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Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology

Compulsory Primary Education

YEAR 2009
(No. B/1061) Mr M. Dowarkasing (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked Dr the hon. Minister of Education, Culture & Human Resources whether he will state the schooling rate at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels respectively, indicating the measures taken as at to date to enforce compulsory education.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the schooling rate is generally measured by the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER), which is the proportion of enrolment at a given level (i.e. pre-primary, primary, secondary or tertiary) to the population of that corresponding school age. The GER for 2008 is as follows; I am adding pre-primary although the question was not put -
- pre-primary level - 94%
- primary level including repeaters - 101%
- secondary level, covering academic and pre-vocational - 74 %
- tertiary level - 41%
Education is compulsory up to the age of 16. However, it is also a fact that, while we have almost 100% enrolment at the primary level, it is in the secondary sub-sector that a drop-out is significantly seen. It must be kept in view that compelling parents by legal means to keep their wards in schools will imply the imposition of fines upon parents who may already be low-income earners.
Consequently, enforcement of legal action will unduly penalise parents. However, increased motivation and incentivisation would yield better dividends than the enforcement of the law.
It is in this context that my Ministry has initiated, in collaboration with other institutions, namely the National Empowerment Foundation and IVTB, a series of measures, with a view to facilitating and increasing access to education -
(i) Under the Eradication of Absolute Poverty (EAP) Programme, some 500 children have been identified and admitted to pre-primary schools. This has an incidence on their transition to primary level.
(ii) The Second Chance Programme, currently being implemented by the IVTB in Mauritius and Rodrigues, has extended the possibility for youngsters below the age of 21 and who are not attending any formal training or are not in full time employment, to be equipped to participate in an economic activity. This training programme covers life skills management, basic literacy and numeracy, and advanced literacy and numeracy.
(iii) Under the Special Needs Education Programme, my Ministry is also keen on the mainstreaming of many of those children who do not attend school because of physical impairments of some kind. This is also part of the inclusive education process. Hence, relevant technological support as well as infrastructural additions, in a move towards discouraging those with a disability from dropping out of school.
Finally, I would like to inform the House that, as part of the computerisation process of the Ministry, we are developing the School Administration and Management System (SAMS) which will facilitate, inter alia, the tracking of learners as well as those dropping out at the grass root level.
The following measures are also being taken to increase the enrolment rate at the tertiary level -
(i) providing a greater diversity of programmes;
(ii) providing opportunities for students who do not have 2 ‘A’ levels to enroll for higher education through foundation programmes;
(iii) setting up of the Open University of Mauritius;
(iv) creation of more infrastructure to accommodate students;
(v) increasing enrolment of publicly-funded tertiary education institutions, and
(vi) establishment of brand name overseas institutions or their affiliates/centres/branches in Mauritius.
However, I wish to point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, that, while we are making every effort to increase access at tertiary level, yet, we are committed towards maintaining a quality education at that level.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is also to be noted that the measures introduced in the last two Budgets of this Government, namely the provision of scholarships and Government Guaranteed Loans under the Human Resource Knowledge and Arts Development Fund, have enabled the democratisation of access to tertiary education.
The policy adopted by this Government for the maintenance of free education, free transport facilities and supplementary food programme, as well as provision of textbooks for needy students, are all contributing towards increasing enrolment levels.
Mr Dowarkasing: I thank the hon. Minister for his reply. Let me come first to the primary sector. The hon. Minister has stated that the percentage is 101%, including the repeaters. Can we know the percentage without the repeaters?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is between 98 and 100; more towards 100 than towards 98. But as for the exact figure, we’ll have to look into and come to the House.
Mr Dowarkasing: Therefore, my next question is: if we retain the figures of 98 or 100, it means that we have more than 4% to 5 % of the children who are attending preprimary and getting direct access to primary education. Has something been done in that area?
Dr. Bunwaree: I mentioned a list of measures that are being taken. In fact, we believe it is a very important thing at all levels, be it pre-primary, primary and secondary.
But, according to us, the most important part is at pre-primary and tertiary.
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I just want to know from the hon. Minister whether any special measures have been taken to address the issue in the poverty and extreme poverty zone, where eventually we can see children loitering on the streets during daytime and not attending schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in fact, this is what I have mentioned.
The EAP Programme is, in fact, that. One difficulty is to identify, especially at pre-primary level, where are those children. As the hon. Member is saying, we do find children here and there. We are even using the possibility of surveying through the children who are in primary and secondary schools, asking them who are the younger children who could be in their residence and who are not attending schools. A survey is being carried out, so that we can identify them.
But we have all the possibilities to get them on track and get them to school, provided we know. I appeal to all Members of the House and all stakeholders to try to help us to identify these children. In many cases, they are not identified.
Mr Dowarkasing: I am just putting this question because I think it is very important.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for years - and the hon. Minister will agree with me - the schooling rate at the primary level has remained more or less 94%-95%. It goes around an average percentage. We are still missing 6% of children into our primary schools and that has gone for years. If you go for statistics you will see for 5, 6, 7 or even more years this situation is prevailing. This means that maybe the measures we are taking are not addressing the issue.
Could we know what new measures can be envisaged in order to get everybody on the school bench?
Dr. Bunwaree: I beg to differ, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I explained that we are giving the gross enrolment ratio. But if I take the enrolment at pre-primary age 3 and 4 years, in 2004-2005, for example, it was 84.9% and in 2009, it is 91%. So, we have improved significantly and we are going to continue to improve. We have taken certain measures, we are going to continue along these lines.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: The Minister has just mentioned with regard to the tertiary sector the Government Guaranteed Loan. Can he say up to now, from the time this scheme has been put in place, how many have benefited from this Government Guaranteed Loan?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have already answered to this question previously, but I don’t have the figure. But I did mention that for the loans, people must come forward to apply for the loans. We are trying to mediatise further so that people be aware that this facility exists.
Mr Gunness: With regard to the policy of constructing pre-primary classes in the premises of primary schools, has this been stopped or are we going ahead with that? I don’t hear any pre-primary classes being constructed in the premises of primary schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: We are going forward, but there is a survey which is done regularly.
One thing I can say is that we have not stopped, but we have to do it judiciously.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question from the hon. Third Member of Curepipe and Midlands!
Mr Dowarkasing: Thank you, Sir. From his reply the hon. Minister has stated that he does not favour the enforcement of the law. May I know from the hon. Minister whether any parent has been taken to court due to the fact that they are not sending their children to school?
Dr. Bunwaree: Not to my knowledge, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
(No. B/910) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the
Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to the primary school going age children, she will state the measures, if any, taken by her Ministry in relation to those who are not attending school.
Mrs Martin: Mr Speaker, Sir, according to the Education (Amendment) Act 2004
and in line with Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Mauritius is signatory, education is compulsory for all children up to the age of 16.
In this context, non-compliance to schooling is an offence as per the provisions made in the Education Act. On conviction, a responsible party is liable to a fine not exceeding Rs10,000 and to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.
Furthermore, article 28 of the CRC provides for the parents or others responsible for the child, the primary responsibility to secure within their abilities and financial capabilities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.
Mr Speaker, Sir, whenever cases of primary school going aged children not attending school are reported by the public to the CDU outstations, including the child protection services of Vacoas, these are referred to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources for action at their level. In parallel, my Ministry also undertakes social enquiries on the reported cases as appropriate. Cases are referred for actions to relevant stakeholders depending on the child’s specific situation.
These are, inter alia, the National Empowerment Foundation which implements projects under its Child and Family Development Programme with a view
to increasing school attendance amongst vulnerable children. The ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions which pays a monthly allowance of Rs750 to families listed on the social register of Mauritius on condition that the children have at least 90% school attendance rate. The Mauritius Police Force, including the Brigade pour la Protection des Mineures which prevents loitering of children in public places during school hours.
Moreover, crackdown operations are carried out on a regular basis throughout the
island with a view to discouraging absenteeism. As regards cases of children who have not been registered at birth, My Ministry issues a referral letter to the school concerned to facilitate the admission pending arrangements being made for their birth certificates. And in conformity with CRC, my Ministry is fully aware that going to school form part of the socialisation process of the child. In this respect, we are working with all stakeholders to safeguard the best interest of the child.
In an endeavour to further encouraging school attendance and detecting prolonged
absenteeism of children, my Ministry is involved in the following: conducting information, education and communication campaigns through the school child protection clubs, empowering parents under the école des parents programmes, strengthening the surveillance mechanisms through the District Child Protection Committees and Community Child Watch Committees and networking with Ombudsperson for Children’s Office.
Under the Working-Together Committee, a protocol of collaboration between my
Ministry and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources was signed on 25 October 2012 with a view to rationalising, improving and enhancing services in child protection and development.
Furthermore, I am informed that the Ministry of Education and Human Resources has put in place the student tracking mechanism to ensure that children between five to sixteen years attend school and that Educational Social Workers have among their duties, the responsibility to identify children of school going age who are not attending school and conduct parent education programmes for necessary guidance.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, in her speech on the Budget on 16 November 2012, the hon. Minister said that the Working-Together Committee is supposed to define clearly the responsibilities of each stakeholder involved. I would like to know from the hon. Minister in what way is the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare addressing the issue? Is the responsibility of the Ministry only to transfer the matter to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources?
Mrs Martin: I have lengthily explained in my answer, Mr Speaker, Sir, how the
Ministry develops mechanisms to work with all the different stakeholders in order to make sure that children go to school. As far as possible, we are ensuring that there is collaboration between the different stakeholders concerned so that children can go to school.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, when we go to the website and look at the mission of the Ministry, it is stated: to design and implement policies and programmes geared towards, amongst others, protecting the rights of children. Children have a right to education, Article 28 of the Convention, and the hon. Minister has just mentioned it. My question is: what are the policies and programmes that have been designed and implemented to protect the right to education of children who are being deprived of this right?
Mrs Martin: Mr Speaker, Sir, I have explained again to the hon. Member, I say it in my answer that the Ministry works together with other Ministries with a view to implement the necessary conditions so that children of school going age can attend and do attend school. It is not only my Ministry which works towards this goal.
However, with the networking that we create - two of which I have mentioned,
different facilities are provided by different institutions such as the Police, the National Empowerment Foundation, the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions and especially the Ministry of Education and Human Resources with whom we have signed a protocol to be able to better streamline the way in which we can ensure that the children can benefit from the right to education.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister if she could spell out the policy of her Ministry regarding children in shelters who do not attend school?
Mrs Martin: Actually, Mr Speaker, Sir, we do try at the maximum to send all
children who reside in shelters to school. However, because of some conditions, sometimes the children are very behind in their schooling or they necessitate special attention. These children are, in fact, sent to specialised schools or otherwise, there are qualified teachers who come into those shelters and ensure that the children follow schooling programs until they can integrate the mainstream.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether any survey has been carried out by her Ministry to find the root causes why these children do not go to school? What are the reasons the students fail to attend school?
Mrs Martin: There are different reasons why children do not go schools...
No. There are not surveys carried out per se, but what we do is usually when we have a case, as I have mentioned, there is a social enquiry that is carried out on every case, and, as appropriate, the children are referred to relevant institutions.
And they are also, in certain cases, followed so that they may attend school as quickly as possible. For example, when there is the problem of tardy declaration of birth like I have said, if there is a case like that, my ministry will follow. If ever there are questions of poverty, it is the NEF that will follow and the Social Security as well will give the necessary support.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether her Ministry has carried out a survey or a study of the correlation between children not going to school and those engaged in prostitution, child labour and larceny, for example?
Mrs Martin: I must say no, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Jugnauth: May I know from the hon. Minister what initiative her Ministry has
taken in order to assess the number of children who are not attending school right now and who are concerned?
Mrs Martin: What I must say, Mr Speaker, Sir, is through the networking
mechanisms that we have put in place, there are several reporting of cases which come to us.
For example, with regard to the number of cases which have been referred through the different District Child Protection Committees and Community Child Watch Committees, for example, there is an average in the different Community Child Watch Committees. I can see that there are 32 of them. There is an average of about four to five cases that are being reported through those different 32 Community Child Watch Committees through their meetings and reported to the Ministry. And once it is reported to the Ministry, according to the different requirements of the case, we follow up on the case.