Sookdeo Bissoondoyal State College will eventually become an Academy. Windsor College Girls, established since 1949, is one of the oldest educational institutions in the south. It has never received the best of students, yet it has played a significant part in the promotion of education for girls so that they can assume their role in society responsibly. Windsor College Boys has now shifted to a new building in Mont Fertile. Teaching and learning can henceforth be done in better conditions.
DAV College recently opened its doors for boys and girls. The Barclays Bank has moved to the north of the village, next to the kovil, and it now has parking facilities. The Centre Commercial Vieux Moulin and the Plaisance Shopping Village are well-frequented malls. They’ve taken the shopping and leisure experience to the next level apart from creating jobs. We also have several modern, well-equipped gyms for health-conscious citizens. Old shops, no longer operating now, will certainly be pulled down to make place for up-to-date buildings to offer a variety of services. Other major projects are in the pipeline.
However, there’s a pocket of poverty called Résidence Bethléem. It’s hardly 10 minutes away from Capitol Mall on the main road. After cyclone Carol, in the 60s, it was known as Cité EDC. I still remember the appalling living conditions there. Today things have improved but the locality remains under-privileged in many ways.

Problems

To illustrate how vulnerable the community is, here’s an anecdote: one day, at the old market, I noticed tomatoes of very bad quality on sale. What was the point of selling them? Without hesitation, the seller replied that it wasn’t a problem at all as the people of the EDC would buy them.

Children lack basic entertainment facilities. Houses are close together. Some of them get flooded during heavy rain. Many families occupy asbestos-based houses. They’re thus exposed to dangers. In several families, members are condemned to live in confined spaces. This makes living difficult. It has even led to promiscuity in a few cases. Marrying young is a means to escape poverty. Babies are often not looked after carefully as the parents are inexperienced in matters of family responsibilities. Teenage pregnancy does occur at times. The unemployment rate is another problem as many work on a day-to-day basis. There are days when work is not available. One can see some of the men working as lorry helpers, their task consisting in embarking and disembarking heavy construction materials. Others do odd errands, like carrying gas cylinders for households, to get some extra money. Dealers from outside come to the place and pay the young to sell drugs. It’s an open secret but no one is willing to talk about it out of fear.

Atelier Sa Nou Vise

This was founded some 10 years ago. The children were performing badly at school. The non-governmental organisation’s mission was to raise their standard. Dropping out of school would have worsened their situation. The Director, Alain Auriant, is satisfied about the achievements so far through remedial education though he’s aware that much ground still remains to be covered. The NGO receives a stipend from Mauritius Union Insurance to pay teachers to coach the needy primary and secondary students after school hours. Meals are also provided free. The SBM Foundation offers support where tertiary education is concerned.

Resource persons from the National Women’s Council and from other organisations impart life skills to adults. The Mauritius Sports Council gives opportunities to the young to visit places and to practise sports activities for free. Winner’s has offered a number of school bags. Other companies donated Xmas gifts last year. Laurelton Diamonds (Mauritius) Ltd. donated, in 2018, 5 computers and other related materials. Computer literacy is beneficial to adults and children alike.

The NGO plans to open an antenna in St. Hilaire, a poverty-stricken area. It also aims at auto-financing a few of its projects thanks to the Social Entrepreneurship Project. The members have gained some experience over the years and they want to assist other organisations involved in reducing poverty in the country. It is also looking for professionals to carry certain projects through.

Income inequality

Too vast a gap between the rich and the poor exists in Mauritius. Some individuals are drawing over one million rupees monthly as salary; some others are using public funds to travel an exaggerated number of times across the world while many of our poor citizens are abandoned to their fate. Poverty is a harsh reality in Résidence Bethléem. No politician visits this marginalized locality. Now that the elections are approaching, you’ll have them around. Maybe they’ll do a couple of things to garner votes. But piecemeal measures or quick fixes are synonymous with throwing dust in the eyes of the public. People want lasting interventions.

There’s a need to tackle the root causes of poverty and exclusion and to reconsider the system that gives rise to income inequality. How long can the destitute survive on volunteers and donations?