As you are no doubt aware, one of the primary aims of education is to prepare an individual for life and to ‘produce’ responsible and healthy citizens who can contribute positively to the economy as well as society. In this modern technological era, our country needs healthy individuals and the age-old concept of « a healthy mind in a healthy body » is more than ever relevant as our human resource is our biggest strength in Mauritius. While the health sector is responsible for our physical health, our education sector has the responsibility of catering to the mental health of our youngsters who are the future of our country. It would not be erroneous to claim that adolescence is the period where the individual is the most vulnerable in life. Teenagers face identity crisis, emotional conflicts and are often confused by the world around them. As a result, they sometimes express themselves using violence or other unhealthy ways. Furthermore, the almost unprecedented rise in crimes in Mauritius suggest that many individuals are facing mental issues and are unable to deal with them in a positive way. The myth that mental issues are only found in so called ‘mad people’ has long been dispelled by doctors, researchers and scientists. Stress, anxiety, frustration, depression and so on are issues that could affect any individual and teenagers are often most at risk. If Mauritius wants to maintain its efficient workforce in the future and ‘create’ healthy future generations, we need to ensure that our education system is able to identify and properly address mental health issues in our students from an early age. (as is already being done in numerous countries such as the U.K)
I, therefore, humbly request you – as the authority in the field of education – to adopt measures that will enable our education system to produce not only academically successful but also mentally healthy and happy individuals. In this respect, the following measures might prove helpful:
• Providing regular counselling to students across the country through school counsellors and psychologists.
• The implementation of a ‘mental health awareness class’ in each school and providing teachers with training (through seminars and workshops with psychologists) so that they can not only deliver this class but also identify symptoms of mental health issues from an early age.
• Setting up a panel/community of teachers who will follow up on the work being done in schools throughout the country regarding mental health.
• Training students to use available techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and counselling to deal with issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
• Other measures may also be developed with help from experts in the relevant fields.
As a concerned citizen and a teacher who is committed to his profession, I strongly appeal to the Ministry for support in order to ensure that all of our students leave school prepared for life and not just for work and this preparation no doubt should include mental support. If we manage to do so, we will be one of the first countries in Africa to look after the mental health of our students through our education system and we will pave the way for others in this region. Moreover, this is in line with the nine-year schooling reform which seeks to provide a holistic and complete education for our children.
With the hope of a better and healthier future for our students, I look forward to a positive response from your Ministry.
* Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research.