What A Department!

It is a curse that the education of the Mauritian child from the primary school to the university should be full of so many difficulties…

Mauritius Times – 60 Yrs

Last Wednesday Miss Rittner, Liaison Officer for Mauritian Students in UK, came in our midst to spend a few days. She seems to have taken our small island by storm. We welcome her and wish her a pleasant and fruitful stay.

The coming of Miss Rittner has naturally turned our thoughts to Education and to the Education Department. We who are so much interested in the campaign “Admettez Nos Enfants” should like, first of all, to tell Miss Rittner how anxious parents feel about the admission of their children to British universities. There must be something wrong somewhere if not even government scholars would not feel as forsaken as on a desert island.

It is a curse that the education of the Mauritian child from the primary school to the university should be full of so many difficulties. Primary schools are inadequate to meet the needs of our growing population and the universities of UK are inadequate to meet the needs of our colony. That is why children have either to seek admission to private schools or go unschooled and our young people have to go to India or France. The problem of admission should be tackled earnestly here as well as in UK.

Like our children and young people, our teachers too have their tales of woe. Their appointment, their posting and their promotion are subjects of grave concern. We wonder if the Training College, the Director of Education and the Public Service Commission are fully alive to the situation.

* * *

The Education Department is recruiting teachers to follow a one-year course at the Training College. A press communiqué signed by Mr Viader, Principal of the Training College, lays down the conditions under which students will be enrolled.

One of the conditions reads as follows: ‘Candidates who would prefer to work (italics ours) in a school maintained by one of the four Educational Authorities should apply in person to the President of that Authority to fill in the prescribed form; all other candidates should apply in person to the Principal, Teachers’ Training College, Beau Bassin.”

It is to be wondered why the abovementioned condition is so cautiously worded. Does the Education Department still think that it can confer any status on the students when they have completed their course?

In our view the Education Department must take an unequivocal stand once for all. To this end, it must be specified in the Training College communiqués that those students who are sponsored by one of the Educational authorities will be granted the status of an aided school teacher and those who join the Training College directly will be granted the status of a government school teacher. For administrative reasons, the Education Department may reserve the right of posting the teachers to any school — either aided or government.

* * *

All primary school teachers enjoy today the same rights and privileges. Formerly aided school teachers had no pension, no study leave and could not become inspectors of schools. The inequalities and inequities have gone but strangely enough the Education Department is still divided into two watertight compartments: aided and government. The so-called aided schools are aided in what sense? They are fully supported by government.

A time will surely come when all schools will be government schools. But what prevents the Education Department from having a common list of teachers today? Why not put all recruits on the same list and open the doors of all the schools to all the teachers, irrespective of the communities to which they belong?

We are for secularism in schools, and we are not afraid of proclaiming it even at the risk of incurring the anger of pious people.

Now, as long as religious instruction remains on the time-table, why all children are not given the same opportunities of learning about their respective religions? In government schools non-Christians are taught at least their culture by non-Christian teachers. But what is the position in aided schools? The policy of the Education Department seems to favour the posting of teachers of a certain denomination in certain denominational schools. While Christian children in those schools learn about their religion, non-Christians are left aside as pariahs and pagans wondering in their small way if their little world after all is godless.

* * *

The way promotion is granted makes one feel that teachers are utterly at the mercy of heads and sub-heads of the department no matter what they are worth.

Let us take for example the appointment of Head Teachers. Government Notice No 79 of 1953 says: “Head teachers shall normally be appointed from amongst the 1st Class teachers and 1st Class teachers shall normally be appointed from among 2nd Class teachers. The claims of teachers for promotion shall be considered on the basis of merit, experience, qualifications and seniority.” Recently a number of women teachers were made Head Teachers. Were the four requisites enumerated in the regulation taken into consideration? The injustice was so flagrant that one is tempted to say that all principles were thrown overboard and chivalry and gallantry came into play: it was simply a question of “Ladies first”. Oh, the carnation in the button-hole!

Let us also consider the appointment of superintendents of schools and tutors of the Training College. Until recently all superintendents were appointed without inviting any application. Now applications are invited and the appointment is supposed to be made by the Public Service Commission. The PSC is nothing more than a scapegoat according to what is reported. Why should the superintendent or the tutor the Department wants be also the choice of the PSC?

That is not all. The Ramage Report has left the salary scales of teachers in a middle: the problem has been waiting a solution for over three years. Speaking of report, what about a progress report of what the Education Department is doing to solve the space problem? And, by the way, where is the Report for 1954 of the Education Department?

 


* Published in print edition on 8 June 2018

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