Excellency, I am writing this Open Letter to you as a citizen of the Republic of Mauritius. I work as Head of Department of Applied Pedagogy at the Institut Cardinal Jean Margéot. Last year I had the pleasure to listen to your Official Address at the Opening ceremony of an International Conference on the Bicentenary of the Bible Society, hosted by my institution. Your humbleness and wisdom are still on my mind. I have chosen to address you through an Open Letter on the subject matter that I develop hereunder because I believe educators have a public role to play for social transformation.
In this regard, I would like that you intervene promptly in your full capacity of Head of State and Commander-in-chief of our Republic for the children of our country who are currently repeating for the first time the Certificate of Primary Education in Form I- Prevocational stream. The situation of these children calls for your urgent attention.
At the beginning of this year, the government took the decision to allow first timers C.P. E repeaters either to join the prevocational stream in a secondary school or repeat in primary school as it has been the established practice till now. I am fully in favour of this decision. I consider that it was inhuman and physiologically and psychologically repressive and inhibiting to continue to force the children of our Republic who are entering the early stage of their puberty to repeat once and even twice in a primary school amongst their younger peers. Thanks to this policy decision, some 2000 parents have opted for the prevocational stream. Unfortunately, the stark reality seems to confirm that this decision has not been accompanied by appropriate measures like an adapted curriculum, appropriate pedagogy and learning materials and most of all teacher formation in its holistic dimension. We have now reached the end of the second term. Pupils are on school vacation. In three weeks school will resume and these pupils will resit for the C.P. E in October. There has been still no special program for these pupils.
There is a strong perception amongst educators that the policy decision to allow first timers C.P. E repeaters to join the prevocational stream was more motivated to get rid of these pupils in primary schools and also to show case that C.P. E results are improving to some financial international institutions like the World Bank than as a matter of principle. Worst of all, it has been reported in the press (Le Mauricien, 22 July 2013) that the Ministry, after having been wired in its lack of vision and mismanagement, is now rushing to pay Rs 900 per session to each teacher for remedial classes and Rs 45 to each pupil to attend these classes. These classes are due to start on 30 July. I would not hesitate to say that this is unethical and a shame for our national policies.
Excellency, the caption of the Government Programme 2012-2015 (Chapter, 3, The People) reads as follows : “The success of a nation is first and foremost about the wellbeing of its people. People who are healthy, well-educated, and socially, economically and culturally empowered, become engaged, responsible citizens. Developing an individual’s full potential is both an endorsement of her basic rights as well as enabling her contribution to economy”. Moreover, at the very beginning of this Programme it is stated : “In doing so, Government will remain rooted to the underlying philosophical values that have always guided its actions : Progressive Politics, that is, “mettre l’humain au centre du développement”. We have always considered economic success to be meaningful only if it leads to improvements in the quality of life for all in a sustainable way. Government will maintain its unflinching determination to nurture a more inclusive, plural and cohesive society based on human dignity, equality of treatment, economic efficiency and social justice.” (Introduction, para. 11). Is the prevailing situation in prevocational education reflecting these statements and professed values ? How come that the most vulnerable children of our republic are treated with such a callous indifference ?
Excellency, this situation is intolerable. How come that ever since independence our country has still not been able to give the best education to these children who have failed their CPE exams ? Each government has come with a new project, each time with a new appellation (viz. PVT, BSS, SSV, PVE). Why have we failed ? How many generations have been lost ? Are the CPE repeaters our stolen generations ? We all know that our examination system assesses and validates only the linguistic and mathematical intelligences. Other intelligences are left over and ignored. In fact, in real life situation it is not the C.P. E intelligences which make a difference. This world looks for critical application of theories, contextualization, team work, sense of initiative and innovation, skills and competencies. Mauritius thrills with the ambition to be an ocean economy, a knowledge economy for a sustainable Maritime Republic. If our education system cannot give its best to the pupils of the prevocational stream, we are unfortunately tempted to say that “progressive politics” and “mettre l’humain au centre du developpement” fall very much like sanctimonious pronouncements.
Excellency, I am sure and trust that the President’s Office will ensure that the rights of our children are fully respected according to our Constitution and international conventions.