The Problem of Space in Schools

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago

2nd Year No 68 

Friday – 25th November 1955

• If we all said to people’s faces what we say behind each other’s back,
society would be impossible. — Balzac

 

We wonder if there is any other British Colony where children of school going age are refused admission to schools. If there is, the Government of Mauritius is not the only government that may be blamed for having failed in shouldering one of its most important responsibilities — that of educating the rising generation.

The statistics that have just been published show that over 50,000 children are being denied education. In the face of such a dark picture, what is being done to solve the space problem?

We are prone these days to ascribe all our social ills to the prolific nature of our people. If schools are not able to meet the demand, it is argued, it is because the population is growing at an alarming rate. Government should not admit defeat. If it does it will only reveal its lack of foresight. It ought to have planned. And it must plan ahead.

Just like our population, the number of children who are being kept out of schools is growing steadily. To meet such a threatening situation, no half-measures will do.

* * *

We are aware that some feeder-schools have been opened. But it is clear from the results obtained so far that the pace at which Government is going is too slow to catch up with the growing need.

We are also aware that the Director of Education is urging Head-Teachers to admit only a part of the children on the waiting list, only 20 or 25% in some cases. But we don’t know his instructions regarding the rest.

Is it not clear then that the problem of space in schools is in no way less than a national calamity? Government as well as the people must endeavour to find a solution. The co-operation of one and all is essential.

We give below some ways and means to tackle the problem. We hope we are sounding the alarm in good time. Admission starts in January. Every effort must be made till then to solve the problem.

We suggest that:

1. Village Council Halls and Social Welfare Centres be accommodated to receive our children. Why not even Baitkas?

2. Suitable buildings be rented.

3. Huts be built in rural areas, adjoining schools.

4. Shift system be made to work, especially in towns.

5. Relief teachers be employed.

* * *

We are having enough of adventurers in the secondary education. Let them not invade the preserves of primary education also to the great detriment of our children’s future.

Government should give up the idea of erecting concrete buildings and employing only fully-trained teachers. It must be practical if it does not want to have thousands of illiterate children on its conscience.

* * *

Mr Besson rides the high horse

A solitary man is either a brute or an angel. — Proverb

Mr Besson is furious because we associated his name with that of Mr Ramdin to fight segregation in sports and at the MBS but he has not written to us. He has chosen to spit his venom elsewhere — in Le Cernéen and Le Mauricien.

Mr Besson declares in a bitter way that he would not have made any protest had matters stopped at Mauritius Times, “considérant que ce journal ne touche que des éléments de la population qui ne m’intéressent pas”.

It is because Mr Forget raised the question of segregation in Council by relying on our article, says he, that he is roused to action.

And finally he gives a captivating pen-portrait of himself: “Qu’il soit bien entendu que je n’appartiens à aucun groupe social ou politique à l’ile Maurice et que j’y vis en parfait étranger. Puisque je ne m’intéresse en rien aux affaires de quiconque, je demande simplement en retour qu’on m’ignore.”

Mr Forget has refused to ignore Mr Besson. So do we.

* * *

We would have left Mr Besson alone as he wants to be ignored. But the tone of his letter is so scandalous and disturbing that we think it would be cowardice to keep silent. Moreover, Mr Besson took part in a public race, and he is a teacher at the Royal College.

If Mr Besson wants to be ignored as a sportsman all he has to do is to ride in a track round his residence in Forest Side. Monks and yogis are rarely in the news. On the other hand it would have been easy to ignore Mr Besson as a man. But Mr Besson is not only a man and a sportsman; he is also a government servant. It is dangerous for him to show his hate for any section of the Mauritian community. Already people are wondering if he looks upon all his pupils with the same eyes. If Mr Besson exhibits the same hate and contempt for Indo-Mauritians at the Royal College, we won’t be surprised if cries of “Sack him!” gather momentum.

It’s good to find the sentiments lying deep coming to the surface. This shows that even education can fail to repress primitive feelings. And people talk of the elite!

If Mr Besson does not belong to any social group – not even coloured or white or frontier — his contempt for the lndo-Mauritian community is quite understandable. It is not in taking interest in horses that one acquires horse sense.

The pen-portrait is quite revealing. In a few lines Mr Besson has laid bare his solitary soul. His standoffishness must be a virtue in his eyes. One cannot question his personal philosophy. But is it unreasonable to expect a man to be human?

As a teacher of Greek, Mr Besson must be constantly living with Aristotle and yet he forgets what Aristotle has said about mankind: Man is a civic animal. If Mr Besson does not want to be civic, well, that is his personal business.

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