Alain Ah Vee
For Ledikasyon pu Travayer
Ledikasyon pu Travayer would like to place in the public domain our letter written to the Minister of Education, Hon. Leela Devi Dookun, immediately after her election in 2014. She has done nothing for the mother tongue of the children of this country. 50 years since Independence and not a move from her yet to de-colonize the medium of instruction. Her mandate is now nearly over. She did not even deign to reply. But, it is not too late for her to act in the interests of all our children, who suffer harm from the continued repression of the mother tongues in school.
Here is the content of our 2014 letter, now an “Open Letter”:
Dear Hon. Leela Devi Dookun, Minister of Education,
We write to you as new Minister of Education to share with you our ongoing concern about the nefarious effects of the continued suppression of the mother-tongue in schools, a practice that has persisted since colonial times.
Our Association, as you may be aware, has constantly, for over 30 years, advocated the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction in schools for the simple reason that it is the best educational practice, especially for the easy juggling of high-level abstract concepts and for creative thinking, but also for basic literacy.
However, for the past 10 or so years, we have come to the realization, after much thought and study, that it is a much more profound issue than this. Not using the mother tongue as medium is positively harmful. And, this being the case, and being the case on a nation-wide scale, it becomes urgent to stop doing harm to children.
It is not only us who believe that considerable harm is being inflicted upon our children.
In 2009 we held an International Hearing into the Harm Done to Children by the Suppression of the Mother Tongue in Schools. This was an international “tribunal” designed specifically to look into whether there was, in fact, harm being done to our children in schools by the continued suppression of the mother tongue. The Tribunal was funded by the European Union DCP Fund. And its Panel of Judges were people of high international repute.
The conclusions of the Hearing were that “there was no doubt from evidence adduced that grievous emotional and psychological damage is inflicted upon the children with distressing repercussions for whole families”. Children’s “cognitive” growth was also found to be affected. A copy of these findings were sent to the then Minister of Education and other educational institutions.
In a statement you made to the Press as new Minister of Education, you declared that schools should be a place that makes our children blossom. That would, indeed, be wonderful. However, it will remain a mere dream if our children are still forced to learn through a language, or languages, which are, to them, quite naturally as dead as Latin.
In addition, we draw your attention to the fact that SOFRES conducted a survey for us in 2009 on attitudes of people towards using Kreol for teaching scientific subjects, and only 38% were either against, or more-or-less against, while 53% were in favour. This surprisingly high figure in favour is even more amazing when the same survey showed that only 21% of people questioned knew that there was a Kreol-English dictionary, only 20% knew that pre-vocational schools used Kreol as medium, and only 7% were aware that there were already courses on Kreol at the University!
We are attaching a copy of the Executive Summary of the Findings of the LPT Hearing.
In addition, we will leave a copy of the entire 200-page LPT book on the subject, including the survey results and a report on the Hearing, itself.
We believe that changes will be necessary to ensure that the official language policy of the State as applied in schools does, at the very least, effectively protect children of the Republic of Mauritius from cognitive, intellectual and emotional harm. As the first-ever woman Minister of Education, we believe you will be in a good position to nurture the “mother”-tongue. In particular, we realize that, in order to bring about the change that is necessary, there will be a need to inform the public, in particular parents and teachers, as well as ministry officials, of the research that exists world-wide on mother-tongue as medium, and on the research on Mauritian Kreol. Most conclusive is, of course, the little-known fact that mother-tongue learning produces higher-level second language and third language proficiency.
The time for change is ideal. Theoretical linguists, like Prof. Danny Adone and Dr. Fabiola Henri, have done immense groundwork on the Mauritian Kreol grammar and syntax, at the prestigious Universities in Germany and France that they work at respectively. The orthography for Kreol has been standardized by successive linguists. A grammar manual for teachers’ use has been produced by the Akademi Kreol Morisien. The MIE has its own Kreol Unit. There are hundreds of teachers qualified to teach Kreol as a subject, and who have mastered writing the language. Thousands of children are already studying Kreol in schools. The Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies has run its first Course for Court Transcribers whose transcriptions are obviously mainly in Kreol. The University of Mauritius and the Open University both offer various Courses on Kreol.
We suggest that the way to choose which are “best practices” for a country like Mauritius is to choose to learn from the mother tongue policy of relatively low-population countries that have amongst the best academic results world-wide. For example, Norway, Finland and Holland are not large countries, they use the mother tongue as medium, and they have amongst the best results in the world.
We are ready to meet you and officers of your Ministry at any time for any further details you may need on this crucial issue.
Date: 22 December, 2014.