoe Factory. Government’s main argument was that the Factory was providing employment to about 80 persons.

But is Government always so eager to help the unemployed? A recent step taken by the authorities proves the contrary.

The washing of hospital linen was done by washerwomen and by destitutes — widows and girls — under the care of the Public Assistance Department. It provided work to hundreds of poor folks. The Medical and Health Dept has now entered into contract with a local mechanised laundry concern for the washing of its linen. The bill will amount to approximately Rs 200,000. Fancy the number of destitutes who can get their living with that sum!

By the way, was a tender called for? On one hand while three patients have sometimes to sleep on two beds for lack of space in our hospitals, we have seen that the medical authorities, instead of building hospitals, have found it proper to construct the Nurses’ Home which has cost the taxpayer about Rs 300,000.

While the monster of unemployment is staring us in the face as stern as ever, the medical authorities entrust its linen to a mechanised firm.

Can Government safely say that it is helping to combat unemployment?

* * *

C.E.B. in the News

The C.E.B. has decided to send away a large number of its manual workers, labourers, linesman-mates, etc., in the beginning of next year. Most of these workers have one to three years’ service and many of them are ex-servicemen.

We understand that this step is being taken in order to reduce running expenses. The labourers, who until recently were drawing only Rs 2.78 a day, had performed a very tiresome and dangerous job on Signal mountain and in other dangerous places. They had to drag and plant huge concrete poles weighing as much as 1,500 pounds each. They underwent all sorts of trials in the hope of being promoted. But instead they will be told to leave.

Can the Chairman of the C.E.B. feel the desolation which this act of the C.E.B. will bring in the hearth of these jobless men?

Now that the question of economy is being talked so loudly at the C.E.B, should we ask whether on the staff side too this policy will be pursued? Will the sincures too be abolished? To give only a glimpse of how money is spent at the C.E.B, we will quote only one example:

The staff which is composed of 11 persons on the commercial side at Port-Louis draws about Rs 90,000 p.a. plus C.O.L.A. They are supposed to supervise the work of only 34 manual workers who draw about Rs 62,000 plus C.O.L.A.

Is there any civilised country is the world where such an anomaly exists?

We understand that all major works such as extension of H.T. lines will henceforth be entrusted to contractors.

Is there any guarantee that the contractors will perform these works more efficiently and cheaper than it is done at present? In case contractors will do this job, is there any necessity of keeping permanently an army of officers on the staff of the C.E.B? Will it not further increase the existing sinecures?

* * *

Conference on Social Welfare

On the 8th instant, a conference organised by Mr K. Hazareesingh, the Social Welfare Commissioner, was held at the Plaza under the chairmanship of Mr Lucie-Smith.

The main object of this conference was to stimulate the interest of the community in the promotion of social welfare. Some well-known personalities spoke on different interesting topics. For lack of space we regret not to be able to give a detailed report of this conference which was indeed a success. On the other hand we deplore the absence at the conference of Social Welfare Officers, whose presence, we believe, would not in the least have affected its success.

* * *

At Last!

On the 16th ultimo a Government Notice was issued ordering that no pupil shall (a) be kept at school for more than a year in the same class; (b) remain at school after the end of the school year in which he has obtained a pass in Standard VI or has reached the age of 12.

In its leader of the 23rd November last, the Mauritius Times dealt with that question and hoped that somebody would table an urgent motion to show that we are not insensible to the future of our children; it emphasized that the people won’t tolerate that half-baked citizens be produced.
Subsequently Hon. S. Chadien tabled a motion in which he asked that the above-named Govt. Notice be disallowed. On the 11th instant the motion was fully debated in Council. Mr Kynaston-Snell, Director of Education, attended the debates. The motion was carried. It was comforting to see that even some non-labourites as Hon Dr de Chazal & Hon J. Koenig fully backed Hon Chadien’s motion.

Hon Dr Ramgoolam can be grand when he chooses to be.

His knowledge of the Education Department, which he has served as Liaison Officer, is tremendous. No one knows better than he does what is happening inside that department.

His speech was indeed impressive and gave the coup de grâce to the Government Notice.

Friday 14th December, 1956


* Published in print edition on 19 July 2019

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