Transfers of Rectors at State Schools?

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep

Du “remue-ménage” to accommodate a relative of a VIP, close to the “Kitchen Cabinet”! We have had a plethora of such cronyism in different institutions of the country and we thought that the education sector had been spared of such state interference. This is a sector that is undergoing some important changes and it is important to have the right people in the right places. We cannot afford to have such meddling around when the sector will be needing its best elements in view of the forthcoming challenges.

The rector of a State College in Plaines Wilhems is having a hard time with her deputy who happens to be the relative of a VIP; the former has been transferred to another State College. Like an enticing game of chess, the next move is to replace the transferred rector by another rector who is on the point of retiring. By a series of such successive moves that end up with a more or less clear-cut checkmate, our deputy rector/VIP-related lady will soon be seen taking over as rector.

This is a perfect example of how such nepotism is vitiating the environment in one of the few sectors that till recently had not been so marred by this scourge – a trademark of this regime. Put yourself in the shoes of the teacher looking forward to her retirement; after so many years of hard work in building up a college from scratch to becoming one of the promising ones, she has overnight become a mere peon in a game of chess meant to position a well-connected person. How shameful!

What about the unions? Not a word from them! What about the reaction of other colleagues? In the end they will just moan about it in corners of the staffroom. Most of the time people turn a blind eye to nepotism – especially if it doesn’t affect them directly.

We can understand the reasons behind privileging someone if s/he were the best person for the job, but we often see incompetent people replacing capable, established staff simply because they are a friend or family member. How many brilliant teachers and efficient managers have we lost out due to nepotism? How many students have missed out on great teachers and rectors? We just hope that there are still institutions where you know everyone got where they are based on merit. If this still happens in some schools, then surely that will benefit the students and, after all, that’s what a school is there for.

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Agalega: Agreement with India should be made public

The Prime Minister has brought up the Agalega issue in Rodrigues, reassuring us there has been no shady deal with India and he would not in any case bargain the sovereignty of Mauritius and its islands. That’s comforting, but the question remains: will he publish the agreement signed with India?

A knowledgeable blogger has evoked the possibility for the Leader of the Opposition demanding and receiving by virtue of his constitutional right, on the basis of strict National Security confidentiality, a copy of any agreement with any foreign country, be it in relation to Agalega or Mauritius proper. The Leader of the Opposition must submit a PNQ to that effect for the new parliamentary session.

“Should the PM refuse, then the leader of the opposition can refer the matter in the first instance to the acting President. Should this fail, he could lodge a request at the Supreme Court for a judicial review. Furthermore, and in parallel, the Agalega Support Association should also do the same by first writing to the PM then to the acting President and finally also seek a judicial review from the Supreme Court.” Citizen Lambda should support the judicial review.

If there is nothing sinister in the Agalega agreement, why keep it secret?

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Air Mauritius nose-diving!

Based on its financial report for the last nine months ending 31st December 2018, the CEO of Air Mauritius announced that the national airline has incurred a loss of Rs 1 billion. Every time we are being served the same story: the company must review its strategy and rethink its model of operation and reputed experts are called in to reengineer and redesign the whole structure of the airline company. This time round, one additional expert, in the form of the Minister of Tourism, has joined in and it is more or less the same standardised tune as before.

Every time there is a plunge in profits, our local experts try to con us with their magic formula cum solution – “La compagnie s’est engagée à revoir son modèle économique eu égard au contexte et aux défis actuels.”

It is not only a question of outdated economic model that explains our nose-diving national airline, it is also about the board and the top management who have consistently mismanaged. Under such conditions and with such losses, they should be offering their resignation. The new economic model of national airline demands a neat “coup de balai” to rid us of the whole board of Air Mauritius from Chairman to CEO to board directors.

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Public Health: Hygiene in our hospitals!

Not a week goes by that our health system is not in the news. This time it has to do with the poor hygiene at Jeetoo Hospital. Last week the patients were just fed up, they were complaining about the unhygienic state of the hospital. The beds, the sheets, the walls were all infested with bedbugs. As for the hall itself, the floor was filthy with dust and dirt of all kinds, so too the furniture harbouring all kinds of insects.

Patients also deplored the appalling state of toilets and bathrooms. The smell was so stinking that many patients had nausea and were reeling for fresh air. Some commented that « Lopital se vréman enn lenfer… ou al laba pu bien, ou kapav pli malad ! »

One might assume that a hospital is a safe place. After all, we go to hospital when we are sick and need urgent medical care. Unfortunately, the authorities seemed not to be concerned and many people may end up worse off than before they went in for treatment. For example, it is not unheard of to go into hospital for a routine operation and end up contracting a lethal bacterial infection whilst you are recovering from your surgical procedure, often as a result of poor hygiene. This is why hygiene is so important in a hospital and it is unacceptable that we are having such appalling conditions at the Jeetoo hospital which can quite literally be a killer! There are already some lively netizens who have launched a growing protest group highlighting the fact that our hospitals continue to be a great risk to many who avail of the services and they are demanding that these services improve.

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The moral test of our society and Government: Cléa, Cléanne, Deevesh, Lynnsha…

Hubert Humphrey once said that “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

In the last few weeks we have had the case of Clea and Claeanne who had to go to India for surgical intervention. Then there was Deevesh, aged six, who proceeded to India for his second treatment against cancer. He will be having a bone marrow transplant followed by chemotherapy sessions. Lynnsha has a vaginal cancer and she is presently having chemotherapy sessions; she will have to be operated soon. All the families are in dire need of help and they are depending on the generosity of Mauritians.

For these families any donation is God’s grace but for how long will we allow these families in need to undergo such hardship by begging around to collect the right amount for the treatment. Is it not denigrating for our society that we carry on like that? One family is short of Rs 1.2 million, another Rs 300,000… Is this not a moral test for our government and our society? We have all kinds of taxes being levied on petroleum products and which were supposed to be invested on this and that. Why not devote part of these taxes to a special fund that can meet the totality of the expenses for treatment for such families? Metro, 24/7 water facilities or state-of-the art Sports Complex… can wait. Let us take care of our sick and needy first!

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Violence amongst the young: How to tackle it?

The violence and fights between college kids made the headlines this week. The clips circulating on the net have raised concern about this issue that the society and the authorities are finding difficult to tackle.

There have been some reports and studies on the issue of indiscipline and violence in schools and these have not been accompanied by proper actions in the field, especially by involving more NGOs in tackling the problem of violence and indiscipline among the younger generation

Many NGOs that have a proven experience in child empowerment and in training the child to reinforce his values, strengthen the sense of self and of sharing, enhance his creativity, improve his focus and concentration in studies, help him to be independent and responsible, communicate better and respond to stress in an emotional healthy way. These NGOs also help parents to handle their child’s transition to teen, getting them involved in their teens’ activities and struggles – physically and emotionally, understand their need to appear trendy and be accepted among peers, and be a friend and guide in choosing their career – what they want to be in life!

They bring about the development of every child in all the three aspects — body, mind and spirit. They lay great emphasis on sports, performing and visual arts. Varied interests of the child are nurtured through activities like creative writing, debates, computer programming, out-of-the box arts, and martial arts. The focus is always on encouraging children to excel without compromising on human values. Children will excel when they are in a stress-free environment. Their curriculum includes daily yoga, asana and breathing exercises, which enable a calm and focused mind.

This helps discover the inner potential of every child. It is time that we open up our schools and colleges to these NGOs and give the opportunity to those who want to enjoy the benefits of music, arts, yoga and meditation to do so without fearing the recriminations of those who are against these. They will use the pretence of preserving the secular nature of our education system to deny our kids a genuine effort at equipping them with the knowledge to blossom to their full potential.

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The MedPoint saga: a foregone conclusion

We were more or less sure that the verdict in the MedPoint case would go in favour of the PM. This was a technical issue – a question of conflict of interest. For reallocation of funds, according to the “virement” rules, the Minister need not sign. He was just conned into signing the instructions. But the real issue or scandal lies elsewhere. If the officials of the concerned ministries had abided by the guidelines/rules of the Investment Project Process Manual (IPPM) – a kind of best practices for investment expenditure in the Budget – issued in accordance with the Finance and Audit Act 2008, the MedPoint scandal could have been avoided. What was the scandal all about then?

First, the government bought a decrepit old building and its lot of old equipment at a cost of Rs 144.7 million when it was valued at Rs 75 million. The deal was endorsed by the Cabinet chaired by ex-PM.

Second, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) rushed the project through before the end of the financial year to avoid the capital gains tax. The MoF finally approved an authorization for the reallocation of funds pertaining to the purchase by the government of the Clinic at the higher valuation.

Third, taxpayers, after losing some Rs 11 million on the capital gains tax leviable on the plus-value of the Clinic and overpayment of Rs 75 due to overvaluation of the Clinic, will now have to bear the additional cost of around Rs 1 billion. The dilapidated building stripped of all its equipment, doors and windows will have to be pulled down for a totally new structure and new equipment. We have to add to that the cost of going to the Privy Council including the “pointless” displacement of the Director General of ICAC.

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Cité Roma at Terre Rouge severely affected

Cité Roma at Terre Rouge had been severely affected by the flash floods. The inhabitants feel forgotten by all. They decry that no parliamentarian, no deputy and not even a minister came to visit them. In case of the floods at Cottage they did, why this double standard? Is it a question of vote banks?

There are 192 people who have taken refuge at the Youth Centre of Riche Terre. They are asking everyone for help to get back on their feet and start afresh. Their homes have been covered with mud and these people have lost almost everything – mattresses, foodstuffs, clothes, appliances – everything has been affected.

They have received some compensation from the Ministry of Social Security which they consider as mere pittance. The inhabitants of the region are disgusted by the way that Government is tackling their distressing situation.

Many in the present government are the very same people who had been criticizing the previous one for their “calamitous” programme of construction of drains in flood prone regions. It seems that we are having more of the same. Several of our Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) continue to be threatened. These more frequent flash floods justify the urgent implementation of the following actions, as proposed by the environmentalist groups: a) suspension of all projects near ESA, b) a national reflection on ESAs, and c) a new law put in place for their protection.

* Published in print edition on 22 February 2019

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