SURESH RAMPHUL

No doubt, hard work and sacrifices are required to become a laureate. But is it really necessary to celebrate with so much pomp, so much noise, and so much show off? What harm is there if it’s celebrated modestly?

By tradition, we’ve put the proclamation day, and the laureates themselves, on a pedestal. We’ve overlooked the fact that many others have passed their exams by equally working hard. We’ve mistakenly placed our whole attention on the laureates and none at all on those who have managed to pass anyway. In a grading system, not many marks may separate a laureate from another candidate. The irony is that spotlight is put on the first, the second is ignored. But the latter don’t demerit. They’ll stay here and serve the country in one way or another while many laureates will study abroad with our money and many will pursue a career over there.

The firecrackers, the drums, and the carrying of the laureates on the shoulders are exaggerations. A spectacle, at best. Yes, the laureates did their best but at the height of their success, they need to be told to keep their feet firmly on the ground and avoid being treated as heroes and heroines. At a time when we’re talking so much about loss of values, it would be reasonable for colleges to educate their students to celebrate but humbly. Every year, the pompous celebrations come to remind us of the iniquity of an educational system that highlights the disparity between the superior and the inferior, the high and the low, the good and the bad.

Ego

Competition has to be healthy, but generally when one college with the highest number of laureates considers itself better than the one with fewer laureates, and this one, in turn, considers another as lesser in importance, and so on, we get what we call a cycle of superiority syndrome that involves an enormous ego. This is one of the explanations why the revelry is so loud and attention-grabbing. Besides, they know they’re being filmed by the MBC/TV. They need to make themselves heard.

While public attention is focused on the high-flyers, we forget that our educational system, despite a number of changes here and there, fundamentally remains unbelievably flawed. Right from Grade 7 our students learn to write formal and informal letters. How come five years later, in Grade 11, many still cannot write a reasonable letter? I hear students saying of certain textbooks “ki finn fer aste me ki pa servi mem dan klas”. This means they carry the books for nothing. Why do the authorities accept a situation like this? Why do students attend tuition classes regularly but shun their classes at school? Why do many of our students pass with good marks at school in their tests and exams but fail or get a Pass at SC or HSC level? Everyone must be given the same chances to pass an exam yet in certain colleges we still do not have teachers to teach specific subjects? How usefully do the students spend their free time? Why should those who compete for the scholarship get the best of attention while others don’t?

There are hundreds of “small” matters like these all around Mauritius that need to be addressed immediately but they are considered incidental. Therefore, they remain unsolved. And our students are losing. The proclamation of laureates is often one argument used to tell us how excellent our educational system is. Gullible people believe in this. But a critical look opens a window on the stark realities of education in Mauritius.  A Grade 11 repeater says that last year: “mo rant lekol 8.00 a.m., pena ler mo kapav fini sorti”. No one discovers anything? They do, but they don’t always care; apparently, they’re fed up phoning parents. Do we have a policy at the level of the ministry to look into these “small” things in all seriousness? In other words, is there accountability? The least said about alcohol, smoking, drugs, bullying etc., the better.

There was a time when the students of colleges having produced laureates manifested their joy right in the streets, disturbing public peace. They passed by colleges in the vicinity, dancing and yelling “Piso!” This was meant to humiliate the students and the staff of the colleges that hadn’t produced any laureate. The message was clear: we’re the best. In their euphoria, they would provoke some minor incidents. I don’t have the actual facts but I still remember one lady, the Principal of a boys’ college, publicly apologizing to a girls’ college for the misbehaviour of her students. It took the authorities years to understand the unfairness and the stupidity of the method used to celebrate the scholarship. They put an end to it. Colleges could celebrate only on their premises.

We need people to occupy elite positions in society but that doesn’t mean celebrations surrounding the proclamation of the scholarship need to be overblown. Why can’t they be kept authentic and realistic? We know you’re the best but why do you have to make a public show that you’re the best? Do you know that many people interpret these celebrations as a sign of arrogance?

When someone from an underprivileged region or from a modest family becomes a singer or a musician, an artist or a sculptor, a writer or a dancer, no one celebrates the event. They’re people with an undeniable talent who are doing something to enrich our culture, yet how many of them are given the importance they deserve? But when it comes to laureates, celebrations are organised weeks ahead of the proclamation. Why? I think it’s high time we did things differently in Mauritius.

A word to future laureates

Don’t let success go to the head. Thank God for making you a laureate. Keep your cool and ask your friends not to behave crazily. Loss of touch with reality makes them look down on others. This isn’t the aim of education. Be humble and make it a point to tell your friends to be humble too. Humility builds and polishes personality. It enhances wisdom and gives you dignity. Do celebrate but  without playing to the gallery.