Intake in schools

Jay Narain Roy —

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago

3rd Year No 80 – Friday 17th February 1956

* La prière faite pour un autre est toujours plus féconde que celle faite pour soi-même. — Dr A. Carrel

Intake in schools

A movement is now well afoot. It seeks to draw attention towards the seriousness of the problem. It is a basic problem, a problem indeed that demands immediate solution.

Let us discuss it without passion or partiality. The only attitude to take is to help solve it. Is it a 1956 problem? Definitely not. It appears to have been neglected since a few years. In the process it has aggravated. The reports of the Department have consistently left the question unsolved.

Who is to blame? Some say that the Director has wrongly advised the Government. Others argue that the Director is new, that the policy of the Department had been shaped by the Deputy when Mr Opper had been seconded for duty. Some give vent to their political ire and are thirsting for the blood of the Liaison Officer of Education. They even venture to suggest that the problem has aggravated since 1951, the very year the Liaison Officer was appointed.

I do not think that we can face this problem by throwing blame right and left. We have reached a stage in our evolution when we cannot wash our hands of responsibilities by merely bandying blame.

We must realise that the problem has become fairly complex. If 10,000 children have not been admitted, it is quite grave. There are a thousand children born in Mauritius every month. Every year there are 12,000. If we allow 10,000 children to hang on, next year the magnitude would be more than doubled.

Moreover if we allow the normal governmental measure to take its course, we would need 50 schools of 200 children to admit the 10,000. If the Public Works Department (P.W.D.) has to build the 50 schools it will take at least three years. By that time there would be 36,000 more children clamouring to be admitted.

There are surely other speedy measures. We must turn our attention to the speedy emergency measures and try to help in the solution. That is the only legitimate attitude responsible people should take at this juncture.

Suppose we asked the sugar estates employing thirty persons regularly either by the day or by the month to put up a school building. Is it not their moral duty to do so as a necessary measure of social welfare of the workers? It seems fair enough to enforce this measure. There are surely more than 100 estates that employ more than 30 workers living in camps.

Last year’s crop has been quite interesting. It would be no burden for the estates of this size to find the wherewithal to put up school buildings. The P.W.D. will take six years to put up 100 buildings. If each estate has to put up only one, then within 3 months we can have a hundred school buildings to lessen the overcrowding in the government schools.

Yet there is an alternative solution. There are more than a hundred Hindi and Urdu schools all over the country. They have fairly suitable buildings and are largely run by voluntary subscriptions.

If they were asked to take also to the normal teaching as in government schools on the system of part subsidy, I think we could achieve wonderful results. I fancy that with about one-third of the amount the government spends on its schools of the same size, we can achieve practically the same results in these schools.

Of course the conditions attached to the part subsidy should be the standard of teaching and inspection. I do not think that there is a dearth of such young men and young women who have the basic equipment to teach in the primary classes. The government can even arrange for a short term training of such teachers.

If we look at this question with this attitude, we will find that this is not so difficult as it appears at first sight. It would also not need such a great capital as to upset the stability of the budget.

We do not desire that this problem should form the basis of any political stunt. Some opponents wish to take the opportunity to throw all the mud on the face of the Liaison Officer in order to blacken him politically. They say that he should have had his ears to the ground, that he should have brought the seriousness of the matter to the notice of the Council and that if he was not able to redress matters, he should have resigned.

We all know Dr Ramgoolam. He is not the type that would reap the honours, pocket the money and sleep over his responsibilities to the people. He is very conscientious of his duties to the public. He must have spent hours every day studying files in his position of Liaison Officer and giving studied suggestions in each of them. Knowing him, one would be right in presuming that he has every year submitted detailed plans crammed with facts and figures on the problems of the expansion of education in Mauritius.

I have not the least doubt that when the opportunity will arise he will publish his many suggestions and also explain why he considered it necessary to stick to his post even after he was not able to fashion the policy to the needs of the people.

That being so, let us look at this difficult problem with all the sympathy and consideration it deserves.

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