Mauritius Times 3rd year No 82 – Friday 2nd March 1956 —
The ‘Admit Our Children Committee’ and Trade Union Council held their 21st and last meeting at Quatre Bornes Town Hall on Sunday the 19th February. A procession composed of cars and vans preceded by a band left Champ-de-Mars at 2 pm, for Quatre Bornes where the meeting took place. Several thousand people from all parts of the Island attended the meeting.
The meeting was presided over by Mr A. Moignac, President of the TUC.
Messrs P. Dabee, L. Badry, P. Ruhee and B. Ramlallah addressed the meeting.
Though it is encouraging that the Education Department has to date admitted about 3,000 children yet discontent is rife in places where Govt has refused buildings or has not done any appreciable effort to admit those children who have been left outside.
Requests to address meetings are pouring from several villages.
Henrietta, Souillac, Surinam, Camp Thorel and Bambous are the few places from where people have come with requests that we should hold meetings there.
What has alarmed many parents is the decision of the Education Department not to admit any children now.
Below we publish in condensed form the speeches of some of the orators.
Mr A. Moignac
Opening the meeting, Mr Moignac welcomed the assistance and explained why the Trade Union Council is giving its full support to the “Admit our Children” campaign. He said that the decision of the Director of Education to refuse admission to 10,000 children was affecting directly the children of the workers who cannot afford to pay private schooling.
The speaker pointed out that when the government wants to employ a peon, the minimum qualification it requires is a Sixth Standard Certificate, for a licence to drive a car the applicant is supposed to know a bit of English so as to enable him to read traffic instructions, and to become a fairly good carpenter, mason or mechanics one should know a bit of arithmetic and can read instructions, etc., but as elementary education is denied to our children they will be but fit to till the soil or work in the docks; if they can get such jobs, so much the better, otherwise by swelling the ranks of these categories of workers they will provide cheap labour which will no doubt be to the advantage of the capitalists.
Mr Moignac spoke of the resurgence of the African people. He said that throughout the dark continent people are struggling to break the shackles of slavery – economic, social and political. The best example he said was Gold Coast where only 16% of the people are educated, but they have obtained self government and will become free this year. This is due to their determination. Mr Moignac said that if the Education Department does not give satisfaction, the TUC will be compelled to order one day’s strike throughout the whole island. The strike will be but symbolic.
Concluding he said that the refusal to admit our kids is the fruit of the rule by foreigners. Had we a Mauritian as Minister of Education he would have had to justify his actions vis-à-vis the electorate.
Mr P. Dabee
“You all know that about 10,000 children have not obtained admission in our primary schools. Never before has the future of our children looked so gloomy and we cannot sit idle. We cannot quietly digest the declaration made by the Director of Education flatly turning out our children from the doors of the schools. Our children have got the undisputed right to education when they are born in a British colony. It’s their birthright!
We are proud to be living in a British country but when we realise that the Government has shirked its responsibilities we are compelled to come forward and expose openly our grievances. We cannot tolerate any further the denial of Education to our children.
We demand immediate admittance for all who have been cruelly denied it. The Government is supposed to be the father of its people and we ask ourselves whether as such has the Government of Mauritius felt the anguish and pain that torture our hearts at this cruel refusal of our children in schools? It is manifest that such refusal has badly sapped the confidence the Government usually commands from its people.
The reasons supporting this refusal are threefold: (i) lack of money, (ii) lack of space, (iii) lack of teachers.
For the past ten years there has been no storm with the result that we have had very good crops. Never before has the colony been so prosperous as it is today. There are millions lying in the Government reserves and still unblushingly we are told that the Government cannot afford to pay for the education of its subjects.
We have also the Labour Welfare Fund with a capital reserve of Rs 18 millions. If this fund is really to serve the labourers, why then should it not be used for the education of these children?
While 10,000 children are out of school for lack of space, is it conceivable that about 30 rooms are kept empty in the three new schools buildings of Port Louis?
It is an insult and humiliation to our young friends with certificates of Junior, Senior, Matriculation and GCE to declare that they are incompetent to teach in primary schools. As an illustration the Director tells us that one would not like to travel in a car driven by someone who has not got a licence. This piece of advice is in fact an insult to the intelligence of Mauritians.
Does the Director of Education really mean that a person with a GCE certificate cannot reach the three R’s to infants? The director himself has today in his department several Relief and Supply teachers with only VIth class Certificate as qualification and who are giving full satisfaction after undergoing a training of about 3 months.
The present school problem is an emergency matter for Mauritius. Why should there be hesitation to apply the shift system? Such a system has been adopted with success in many countries which had to face a similar problem.
It will be a crime to allow the future of our children thwarted. Parents are shocked by the actual policy of the Education Department and it is more than evident that the Director has shown himself unable to cope with the present situation.
We leave to posterity the right to judge over the consequences of the present issue.”
Mr L. Badry
Mr L. Badry, Secretary of the Agricultural Labourers Union reviewed the activities of the Admit our Children Campaign. He said that the Campaign had the sympathy of all sections of the population because it was a problem affecting all the communities of the Island except the white community.
Many people were watching with keen interest the activities of the Campaign; at the beginning they were diffident as to the outcome of the Campaign because it was started by too newcomers in politics: Dabee and Ramlallah. But both have proved their worth.
Mr Badry dwelt lengthily on his recent visit to Nigeria, Gold Coast and South Africa.
He told the audience about the successful struggle of the Africans in Gold Coast and Nigeria against capitalist exploitation and imperialism and also how in South Africa the Coloured population is treated with inhumanity. Mr Badry said that the rebuff given to the population by the Government on the education issue is a reminder to Mauritians of how they are treated when a foreigner is at the head of a department. He added that unless we get Mauritians – people who have been chosen by the population – as heads of departments, the management of our affairs will not function as we would like.
Ending his speech, Mr Badry cautioned the audience against any constitution which will tend to divide Mauritian on a communal basis.
(The speeches of the other orators will be published next week.)