The Case for Private Secondary Schools

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By D. Napal B.A. (Hons) –
Principal Neo College

Private secondary schools are the butt of all sorts of attacks coming from different quarters. But it is rather ironical that the Director of Education should make an almost wholesale condemnation of all private secondary schools. Instead of blaming us, the Education Department should plan secondary education and help to raise its standard.

In the 1954 Report, published late in 1956, private secondary schools are stigmatised as being run on a purely “profit making basis”. Is this assertion fair? Since the days of Rev. Jean Lebrun, who indignant at the fact that the Royal College was but the preserve of whites, began his pioneering work for the education of coloured children, and of the great Remy Ollier who more than once unsuccessfully tried to impart secondary education, how many Principals of secondary schools have been able to leave a fortune behind?

Everybody knows that the admission examination held to recruit students for the Royal Colleges and the State Aided Secondary Schools are of a higher standard than the VIth standard examination. Yet, few children get the chance of following a post primary education or a private tuition course to enable them to face the admission examination papers. The truth is that there are scarcely a dozen schools where primary scholarship classes are held. The result is that more than 75% of students who pass the VIth standard examinations have the faintest chance of getting admitted in the State and state Aided Schools. It does not necessarily follow that the pupils are not intelligent. They are only ill-fated creatures to whom opportunities are not given. Private secondary schools are of immense help to such children.

The Report in question admits this as it says that out of 429 teachers in secondary schools, Government employs only 71 and pays three quarters of the salaries to only 120 teachers in the State Aided Secondary Schools. If we take into consideration the over staffing in those schools, we shall come to the conclusion that more than 75% of all those who have had the benefit of a secondary education cannot boast of having got it at the Royal Colleges and State Aided Colleges. It will be hard to deny that private secondary schools annually supply a good number of the civil servants, most of the primary school teachers, nurses, policemen, typists, accountants, only to speak of these.

There are private schools which for many years have been imparting secondary education and can count among their ex-students doctors, barristers, attorneys and other intellectuals who occupy different stations in life. Private secondary schools have been devoting themselves to education, teaching at a moderate price, often making concessions to deserving poor students, who if they had waited for Government to help them would never have gone beyond the VIth Standard. And in return, what is the gratitude of Government? Private secondary schools are labelled as money making machines.

But the Principals of these schools could put their intelligence, their energies, their time, their capital to other spheres of activities. And they would have been more secure. They could have probably made more money. The question of money has nothing to do with teaching. Teaching is vocation, it is the expression of an inner feeling, it is a deep-rooted desire to do good. If we had to make money, we believe that there is more than one better way to do it than by opening a school. Our fate is that of the injured and the Director of Education by attacking us has added insult to injury.

Honest, constructive criticism should be welcomed in any department of life. But criticism which comes from those who betray an ignorance of facts can do more harm than good. We all know that there are some private secondary schools which do not deserve to be called such. They are lowering the prestige of the profession. It is those schools which have given the Director of Education the opportunity to make his wholesale condemnation. We all know that planning is needed to deal with such schools. This planning can come but from the Education Department itself. What we need is not verbose, aimless invectives but sound planning. But, unfortunately, rarely or never do the Director of Education or his lieutenants honour us with their visit, allow us to profit by their suggestion, help us to run our schools on more efficient lines.

Let us hope that in the future we shall earn the respect we deserve. We believe that it is high time for Principals of private secondary schools to form some sort of syndicate for their safeguard.

Friday 28th December, 1956

* Published in print edition on 9 August 2019

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