Why ban private tuition? 

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A First Point: I have a nephew who attends the government primary school in his village. He is a nice little boy who likes to play all sorts of games, but in spite of being quite intelligent, he is more interested in playing than in studying. His father keeps watch over him from afar but his mother is very much concerned about his studies and both parents have, of a common accord, decided that, as from next year, the boy must be given private tuition. Now the boy is in the Third Standard. The parents have decided to do everything possible to give a good education and for this purpose, they are prepared to devote as much time as is necessary and to spend as much of their money as they can afford simply to give a better life to their son than they have had themselves.

But now they have heard that their son cannot go for private tuition as he will be in the Fourth Standard. The Minister of Education has so decided. The father is concerned but he does not show his concern, the mother is also concerned, however, she shows her concern to everybody. She talked to me and said that the son is hers, the money for the tuition is hers and the time spent to take her son to tuition and then fetch him when it is over is hers. What right has the Minister to interfere in the education of her son?

I thought hard on the problem and I could not find any answer, at least an answer that would convince the lady and others who think like her. I would ask Vasant Bunwaree to find out how the system of private tuition works in a country like Taiwan, the results thereof and the economic progress that that country has made because of the education of the people.

In Mauritius, the Hindus, the Muslims and the Sino-Mauritians lay great emphasis on the education of their children and they have since long been used to private tuition and they spend their money and their time on that purpose. Those who are not very much interested in the education of their children do not care whether those children would pass their examination or simply fail because I wonder if they understand about the value of education in the future of their children. If the Minister of Education thinks that he can effectively prevent children of Standard Four from taking private tuition, let him try and, at the end of the day, we shall assess if he has been successful. But sincerely, I would like to know the reason for which he does not want children in Standard Four to be privately coached, whether it be in groups of five or of twenty?

According to me, he is trying hard to bring down all students to the level of the lowest student. If there is some other reason, we would request the Minister to give us those reasons, convince us that we have been all along wrong and that he has been right. Until he does this, he will never convince parents to give up private tuition for their children and it is no use trying to enforce such a measure.

Vasant Bunwaree can forbid his teachers to give private tuition, but this also can be challenged in the Court; he can prevent the school premises from being used for private tuition but he can never prevent school children going for tuition on private premises nor can he prevent teachers not being paid by government from giving private tuition. This is beyond the capacity of either Vasant Bunwaree, the present Minister of Education, nor of Steve Obeegadoo, the spokesman of the MMM for education.

What Vasant Bunwaree should do is to ensure that the teachers do their job conscientiously, that they do their best to teach the whole class and not, for instance, send those students who are not interested or cannot afford to take private tuition from them to the rear rows in the classroom. Such teachers must be reminded that they are employed to cover the whole syllabus in the class room and not hold back parts of it for the private tuition class. This should be the duty of the Minister of Education. Those students who are not interested with private tuition should not miss any part of what they need to pass their examination. So that, at the end of the day, a pupil who is of reasonable intelligence, who is well looked after by the parents should be able to clear his examination without extra coaching from his teacher. Are teachers prepared to accept to work according to what we suggest? Obviously not. What is the opinion of the Union leaders?

Education is a very touchy subject for Mauritian of Asian origin. Do not misjudge those people. They do not want Vasant Bunwaree to go down the Rama Sithanen way.  

Drug trafficking

A Second Point: I have yet to see a Mauritian who is not against drugs and drug dealers. All Mauritians would like to see a drug-free Mauritius, except the drug importers and the drug vendors. And anybody who helps the country to get rid of drugs and drug vendors should be helped as far as possible.

But these persons should be conscious that there are laws that should be obeyed. A person by the name of Jameel Peerally has made a short film on drug addicts and the drug business. He and his friends wanted to project the film in the yard of the Cathedral in Port Louis, which is a public place. The police authorities objected, and rightly so in the opinion of several persons well versed in our laws. In the circumstances, the person who had organized the show should have cancelled it until the person responsible had obtained the certificate of exhibition from Film Classification Board.

However, the Vicaire General of the Roman Catholic Authority, Jean Maurice Labour decided to move the show to the vicarage and there the show was held. It is said that persons were invited for the show, but in so far as I am concerned, this show was public only the venue was displaced. It will be so easy to say that all the persons who attended the show had been invited, but I cannot believe this. It appears that any member of the public who walked in became a “guest” – that is what is being widely said. How is it that the Vicaire General could have participated in a matter that is being done in breach of the law? Do the Roman Catholic Authorities approve the conduct of their Vicaire General? If they do, then how the Catholic hierarchy functions and the more so, why does it function in this manner?

But there is a more serious point. Most of the newspapers have shown how much they are against the government, the more so against the Labour Party and the MSM. They have written about this film on the drug addicts as if only they are concerned with matters concerning drugs. And they have laid a lot of emphasis on the fact that government is responsible if the police have prevented its screening, and concluding that the government in not combating the drug business in Mauritius.

Now people can get a better idea why we have been saying that we do not have independent journalists in the country; they simply pose as independent journalists when we all know that they work for one person who happens to be their political master. If they would have been independent journalists, they should have laid emphasis on the fact that the film had not obtained the relevant certificate from the Film Classification Board and they should have had the courage to tell the persons responsible of the show that they could not proceed without the relevant certificate. They should have quoted the relevant section of the law and should have commended the police force for having acted with due diligence. But this is expecting too much from those so-called journalists and yet they call themselves independent.

It seems to me that both those journalists and the Vicaire General belong in the same basket.

I am not saying that the film should be banned from screening in public. All I am saying is that the law should be respected, the proper certificate should be obtained from the relevant authorities and then the screening can take place all over the country. Is it asking too much? It seems that certain persons are so thick and so dumb that they cannot understand this simple point. Or maybe they make as if they do not understand when in fact they do, but they have a different agenda. I will be the first person to applaud when the film is shown to the public with the proper certificate.

Another matter: Will those supposedly independent journalists mount a campaign for the introduction of the death sentence for dealers of drugs, because those dealers cause a number of deaths through their nefarious dealings, and cause untold miseries among all class of people and they fully deserve to be sentenced to death. Not likely. Those persons will not support the death sentence. We know why. 

Introduce Bhojpuri and Sanskrit in our school curriculum 

A Third Point: Who is to be blamed if we are not interested with our mother languages or as some persons say the ancestral languages? I am talking of, to start with, Bhojpuri, then of Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Mandarin and Sanskrit? Government is trying to teach some of these languages, but just trying. I wonder why Bhojpuri and Hindi, among the other languages, have been termed ancestral languages. What about people calling English and French as well ancestral languages?

To start with, we must blame the political authorities for having suppressed Bhojpuri and Hindi. Then you have those who controlled the economy of the country with the help of the English. These groups of persons have done everything to wipe out our languages and they have all but succeeded in their venture.

Government has tried to help, but such help has come too late and it is too few. Some Hindi-speakers themselves despise the language and in the circumstances, how would you expect children of the General Population to show an interest in Hindi? Now it is time for government to see how Bhojpuri can be introduced as a subject in our primary schools. Books are available, teachers are ready to start classes, only government’s approval is needed. Is the Minister against this proposition?

Students can study the language in the secondary schools and then go to the university where they will be able to do their degree course, their MA and even PhD in Bhojpuri. Why are our pupils not given such opportunity?

We shall ask Vasant Bunwaree, the Minister of Education, as a matter of urgency, to introduce in our school curriculum Sanskrit as a subject. Sanskrit is the religious language of all Hindus, be they Hindi-speaking, Tamil-speaking, Telugu-speaking, Marathi-speaking, Gujarati-speaking or Hindus speaking any other language. This is one language that binds all Hindus together, but some people would not appreciate this. How unfortunate!

It should be remembered that Sanskrit is the most scientific language in its construction, that it is best adapted to the computer language and is considered to be the mother of all the languages. This is not only my opinion, but the opinion of scholars who have studied linguistics. So should I say “kapi haste naryialam” here? 

A Fourth Point: Allow me to end my article with a quote from Karl Marx which would suit our politicians, especially Paul Bérenger and his colleagues. This is what Karl Marx has said: “Where there are political parties each party finds the source of such evils in the fact that the opposing party, instead of itself, is at the helm of State.”

* Published in print edition on 16 July 2010

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