Mr B. Ramlallah —
Mauritius Times – 3rd Year No 83 – Friday 9th March 1956
* Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.
– Oscar Wilde
The Last Meeting of the Admission Campaign
(Speeches of the orators – Continued from last week)
At the very outset Mr Ramlallah said that he had received two communications from England one concerning the correspondence between Mr Brockway and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. When Mr Brockway received the cable from him in which he was informed of the Education Department’s decision refusing admission to 10,000 children, Mr Brockway immediately contacted the Secretary of State. Replying, the Secretary of State told Mr Brockway that after very careful consideration of the position at each school and the number of teachers likely to be available, it was decided in November 1955, with the advice of the Executive Council, that the number of admissions to primary schools must be limited to about 6,700.
It is now clear that the members of the Labour Party were not satisfied with the Executive Council’s decision which explains why they tabled a motion through Hon Ringadoo on the 17th December. Continuing Mr Ramlallah said that both Messrs Brockway and Johnson had questions tabled in the House of Commons concerning our school problems and it is indeed very encouraging to think that Mauritians have in the House of Commons valiant fighters of the calibre of Messrs Brockway and Johnson.
Behind these two gentlemen stands the mighty British Labour Party which is but too ready to support the legitimate demands of the people of Mauritius.
Concerning the second communication Mr Ramlallah said that it reveals the representations made by Mr Ibbotson to find employment for Mauritians with the London Transport people. Continuing, the orator said that the name of Mr Ibbotson will remain associated with the struggle of the working class of Mauritius. He is not only writing on our problems and wants with remarkable clarity and knowledge but he is also acting as a sort of Liaison Officer between Mauritians and the Labour MPs, Press and institutions in Great Britain.
Taking up again the question of intake, Mr Ramlallah said that it was a tragedy that while the school budget was swelling beyond proportion, every year 10,000 children were denied primary education. The speaker said that he would mention only a few instances and quote some figures to show how the taxpayers’ money is spent.
“In 1946,” said Mr Ramlallah, “there were in Government and aided primary and Secondary schools 43,205 pupils and in 1954 that number rose to 73,212 pupils, i.e. an increase of 70%. Now let us see what was the rise in expenditure during that period. In 1946 the budget of the Education Department was Rs 1,824,075 while in 1954 it spiralled to Rs 12,374,849 – an increase of about 586%”. “How to explain this tremendous increase in the Education budget?” asked Mr Ramlallah, “after close scrutiny of the expenses one is led to the conclusion that several sinecures have been created, some divisions whose very necessity are doubtful have been established, and above all there has been a marked rise in the salaries paid to high officials. Of course, in a few cases, such as the free distribution of milk to school children the taxpayers’ money had been wisely and profitably used.”
Pursuing Mr Ramlallah quoted the following figures from the Draft Estimates of 1955-56:
No of pupils on roll in the four government run colleges: 1399; proposed expenditure for 1955-56 Rs 2,993,156. Government to spend per pupil Rs 2,137 p.a. “This sum,” remarked Mr Ramlallah, “is extremely high for a small colony as Mauritius”.
“About 50 to 70 teachers are employed in the handicraft division of the primary schools. Four are under Training in the UK and five are expected to leave soon. There are about 20 teachers who have followed a course in handicraft at the Training College and who are waiting to be posted. Handicraft is taught in Vth and VIth Standard only 2 hrs per week. So a pupil is taught in that subject for about 120 hours in two years. Boys are taught woodwork, metal-work and bookcraft; girls are taught basketry and weaving.
“What can we expect from a child of 10 to 12 years to learn during that short period,” asked Mr Ramlallah. “Is it not squandering the taxpayers’ money and losing the precious time of both teachers and pupils? We are of opinion that technical education should be imparted properly at a post primary stage.”
Youth Organisation Division
Speaking of the Youth Organisation, Mr Ramlallah said that while 10,000 children are refused elementary education, he thought that the Mauritian taxpayer cannot pay the luxury of that division.
“During the financial year 1955-56 the Youth Organisation Division is expected to spend Rs 141,259,” said Mr Ramlallah. “Well, if only that division is abolished we can employ 70 teachers with the money spent on that item. These teachers will impart education to a minimum of 2,800 pupils.”
The scholarships class as it is at present held is a stigma on the educational policy of the Government of Mauritius. With the exception of one school all primary school scholarship classes are held in the rural districts. A child born at Goodlands or at Chemin Grenier of poor parents will run a very poor chance of winning a scholarship notwithstanding his superior intellectual ability because he is not expected to compete with the child of the rural district who has a year or more of regular training. “Why a category of people are favoured at the expense of others?” asked the speaker. “All scholarship classes should be abolished and their teachers released. The biggest scandal about scholarship is the award of scholarships to twenty non-primary schools children. Last year two thirds of those who passed were children of a particular community of whom some were children of millionaires. When 10,000 children are refused primary education, can we tolerate scholarships being awarded only to the townfolk or to the children of the rich?”
Concerning the financial position of the Island, Mr Ramlallah said that Mauritius is undergoing a period of prosperity never known in its history. In 1946 we exported sugar for Rs 79,002.383, while in 1954 it shot to Rs 285,000.000 – an increase of about 400%. The 1955 crop will reach the tremendous figure of about Rs 300,000.000.
“If at this period of our history,” said the orator, “we refuse primary education to 10,000 children what will happen when we will be facing slump periods?” Continuing he said that for the last 6 years – 1949 to 1954 – the government budget has shown a surplus of Rs 24,334,482. The orator added: “Can’t the Government draw a million rupees from that reserve to provide education for 10,000 children?”
Concluding his speech, Mr Ramlallah said he fervently hopes that Government will revise its decision concerning the intake of pupils.
(More next week)