The Winds of Change Never Stop Flowing

By Paramanund Soobarah

Having received a few queries on some points in my article in MT with the above title last week, I should like to make the necessary corrections and clarifications.

I wrote the article entirely from memory, and now know that I have been guilty of a few omissions, particularly concerning the names of the Indo-Mauritian laureates. In 1922 there was H Joomye, the patriarch of the great Joomye family; in 1927 there was HM Noorooya, and in 1946 there was M Nalletamby, who beat Bhoop Kishto by a whisker.

In 1952 there was C Dyall (Bedi), who subsequently had the unique good fortune of tying the knot with another laureate, Miss Bundhoo. Some time after I left school there followed Suresh Baguant in 1955, AR Moussa in 1957, and A Hossenbocus in 1958.

From the sixties onwards things changed as all communities had developed sufficiently economically to begin staking their claims to a fairer share of the educational possibilities available in the country. Nowadays the State helps every child, some perhaps a little more than it ought to – and, it might be said, many a little less than it could — to help itself to all levels of education.

I covered the subject of apartheid at the Royal College Curepipe at some length in the article, but in another context I also mentioned the names of a few teachers (R d’Unienville, B Bathfield, Louis Besson and Mr Perdreau whose first name has unforgivably skipped my memory, etc).

For the record, I would like to stress that there was never a single trace of discrimination in their attitudes towards pupils; if some of them showed any favouritism at all, it was towards the better performing students absolutely regardless of their ethnicity.

The teachers who, according to us, showed signs of the prejudice weakness, mainly non-white but French-speaking, could be counted on the fingers of one hand with some to spare; they were the ones behind the movements against a couple of newly-inducted Indo-Mauritian teachers, one at the Royal College School, Port Louis, and the other at RC, Curepipe, that led to their being moved away from these schools.

That was the virus that kept developing, surreptitiously at first and not so surreptitiously later and that exploded into a virulent epidemic on the 19 November 1963. That was the day the PMSD held a very large meeting at Champ de Mars against the Labour Party. It was perhaps their biggest meeting in history. One prominent Indo-Mauritian lady (who was very active politically and also a great PMSD sympathiser) approached the rostrum to garland Duval, Koenig and others. She was elegantly clad in a bright blue saree. There spontaneously rose the cry “enveloppé pas oulé” from the participants, which quickly changed into something ethnically more sinister.

This is a piece of our history that students must know about and must be able to look at dispassionately, just as they do at slavery and at the treatment that our forebears suffered during their status as indentured workers.

* Published in print edition on 15 March 2013

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