National assembly sitting 31 october 2023 : Looks like State ‘Lockdown’ on Linguistic & Cultural Rights


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About 182 students from the first batch of students having taken Kreol Morisien in Grade 1 at primary schools in 2012 sat in October/November 2023 for exams in KM at Grade 11 (Cambridge School Certificate Level). Such tremendous strides came to a sudden halt when the Hon. Leela Devi Dookhun-Luchoomun, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science & Technology declared  recently at the National Assembly that KM will not be offered in Grades 12 and 13, that is, at Higher School Certificate. All the students who intend to study KM in HSC in 2024 and their parents who are quite proud that their children would be the first generation to study KM up to HSC are now taken aback and upset by this statement. This situation looks like a State lockdown on linguistic and cultural rights. The term ‘lockdown’ is used here as a parallel to the situation we lived during COVID-19 when all of a sudden people across the world were restricted to stay where they are, usually due to specific risks that could possibly harm the people if they move and interact freely. In our case, the students have a lockdown on their language choice. A close analysis of the Hansard report on the statement of the Minister of Education looks very much as if KM in HSC would bring ‘specific risks’ and ‘possibly harm’ to the students. However, these are pretexts just to stop KM and inhibit the people willing to identify themselves with this language for their progress in life.

The Parliamentary Question

On 31st October 2023, Mrs A. Navarre-Marie (Fourth Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology “whether, in regard to the forthcoming Higher School Certificate Examinations, she will state if students thereof will be allowed to sit for Kreol Morisyen as a main subject therein, indicating the measures taken to facilitate same”(p.50). The Hansard gives a verbatim report of two pages (pp.50-51) which represent some 770 words. A google count of the number of words indicates the interventions of the Member of the Opposition and the Minister last for some 20 minutes.

Examining the Minister’s Reply

The Minister’s reply reads as follows: Mr Speaker, Sir, the introduction of KM at Grade 12 Advanced Subsidiary Level is envisaged but we have to first build up experience at the School Certificate Level and carefully evaluate the performance of students. We are only at the first sitting of the National School certificate in KM this year. We must engage in a thorough evaluation and monitoring of this assessment, gauge the performance of students and ensure that we put in place the building blocks for a successful drive towards the introduction of KM at AS and subsequently at AL Level. (pp.50-51). The Minister gives as main reasons for not going ahead with KM in HSC: the need to ‘first build up experience’, necessity ‘to put in place building blocks’ and ‘thorough evaluation and monitoring’ of the Grade 11 exams. It is the first time that language in education experts encounter such arguments. Even officials of the institutions falling under the Ministry are dazzled. The Minister further adds that: ‘Curriculum development is being effected at the level of the MIE and the University of Mauritius. The training of an adequate number of educators to teach KM at Grade 12 level remains another important aspect that needs our attention. Mr Speaker, Sir, I am confident that the House will understand that it is only through careful planning and capacity building that we would be able to move confidently ahead’. Again be it curriculum development, training of educators and ‘careful planning and capacity building’, all have been long under way since 2022 by intensive working sessions. The last reason is the most ludicrous when the Minister says: « M. le président, […]Il va devoir aussi venir avec suffisamment de littérature au niveau du Kreol Morisyen dans le standardised form de la langue ». It seems the Minister has not been made aware of the number of publications before, after and since independence. More so, the literature corpus is so rich and the body of university studies is so dense that we have more than enough for school prescribed textbooks. The statement of the Minister has given rise to an immediate outcry of parents, students and several concerned parties.

The outcry : ‘Pa tir lasiet manze divan labous nou zanfan’

The newspaper Le Mauricien (November 9, 2023, p.1) gives a coverage of the press conference held by Affirmative Action on the statement of the Minister. Some parents were also present and spoke. Father Patrick Fabien, catholic priest, one of the spokespersons of the NGO, declared at the press conference strongly: ‘pa tir lasiet manze divan labous nou zanfan’ (‘don’t remove the plate of food from our children’) as an outcry to the government on behalf of the Mauritian child. In the same vein, several experts in the field of language and education have expressed their views. At times, state politics is enmeshed in contradictions.

Ironical Rejoinder by Ministry of Tourism 

The Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage are holding various activities for the Festival Kiltir ek Langaz Kreol Morisien 2023 under the theme Nou Langaz – Lasours Nou Lidantite”. One of them is “Latelie lor Langaz Kreol Repiblik Moris: Realizasion ek Defi on Saturday 2 December 2023 at the Caudan Arts Centre, Port Louis. The event will also comprise an exhibition in the lobby of the centre where it is proposed to put on show publications produced in Kreol Morisien. In that context, several institutions have been invited to participate in the event and to present a stand showing the pedagogical materials published in Kreol Morisien, including books, audio-visual materials, and any other pedagogical tool available. What an ironical rejoinder to the reply of the Minister’s statement in the National Assembly. For my part. I would like to end by a plea in Kreol Morisien.

Na pa per…

Bann zenn ki finn pran KM dan Grad 10-11 ek ki pe etidie KM depi Grad 1 dan lekol primer zot bann brav zanfan Repiblik Moris. Na pa fer erer ar zot. Listwar touzour bien sever ar bann ki pa konn mars ar progre limanite. Ki to dan gouvernman, ki to dan lopozision regar sa zenn-la poze lor twa. Li pe get twa. Na pa fer fos ar li. Na pa per pou koze, na pa per pou pran pozision. To na pa pou gagn plis vot ou mwens vot. Me to pou gagn plis an dinite, respe ek dimin to va kapav get sa bann zenn avek fierte. Fer ki ‘The ayes have it’.

Mersi !

Dr Jimmy Harmon

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