The Space Problem

MT 60 Years Ago — 2nd Year – No 71 – Friday 16th December 1955

The Education Department is making a half-hearted effort to solve the problem of space in our primary schools. The Director of Education, Mr Kynaston-Snell, has issued a press communique according to which only 76 schools — about half the number of our primary schools — will accept children.

To show the gravity of the problem we shall quote some figures from the 1954 Year Book of statistics.

First of all we find that there are 148 schools, 75 government and 73 aided (P. 58). But at p.60 the figure is 152. Now out of the total number of schools only 76 are going to admit children. What about the children waiting for admission in the other schools?

The number of children of primary school going age (5-12) is given as 107,500. And the number of primary at school at the end of 1954 was 68,926. This means that officially in December 1954 there were 38,574 children out of school. Three weeks ago in our article “The Problem of Space in Schools” we gave the official figure as being over fifty thousand. We are sorry for the oversight. Anyway we can safely say today that about 40,000 children are on the waiting list.

Now we understand that about 25% only of the children on every waiting list will be admitted in the schools, which officially have floor space available. If we take 50 as an average intake, 3,800 children will be admitted. Does not this mean that about 35,000 children will not get admission? How can we afford to be complacent then?

We are glad that the anxiety expressed in the press is going to be expressed in Council. We welcome Hon Ringadoo’s motion asking Government to “re-examine the question of intake of pupils with a view to increasing the number of admissions in January, 1956.”

We have already given our views on the question. We have said what an alarming character it is assuming and we have ventured to make certain suggestions. We don’t know how the responsible authorities liked our suggestions but we like to think that our concern did not go unnoticed.

It is for Government to give its views now and to take practical steps to solve the space problem. It is cruel to deny education to a generation living in mid-twentieth century.

The Population Problem

There is no space in schools. And there is no space in our small island. The situation may be summed up in both cases in one sentence: Room for no more.

Let us have a look at figures.

Total resident population — Estimated as at 31st December 1954

General 157,634 29.3%

Indo-Mauritian 362,125 67.1%

Chinese 19,159 3.6%

Total 538,918 100.0%

It is stated in the Year Book of Statistics that in the course of the 30-year period ending with 1954, the natural increase has amounted to 42.5% of the original population. Today our population is increasing at the rate of 3% yearly.

When Government saw that our population was shooting higher and higher it appointed a Population Committee to enquire into the situation and report. It was a highly laudable step.

The Population Committee appointed in April 1953 submitted its report about six months ago to Government. It was an excellent piece of work. The Committee laid down ways and means to solve the population problem, and, among other measures, to check the growth of the population, it recommended, with two or three dissenting voices, Birth Control.

Reactions to the recommendation concerning Birth Control have differed and in certain quarters a vigorous campaign is on foot against it. But we think that the majority of the people of this island would welcome any means recommended by the Committee to check the growth of the population.

An economic problem has been turned into a religious and moral one. We want to emphasize that it is not our intention to convert anybody to our way of feeling, thinking and doing. All we want to do is to find a solution — a way out of the impasse.

To this end, may we ask: Why is Government hesitating to implement the recommendations of the Population Committee? Is it because a part of our population is against Birth Control?

The report of the Population Committee is not to be pigeonholed we suppose. Government must act if it wants to save the country. If a part of our population wants to multiply unchecked on religious or moral grounds, well, that part may be left alone. But why that part should be allowed to stand in the way of Government?

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