Fighting forest fires with spray bottles: the Mauritian way

Mauritius is currently straddling two extremes:
It is being marketed as a picturesque destination with its sprawling sun-kissed, palm-fringed beaches dotting its long coastline, where the sound of gentle ripples softly lapping against pebbles lulls tourists into a reverie.
Yet, the above is an elegance at odds with the unvarnished truth on the ground, since Mauritius may also be the verbal equivalent of a little boy standing ankle-deep in gasoline and flicking matches in the wind, if the communal flare-ups are any indication. In multi-religious Mauritius, a single case of individual idiocy is capable to swell into a deluge, and the embers of past horrors fanned back in full flame.
More worrying, however, is our attitude to such a silent crisis likely to assume alarming proportions. Our approach is decades out of date. We forget that adaptability is but a form of damage control and not a strategy, and the story we tell ourselves are often simplistic caricatures of what actually happens.
The Country still being in diapers in innumerable spheres, we make only baby steps towards social harmony by parading on the screen our religious leaders who suddenly start mouthing the all-to-obvious homily about social harmony. That move, in the face of a crisis, is akin to fighting intense forest fires with spray bottles.  Once the rumbles of social thunder subside, everyone sits back, pats one another on the shoulder, and starts singing the praise of the rainbow nation like a canary.
Nor can we rest our aspirations entirely on politicians’ shoulders, many of whom are too apt to promise and peddle visions of a perfect society only to honour their promises more in the breach than in the observance. However, those bravely ploughing their lone furrow in enforcing social harmony are the exception.
Even our school has so far failed to be a nucleus to nurture excellence, empathy, character-building, cooperation, patriotism and social harmony. The unrelenting and ruthless competition to master examination skills takes precedence over all else, with the process getting more important than the outcome. Romancing the brilliant and demonizing the poor achievers has increasingly become the hallmark of the school. In that regard, the role of socio-cultural organizations in celebrating ‘’their’’ academic ‘’geniuses’’ only accentuates the social and communal divide.
Presently, our school houses the following broad categories of students: 1. those who are well-behaved, serious, keeping mostly to themselves, and who orbit around an academically excellent world. With no friends, they keep to themselves, become selfish and self-centered and are able to collapse into copious sobs if their classmates outperform them. Their parents constantly shepherd them to and from tuition and school, spare them the trouble of tidying up their room or ironing their clothes. Ultimately, in adulthood they are the very ones having difficulty adjusting to family, friends and colleagues because the only examination skills mastered have no relevance to their new environment.
2. The students in the second category are usually engrossed in their own immediate pleasurable activities with a propensity to run roughshod over the feelings of others, including teachers and parents whose nerves they delight in putting to the test. They are the ones who glamorize smoking, drinking and drugs, and whose behavior in class and outside school is but an outpouring of attention-grabbing tales of vulgarity, attracting attention by their very repulsiveness. While their abusing words flow out with an effortless ease, their acolytes roar with an out-of-order jubilation, with a rollicking laugh causing their whole body to shake and quiver. They have a way of getting what they want and are annoyingly unrepentant, revolting at the annoyance of a good example.
3. In the third category, the students are half-way between the above two, with no set opinion of their own. At home, they wrap their words and actions in honey, show an interest in studies and earn their parents’ trust. However, when idleness, indecision and peer group influence work hand-in-hand away from home, debauchery never gets out of style. Such a combustible combination causes havoc. Rules get openly flouted with abandon and, before long, they too get sucked in the whirlpool of debauchery and start strutting around like over-fed, over-pampered peacocks, much to the disbelief of their parents who keep arguing with teachers as to the contrary.


Ultimately, the education provided at great cost has failed the vast majority of our youngsters, especially in matters pertaining to social integration, nation-building, character development, amongst others. To that end, Government would do well to create a nation-building programme likely to touch the soul of the Country entitled VOLUNTEERS IN SERVICE TO NATION (VISToN). The programme which is of a 2-yr duration (730 days) targets our youngsters, is to start as from Form III during school vacation, continue during week-ends at their own pace until completion of the cycle of 730 days, extending even slightly after HSC exams.
The programme may be organized by the SMF, be residential under SMF tents for first-hand ‘vivre ensemble’ experience close to nature, will be richly-stuffed, rigorous and enjoyable, with emphasis on: character-development, empathy, self-discipline, nation-building, social integration, physical fitness, martial arts, weight training, communication skills, drama, group work – all enriched by guest-speakers, films, hands-on activities. Outreach programmes will include, adopting and maintaining streets, villages and other regions of the island, contacting public and private institutions for blood donation, helping and guiding elderly persons at the Casualty Section of hospitals, clean mosquito-infested areas, help prevent wastage of food for distribution among the poor and needy, help para-medical organizations like the Red Cross, help distressed families, especially in impoverished areas.
Each participant will receive a stipend after every 30 days of successful completion of activities. At the end of the 2-year programme (730 days), each participant will be eligible for an ‘Advanced Certificate’ which will qualify the holder for extra bonus marks for employment in the public or private sector as he will be a more accomplished candidate with maturity, self-discipline and a sunny and radiating personality. It is certainly not a coincidence that most prestigious Universities worldwide give additional weightage for extra-curricular activities at the time of recruitment.
Our youngsters need interesting, exciting and healthy experiences to keep them away from the tantalizing temptation of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Prudence is not necessarily a deity to cultivate in youth as youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other both in mind and body. In short, youth is the time to run a mile to see a fire, not to be glued and enslaved to the cell phone or the internet.
The VISToN programme will, thus, provide the right experiences to our youngsters for the benefit of the Country and generations to come.


A couple of years ago a pathetic nobody decided to post on FB some obscene and disgusting comments about the month of Ramadhaan. The said non entity was blamed as an INDIVIDUAL! Her community was not targeted, nor blamed for HER imbecility. The actions of this pathetic person were seen as being indicative of HER state of being!

We now have had a situation where 2 INDIVIDUALS (NOT a community!) decided to embark upon a course of action in destroying some idols in a temple. The reaction of attacking the places of worship associated with the said persons was equally as heinous.

Any government crackdown must recognise the 'counter attacks' on the 3 Masjids, as being equally deserving of disgust.