Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago – 1st YEAR NO. 15 – SATURDAY 20th November 1954
(continued from last week)
NMU says: “La troisième faute a été commise par les Hindous eux-mêmes… Ils montrent vraiment un peu trop qu’ils veulent prendre dans tous les plans, la place des autres. »
If there is a community which wants to take the place of others, it is certainly not the Indo-Mauritian community. History has always proved the contrary. In 1735 when the colony was in its initial stage of development, Indian artisans came from Pondichéry and built roads, bridges, hospitals, batteries and fortifications.
In 1810 the Government of India sent 10,000 Indian soldiers to conquer Ile de France for the British Crown; in 1834 when the freed slaves refused to till the land and when Mauritius was on the verge of ruin, Indian immigrants came to the rescue. The Indo-Mauritians opposed the annexation of Mauritius to France. In his book ‘L’Evolution Nationale Mauricienne”, late Mr A. Duclos writes: “Ils (les Indiens) votèrent donc pour le maintien des conditions qui leur avaient toujours été favorables et dans les réunions qu’ils organisèrent avant les élections, ils ne firent qu’un pour repousser la théorie décevante des retrocessionistes. En même temps ils manifestèrent leurs sentiments de loyalisme envers l’Angleterre et l’attachement au trône britannique.”
Today the Indo-Mauritians supply all the vegetables, all milk, almost all poultry and many other important goods. They supply more than 90% of labour on sugar cane plantations and dig the graves of others. In the field of human sacrifice they have held the foremost place – in 1937 it fell to the sad lot of the Indo-Mauritians to sacrifice five of their fellow countrymen. As a result of which Government introduced, in conformity with the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry which enquired into the disturbance, a Trade Union Bill and created the Labour and Social Welfare Departments and at the same time enacted a new Labour Ordinance. Again in 1943 four Indo-Mauritian labourers were shot at Belle Vue Harel – they had protested against the low wages. Both these unrests have precipitated major political, constitutional and administrative developments.
The Indo-Mauritians have soaked this soil with their tears, sweat and blood to make it a country of plenty for their masters while they have been condemned to live in squalor and scarcity. Today when they refused to be abused, admonished, accused, abhorred, acerbated and abominated by people like NMU and his clique they are branded – Communists, Nationalists and what not. This is how the Hindus, to whom the colony owes so much have been rewarded. Since century the Hindu community is contributing, ungrudgingly together with others, to pay the Christian clergy while the Indian priests do not get a cent. Last year Ecclesiastical expenditure made by Government was Rs 408,347. The Hindu is learning the language of NMU which is being forced upon him in State Schools and in return NMU indulges in the luxury of vilifying the language, culture and national dress of the Hindus. Such is the fate of the Hindu community. And NMU has the cheek to say that Hindus want to take the place of other communities. We challenge NMU to prove this allegation.
NMU takes the air of Bara Saheb and says: “Je les (les hindous) si souvent avertis qu’ils…” Who is Mr Noel Marrier D’Unienville to threaten the Hindus?
EDUCATION IN MAURITIUS
A Historical Sketch
By D. Napal B. A. (Hons)
Throughout French rule, Ile de France offers us one deplorable aspect of its history. Education, especially the primary education of the working classes had been either sadly neglected or faced with cold indifference. There are two treatises which might be valued as authorities on this subject. One is “L’Instruction à L’Origine de Notre Colonisation” by Macquet and the other “L’Instruction Publique à L’Ile de France” by Aimé Duvivier. Both deal with secondary education, naturally the education of the planters’ sons. They speak about the foundation of the first secondary schools, which was the work of individuals who were in some cases aided by the State. In both treatises there is absolutely no mention about the education of slaves. From this we infer that no thought was given to their education who, as a matter of fact, were but beasts of burden. The masters must have felt that educating the slaves meant awakening in them a sense of justice and injustice, which would have been dangerous to their well-being. Efforts, however, were successfully made to win them over to the Christian faith.
According to the Report on Education 1953, the first government school was founded in the French period in 1800. Soon after the English conquest of the island, Protestant ministers poured in to administer to what they considered were the religious needs of the inhabitants. The most famous of them was the Reverend Jean Lebrun. Adrien d’Epinay writing of him says: “Il vint à Maurice comme ministre méthodiste le 18 mai 1814 et il y fonda l’enseignement gratuit.” Another school was open by Sir Lowry Cole in 1823.
The Catholics did not look favourably upon the activities of the Protestant ministers. They would not like to see Catholicism lose its hold upon the minds of the colonists. When Père Laval began his mission in 1841, Catholicism was at a low ebb. But his influence began to grow rapidly, especially among the blacks who had lately been enfranchised. At Sainte Croix, there was a Protestant school all the pupils of which deserted. Père Laval’s preachings were held responsible for this. The press made complaints against him. The Bishop of Port-Louis made it clear to the Government that the Catholic priests were not against the schools but they would not tolerate the Protestants in spreading their doctrines to the detriment of Catholicism. P.F. Delaplace writes in this connection: “Craignant de perdre tous les enfants Catholiques, le gouvernement fit défendre aux maîtres par l’organe du Secrétaire Colonial de s’occuper des questions religieuses dans l’enseignement… » To counteract the proselytising zeal of Protestant missionaries, the Catholics resolved to open schools of their own. Two schools were open at Sainte Croix. There was the difficulty of finding competent teachers; Père Laval made arrangements for missionaries of the order of Saint Vincent de Paul to come to Mauritius. The brothers of this order opened a number of schools round about 1857 among which at Plaine Verte was founded an institution which could boast of having 400 pupils.
By this time Indian immigrants had begun to settle themselves in the island. The problem which arose on their arrival was the education of their children. Indian schools were opened in which English and some Indian dialects were taught. In 1864 twelve such schools existed in different parts of the Island.
Rev. Patrick Beaton, however, in his book – Five years in Mauritius – criticizes the government about its indifference concerning the education of the immigrants’ sons. He writes: “While 10% of the Indian immigrants can read and write, only two per cent of their offsprings enjoy the same advantage in a colony which almost owes its existence to the industry of their parents. It was asserted by many that the Indians did not wish their children to be educated. It is scarcely conceivable that men who received the advantage of education should wish their children to be brought in ignorance.”
In the light of historical facts it is apparent that education in Mauritius in its early days has not followed definite and well-laid plans. Its growth has been haphazard. One thing is however clear – Christianity has had much to do with it, and even today, to some extent, we found its imprint on our educational system.
* Published in print edition on 21 November 2014