MT 60 Years Ago
3rd Year No 76 – Friday 20th January 1956
• I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it – Voltaire
The long-awaited decision has at last been known. The Director of Education, Mr Kynaston-Snell, speaking from the MBS last Friday has told us that about 10,000 children will not be admitted to primary schools this year.
The relief people were expecting has not come their way. Anxiety remains. Discontent is rife. The decision of the Director has sealed the fate of 10,000 children. Like the proverbial stroke of the pen, an inflexion of the Director’s voice has sufficed to shut out 10,000 children.
The general impression is that the utmost has not been done to meet the situation. The last word has yet to be said, the decisive step has yet to be taken. It would be trite to repeat that the problem of admission is a national problem but it bears repetition. It cannot be solved by taking of half-measures. The whole problem is clamouring for a solution. 10,000 children cannot be denied education.
In the face of such a situation the first question which Mr Kynaston-Snell has sought to answer is: “Now why has this situation occurred?” Occurred? Why make it sound so sudden? But let it be. Let us rather listen to the Director’s explanation: “Now this serious condition of overcrowding has come about largely because of the increase of population and the increased consciousness by the people of Mauritius of the value and importance of education.”
Granted that the highly prolific people of Mauritius are enlightened now, what about the duty of government to educate the citizens of tomorrow?
And, above all, what about your own responsibility as the Director of Education, Mr Kynaston Snell?
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It was generally believed all the while that the pathetic problem of admission was essentially a problem of space. But space is no problem, the Director tells us now. The problem is what to do with available space – there are no teachers!
It sounds incredible. But strange as it sounds, it is true. Says the Director; “It has been encouraging to receive so many offers of accommodation from private citizens and in particular from village councils. Unhappily, we have had to reject all the offers…” Why? Because your children must be taught by men and women who know what they are doing. And as such men and women are not available, what is the use of having space? It’s quite logical Mr Kynaston-Snell but… thoroughly unconvincing.
When it was found that the problem of space did not exist, why was not the problem of teachers tackled? Sorry how could it be? The Training College was full up! To teach the 6,800 children that have been admitted 170 teachers were required. 80 came from the Training College and teachers who have retired or resigned were invited “to return to the classroom.” Many have responded, we are told, but still the required number has not been found.
If the teachers who have retired or resigned do not return to the classroom but go on digging their back-garden, where will the rest of the teachers be found to make up 170?
In a land where ex-servicemen are driven from pillar to post and young men and girls are wondering what to do with their qualifications, Mr Kynaston Snell’s first thought has been teachers who normally are considered unfit for work when they have reached their age-limit.
“You would not send your child to a so-called doctor who had never been to a medical school, nor would you enter a bus driven by a man who had not his driving licence,” explains the Director. Whoever suggested that teachers should be recruited from the docks or cane fields?
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When rupees to the tune of millions are being spent on education, provisions should be made to pay some 200 extra teachers to teach the 10,000 children condemned to another year of illiteracy.
Today we don’t want to blame the progressive members of the Legislative Council for having failed to ascertain the gravity of the situation earlier. And we don’t want also to blame the Liaison Officer for Education, knowing as we do, what the powers of Liaison Officers are. But we cannot help expressing the wish of seeing the representatives of the people united to fight to the bitter but successful end. No sacrifice would be too great.
And we want to appeal to Mr Kynaston Snell for an immediate solution. We hope that the suggestion we are going to make will not fall on deaf ears.
Our suggestion is to introduce the shift-system in all the schools where children are on the waiting list. And the practical steps to take would be the following:
1. The appointment of some 200 student-teachers holding at least a pass in English French and Arithmetic at the GCE examination.
2. The modification of the curriculum of Std I (and that of other lower classes where necessary) so as to limit teaching to 2½ hours daily.
3. The introduction of the shift system in as many lower classes as the number of new classes.
4. To put a student teacher as helper with teachers affected by the shift system.
5. In the morning teachers and student-teachers to teach in existing classes and in the afternoon in new classes.
6. Student teachers to follow Saturday courses at the teachers’ Training College.
In addition to this, may we suggest that Handicraft teaching be stopped at least for some time and Scholarship classes abandoned? More space and more teachers would be available side by side.
We like to think that the Director’s decision is not final. But if it is, it will be fatal for 10,000 children as well as for the Director himself; the children will wallow the illiteracy and My Kynaston Snell will go down in the history of education as a glorious failure.