The Ground under your Feet

By Nita Chicooree

We may call it a cite, but the three-room houses built by the Ministry of Social Integration for the underprivileged class of people at la Valette are likely to make low income people in other countries dream. Not only underprivileged classes abroad but equally young professionals who work hard and opt for shared renting to be able to save some money.

We all agree that vulnerable groups should be lifted up from the lowest rung of the ladder and that public funds should be allocated to the NHDC to provide houses to the homeless. Some of those who have benefited from government’s assistance are reported to be doing quite well with stable jobs and their children striving to make the best of their studies, training and the available job opportunities. Others may still be loitering about, not doing much of their lives for lack of ambition or out of laziness and are likely to adopt anti-social behaviour. In this context, it sounds reasonable that the Minister should remind the people of their responsibilities to carve out their own future and do something for themselves. After all, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

It is all too easy to criticize the authorities and make fun of the country’s ambition to do as well as other dynamic countries, but there is no denying that such projects require the efforts of all citizens. A strong sense of discipline and the value of work should be inculcated in one and all. There are those who have voiced their discontent with the Minister’s firm attitude on private radios. The Minister should refrain from apologizing, as there is a limit to empathy and the time has come for each and everybody to assume his/her responsibility within the community.

People do need to be made aware of the opportunity that is being given to them to start a new life in brand new houses, individual houses with a small plot of garden to cultivate vegetables or flowers. The pleasure of feeling the ground under your feet every day will certainly be a luxury for many people in a near future.

 Mid-year holidays or tuitions?

Not many countries are really satisfied with their educational system. German college pupils go to school half-day and do sports in the afternoon. Parents are not satisfied with the system but the final academic results are the same as those in other European countries. There is no national educational system in America; every town and county is left to fend for itself with whatever funds are available in the coffers of the local council. In some states, there are no final exams equivalent to our HSC, and pupils’ admission to universities is based on the recommendation of their teachers, and the system seems to work. Real hard work starts at university level.

China has pretty much the same selective system at the end of the primary level as in Mauritius. Many Chinese parents are against the system but they just put up with it. One friend from Lesotho who has been visiting recently depicts a system that recalls the bad days of underdeveloped countries. Education is not free; she had to work during all week-ends to help her mother sell vegetables and foodstuffs by the roadside. With that money, I paid for my school fees, she said, I have had no childhood.

The business of private tuition is faring well judging from the overcrowded garage accommodating 58 Std V pupils on Saturdays and Sundays in Triolet. Why for God’s sake do parents feel compelled to send their children for more cramming during the week-end? The answer from parents: everybody does so! 9-year olds are mature enough to realize that the teacher has no time to give individual attention to the pupils, that the garage needs repair, the roof leaks and the teacher remains indifferent to the complaints of children. And the fellow has the cheek to hit the children, pull their ears or knock their heads against the wall! Rs 300 X 58 and add it to the monthly salary, no income tax. What a deal!

Last year’s budget included sports development in Triolet. We hope the project will materialize soon, that it caters for girls as well and consolidate community feeling and promote interaction between young people from all backgrounds including the cités. The village badly needs sports and cultural activities, to say the least.

Indonesian housemaid beheaded

Whatever be the economic situation and the difficulties that the country may face, we hope that Mauritian women will not be tempted to emigrate to the Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to work as housemaids. For decades, there have been reports of ill-treatment, harassment, sexual assault and all sorts of physical abuse meted out to the poor women from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia who migrate to improve the living conditions of their families back home. The case of a Philippino woman who was condemned to death for murdering her employer, an elderly Saudi who attempted to rape her, drew international protests and she was finally pardoned.

Unfortunately, the case of an Indonesian housemaid was deliberately not mediatized to avoid world outcry; and last week the poor woman was beheaded, thousands of miles away from home without being allowed to set foot in her country and meet with her loved ones. She killed her employer, a woman who is said to have harassed her and inflicted severe injuries on her body. Such cruel treatment is also common in the Emirates. In a TV report, one Tamilian woman from Sri Lanka related a woeful tale of blows and gratuitous beatings in the house of a so-called royal Koweiti family. Her face was swollen with bruises and she looked severely traumatized from that experience. Her employer, a princess, a capricious young lady, flew any object she could find within her reach at her maid’s face when she was in a bad mood. The Emirates and Saudi Arabia have a sad record of inhuman treatment of housemaids.

* Published in print edition on 1 July 2011

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