MT 60 Years – 2nd YEAR NO. 25 – Friday 28th January 1955
Education is indeed the most burning problem of the day. There are many points of policy with which we disagree. We presented the following memorandum to Sir Christopher Cox, K.C.M.G. Educational Adviser to the Secretary of States for the Colonies, who has left us after a two-week official tour. In a previous correspondence we sent him all copies of our paper in which the education problems were dealt with and one copy of A Short History of Mauritius by Barnwell and Toussaint, against the use of which in our schools and colleges we protested. In reply he informed us that he will discuss the matter with the authorities.
21st January 1955
From: B. Ramlallah, Editor Mauritius Times,
To: Sir Christopher Cox K.C.M.G. Educational Adviser to Secretary of State for the Colonies.
After having inspected our schools for two weeks we hope that you have remarked that at every point we are confronted with over crowding, lack of schools, shortage of teachers; some schools are no better than huts. You are probably aware of the dissatisfaction reigning among parents because of lack of space in schools and the dim future of education owing to the government’s inability to compete with the fast increasing population.
Government’s new policy
The curtailing of school leaving age and the method of automatic promotion has increased the discontent. The official explanation for this new educational policy was to (a) improve the standard of education and (b) provide education for an increased number of children. Can an educational system be improved by reducing the school leaving age? This seems impossible. Was such a drastic change needed to make education available to a few extra thousand children? Has this step been taken because there is a shortage of trained teachers, or because of lack of accommodation or simply because funds are not available?
To provide trained teachers we suggest that the ex-teachers’ examination be reestablished the best among the successful candidates be selected as 3rd class teachers. Furthermore, they will have to follow a short course at the Teachers’ Training College once a week. The building problem is not so serious at present. Now that pre-fabricated steel building can be made available in a few months from Europe.
Lack of fund is probably the greatest snag. Education is the lifehood of civilization. The government must find money either by raising new taxes or by curtailing the various activities of the Education Department, such as its Youth Services, and by economizing on other departments.
By abolishing or curtailing the privilege of overseas leave granted to civil servants a substantial sum can be saved. Furthermore, an appeal should be made to the Municipal Boards to help the Government by opening some schools, either primary, grammar or technical. The Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund Committee which disposes of a fund of about Rs 18,000,000 and has an annual revenue of more than Rs 2,000,000 could be requested to extend its activities by opening technical and farm schools for the benefit of children of labourers.
Private secondary Schools
As “colleges” are sprouting up like mushrooms in every nook and corner of the Island, we think the time has come to exert more control upon the private “colleges” for it appears that the main aim of some managers or principals is money making. By the end of last year there were 47 private colleges of which 8 were state aided. Though some of the private colleges are being run to the satisfaction of the public yet others are most inefficient.
(a) In many cases unqualified an ignorant teachers are employed.
(b) The accommodation is awfully bad.
(c) Discipline is badly lacking.
(d) There is lack of proper equipment, etc.
The progress of these private colleges can be assessed by the result of the last Summer GCE Examination. Out of the 388 successful candidates 112 passed in French only.
It is very painful for poor parents who by making great sacrifices have sent their children to “college” for four or five years and ultimately to see them come out with only a French certificate.
This state of things should not be allowed to continue in a civilized country. In UK under the Education Act of 1944 all schools are being inspected by the Ministry and can be closed if found inefficient. We hope you will recommend that appropriate administrative and legislative measures be taken to control private ‘schools’ and “colleges”.
We are sending for your inspection the exercise book of an ex-pupil of a private college. You will remark that in the course of three months only one exercise was corrected by the class teacher.
State aided primary schools
Formerly in almost all state aided secondary schools of Mauritius, children of a denomination different from that of the school authorities were refused admission unless the pupils become converts. Though this has changed now, still it is very difficult for children of other denominations to be admitted. As the Education Department cannot make provision for the tremendous demand for admission in its secondary schools, we think it is imperative for the authorities to control the admission of pupils in the secondary aided schools. As in UK 50% of the vacancies in grant-in-aid grammar schools are filled by the state, we request you to recommend that the Government of Mauritius should have a say in the recruitment of pupils in state aided schools. We think it is a serious anomaly that Government should not have a hand in the recruitment of pupils in institutions, which it is aiding.
French language imposed
From time to time the non-French speaking population, especially the Indo-Mauritians have protested against the compulsion made to their children to learn French. Indo-Mauritians abhor the idea that Indian languages should be forced on non-Indians against their wish. We are indeed perplexed why the Education Department should go on imposing the teaching of French on non-French speaking children. It is inconceivable that while the mother tongue of the Indo-Mauritians is not a compulsory subject, a foreign language is imposed on them. Indo-Mauritians like French so far as it remains optional. The results of the last Summer GCE Examination gives ample proof to this. Two hundred and forty two Indo-Mauritians passed in French compared with only 81 non-Indians.
We gladly accept that English as the official language of the Colony be a compulsory subject, but there is no justification that another language be imposed upon us. The problem becomes more acute when we find that the French language is used as a compulsory subject for a Scholarship Examination. French language is no doubt detrimental to the non-French speaking pupils. The French paper is a great handicap for non-French speaking pupils or for those who have not the opportunity to live and to be educated in a French atmosphere especially when these children compete for a Scholarship.
The French paper for the Primary Scholarship Examination of last year was so difficult that it was hardly possible for non-French speaking children living in the villages to compete with the French speaking pupils or with those educated in the towns where French is widely spoken. The result of that examination shows that more than 90% of passes were scored by pupils of Port Louis and Plaines Wilhems. We are sending you a French examination paper for the 1954 primary schools scholarship and a French paper of the GCE (Summer 1954) for your kind perusal. You will remark that the paper of the Junior Scholarship examination which is intended for children of 12 years of age is extremely difficult compared with the paper of the GCE which is intended for adolescents.
The difficulty of the child of the rural districts does not end here. Admission in the Government colleges is based on the result of primary school scholarship examination. So, whatever be the intelligence of a child living in the country district he will most probably not be able to neither win a scholarship nor get admitted in Government secondary school. In order to give ample opportunity to the children of the poorer classes and to those living in the country districts we request you to consider recommending the immediate suppression of French as a subject for any competitive examination. We hope you will also give your urgent consideration to a long-standing grievance of the non-French speaking population: the removal of French as a compulsory subject in all classes of the primary schools.
Primary scholarship examination
The primary school scholarship examination as it is held now is favourable to children of upper and middle classes living in the towns. The last result of the examination has given ample proof to this. Out of 69 passes, only 3 pupils of the rural areas won the scholarship. This state of things is accountable for three factors: either there are no scholarships classes in the villages or that examination is beyond the reach of the average country child or that the parents are too poor to send their children where there are such classes and are unable to pay private tuition.
In these circumstances we request that you should consider recommending the distribution of primary school scholarships by allocating to each district a certain number of bursaries based on the sixth standard examination.
The public has from time to time showed dissatisfaction concerning that institution. You will admit that the selection, training and examination by same persons of the students of the Teachers’ Training College is an anomaly. We suggest that the selection and the examination of the students of that institution be made by independent bodies having no link whatsoever with the college.
The fact that candidates of the Teachers’ Training College, recruited directly by the Education Department who after the completion of their course are compelled to work in aided schools is we think an injustice which is deeply resented by the newly qualified teachers. You may be aware of a case on this issue now before court.
In conclusion we can assure you, Sir, that the opinions expressed in the Memorandum reflect the views of an important section of the Mauritian population – nothing but a sincere desire to serve the country has inspired us to present these facts to you which, we hope, will meet your sympathetic consideration.
* Published in print edition on 13 February 2015