Belall Maudarbux

 In a piece on the 2nd of June 2021, Jimmy Harmon (Deputy director of SEDEC, formerly BEC), while lamenting on the poor performance of ZEP schools at the PSAC results, made the following claim: the state must hand over these schools to the catholic education authority! In his analysis, “Que l’État donne les écoles ZEP à l’éducation catholique !”, the author argued that the 30 ZEP schools have a success rate of less than 40% despite being in existence for 19 years and that these children come from ‘historically disadvantaged groups’ (créoles) and face tenacious prejudices in these schools. The author considers this a massacre that must be stopped and queried whether this is equivalent to the assassination of ‘Ti-frère’.

My purpose here is to adduce figures and evidences to see if the above proposal holds.

The author’s bold proposal rests on 3 presumptions: firstly, that all ZEP schools are run by the state and the state is failing these children; secondly, these ‘créoles’ children are all Catholics and hence they must all be handed over to the care of catholic education system; thirdly, that the catholic education – to the exclusion of all others – does a very good job at educating children, which is why it must be the ‘chosen one’ to take care of them, should the state agree to the proposal.

Let us now look at the facts.

Firstly, there are only 28 ZEP schools. Two of these schools are run by the Catholic Education and they have done well (Jean Eon RCA: 70%; Ste Thérèse RCA: 81%). However, there are also state-run schools that have performed well and not at 40% as claimed above (Résidence Vallijee GS: 73%; Stanley GS: 64%; Pointe-aux-Piments GS: 63% Bois des Amourettes GS: 63%; Surtee Soonee GS: 54%). So the passionate and absolute claim that the state is failing these children does not hold in the face of facts.

Secondly, that education of these children be given to Catholic education because of their ‘Créolité’. Now, what does the evidence tell us? The Catholic Christian population of Mauritius stands at 288,000 persons. Yet there 77,000 non-Catholic persons among the Créoles and these include the Adventists, the Church of England, the Christian Church, the ‘Mission’, the LVD and the rest. On what ground should the state hand over the education of non-catholic Christian children to the Catholic education authority? Notwithstanding the substantial presence of Hindu and Muslim children in these schools as well? In the case of the Surtee Soonee GS (Vallée Pitot), with a population of more than 90% Muslims, this newfound neo-colonial pride, implied in the above claim, does not sit well with the school’s PTA.

Thirdly, that the catholic education is doing a better job than the state and therefore, is more entitled than others to care for the ZEP schools. Let us look at 2020 PSAC results of some RCA schools; (St Antoine RCA: 27%; Olivia RCA: 43%; Flacq Post RCA: 50%; Père Laval RCA: 52%). More worryingly, if we look at the result trend in some RCA schools, as in the table below, we have much more cause for concern.

PSAC Results’ Trend (Pass Rate %)
  2020 2019 2018 2017
St. Antoine RCA 27 53 44 56
Olivia RCA 43 61 64 70
St Jacques RCA 50 73 51 63
Père Laval RCA 52 56 67 72
Mahébourg RCA 53 63 66 72

 

Now, do these results look better than the state-run ZEP schools? The reader can draw his/her own conclusions. Why should the state hand over its schools to a faith group that is clearly unable to stop the growing failure in a number of schools, already under its care? Now if we are to compare these with Islamic schools results, what do we get? Take a look at the following table:

PSAC Results’ Trend (Pass Rate %)
  2020 2019 2018 2017
Aisha Institute 84 83 96 94
Dar ul ‘Ilm 100 100 100 100
Dar ul Ma’arif 100 98 92 86
Doha Primary – Curepipe 96 94  

96

 

92

Doha Primary – P. Louis 95 93
Institute of Islamic & Secular Studies 84 93 98 100
Zam Zam Primary 100 100 100 100

 

If the state were to hand over its ZEP schools to some other partners, to whom do you think it should do the handing over?

In conclusion: The author’s proposal of handing over ZEP schools to Catholic Education is at best, preposterous and at worse, reminiscent of mores and practices of a long gone era. As the author suggested let us not ‘passer par quatre chemins’ about the solution: the only way the state can hand over public property/institution to any private partner is through a democratic and transparent public offer to the best candidate.

Were the current education minister an employee on leave without pay from one of my schools, would I have been able to throw out such a blunt proposal in her face? I don’t think so.