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Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research

Primary Oriental Language/Teachers


PRIMARY ORIENTAL LANGUAGE/TEACHERS
PUBLIC BILLS
First Reading
On motion made and seconded the Community Service Order (Amendment) Bill (No. VII of 2009) was read a first time.
Second Reading
THE HINDI PRACHARINI SABHA (AMENDMENT) BILL (No. IV of 2009) (21/04/09)
Order for Second Reading read.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the Hindi Pracharini Sabha
(Amendment) Bill (No. IV of 2009) be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the object of the Bill is to amend Section (6) of the
Hindi Pracharini Sabha Act 2004 to make provision for the election of the
Committee members of the Sabha to be held every three years and for
elected members to hold office for three years instead of one.
The Hindi Pracharini Sabha, Mr Speaker, Sir, is well known and much
appreciated in Mauritius for its laudable work in the promotion and
propagation of Hindi language and literature.
The legislation of 2004 provided a proper legal framework for the
Sabha to carry out its operations and gave it the status of a body corporate.
Today, the Hindi Pracharini Sabha is running Hindi classes in the
evenings and during weekends in some 100 educational institutions around
the island.
About 4,000 students take part in the Parichay, Pratama, Madiama,
Uttama examinations, which are held in Mauritius every year. To date,
about 100,000 students have taken part in Hindi Pracharini Sabha
examinations and have been awarded certificates.
At present, the Sabha is managed, as provided for at Section 6 of the
Act, by a Committee comprising 12 members who are elected at each annual
general meeting and hold office for one year. They are also eligible for reelection.
It has proved difficult for members of the Committee to honour their
commitment and fulfil the objectives of the Sabha during their one-year
tenure of office, which is considered, too limited a period of time.
Moreover, the costs of running such yearly elections conducted by the
Electoral Commission are substantial and have had a financial bearing on the
Sabha.
With a view to addressing this issue, the Sabha has resolved at its
annual general meeting that elections of the Committee be carried out every
three years and that the members of the Committee hold office for three
years. Such a course of action would alleviate the financial burden of the
Sabha and allow it to devote the savings made to its core activities.
The proposed amendment, Mr Speaker, Sir, technical in nature, is in
line with the requirements of the Sabha. The transitional provision at
Section 4 of the Bill allows members of the Committee in office at the
commencement of this Act to continue holding office for the remaining
period for which they have been elected.
I would like here to draw the attention of the House, Mr Speaker, Sir,
that the amendment concerns mainly the holding of election and the duration
of tenure of office of members of the Committee.
However, the Bill before the House today may, Mr Speaker, Sir, give the
impression that within the course of the three years there will be no annual
meeting. In fact, I must say very frankly that in the course of the weekend,
the hon. Leader of the Opposition drew my attention to the possibility of
confusion in there. Therefore, I am proposing, at Committee Stage, an
amendment to the amendment to make it very precise and allow the Sabha to
organise once every year an annual general meeting.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with this note of clarification, I commend the Bill to the
House.
Mr rose and seconded.
(17.20)
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr P. Bérenger): Mr Speaker, Sir, I
am given to understand that the Hindi Pracharini Sabha started doing a very
good work for the promotion and propagation of Hindi in 1948 under the
guidance of JNR, Jainarain Roy. Since then, the good work has continued
and, in fact, as the hon. Minister said, the Hindi Pracharini Sabha does not
just promote Hindi, but it organises very important elections as well. Of
course, there are a lot of other organisations that did good work in the
promotion and propagation of Hindi.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I am given to understand that the Hindi Pracharini
Sabha started doing very good work for the promotion and propagation of
Hindi in 1948 under the guidance of Jaynarain Roy. Since then the good
work has continued and, in fact, the hon. Minister said that the Hindi
Pracharini Sabha does not just promote Hindi, it organises very important
elections as well. Of course, there are a lot of other organisations that did
good work in the promotion and propagation of Hindi: Arya Sabha, the Arya
Ravived Pracharini Sabha, the Government Hindi Teachers Union. And we
are very, it is not lucky, because we work hard for that - the previous
Government and the present Government - for the World Hindi Secretariat
to be hosted here in Mauritius; it is a great privilege, it is a great honour. We
also have a Hindi Speaking Union just as we have other Speaking Unions. I
have no quarrel with the idea of having the Executive Committee elected for
three years. I don’t think that it is a question of savings really. I think it is
more a question of allowing a new team to settle down and to work, because
if it is one year, it is very difficult. It is as if you have general election every
year and before Government has time to start writing a programme, elections
are here again. If there are savings, tant mieux, but I think it is more for the
good performance of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha that I go along with this
idea of elections taking place every three years. I was sitting next to the hon.
Minister at the Sunday afternoon Tamil Temples Federation activity and I
pointed out to him that there is confusion the way the amendment had been
drafted. It could have been interpreted as meaning that not only the
Executive is voted for three years, but that general meetings are held every
three years only. I don’t think this would have been good for the health of
the Hindi Pracharini Sabha. It is good that there is at least – because the
Executive Committee can call more than one annual general meeting - one
annual general meeting, not for electoral purposes, but to discuss the work of
the Sabha in general, to make suggestions and so on. I am glad that the hon.
Minister took my point on board and therefore the required amendment has
been circulated.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir.
(17.22 p.m.)
Dr. Bunwaree Mr Speaker, Sir, I think there is a consensus. I just
wanted to point out that I mentioned in my speech the two reasons. The
question of savings is not the main reason, of course. The main reason is for
them to settle down and to work for three years, but there is also the question
of the elections being organised in presence of Electoral Commission. I
thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for having mentioned a few words.
I commend the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time and committed.
COMMITTEE STAGE
(The Speaker in the Chair)
THE HINDI PRACHARINI SABHA (AMENDMENT) BILL (NO.
IV OF 2009)
Clauses 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3 (Section 6 of principal Act amended)
Motion made and question proposed: “that the clause stand part of the Bill.”
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Chairman, I move that clause 3 be amended as
follows –
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Chairman, I move that clause 3(a) be amended as
follows –
“by adding, after paragraph (ii), the following new paragraphs –
(iii) in paragraph (c), by deleting the word “and”;
(iv) by adding, after paragraph (d), the following new paragraph, the
full stop at the end of paragraph (d) being deleted and replaced
by a semi colon –
(e) organise a general meeting every year.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 4 and 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The title and enacting clause were agreed to.
The Bill, as amended, was agreed to.
On the Assembly resuming with Mr Speaker in the Chair, Mr Speaker
reported accordingly.
Third Reading
On motion made and seconded, the Hindi Pracharini Sabha
(Amendment) Bill (No. IV of 2009) was read a third time and passed.
At this stage, the Deputy Speaker took the Chair.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ MOTION
ASIAN LANGUAGES – EXTENSION SCHOOLS –EXAMINATIONS (24/07/09)
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on the following motion of the Second
Member for Quartier Militaire & Moka (S. Dayal):
“This House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should conductall examinations concerning asian languages taught in extension schools.”
Question again proposed.
Ms K. R. Deerpalsing (Third Member for Belle Rose and Quatre Bornes): Mr
Speaker, Sir, let me start…
(Interruptions)
Mr Speaker: Hon. Burty David...
(Interruptions)
Order! Order! Order, hon. David! Hon. Bhagwan, order!
(Interruptions)
I suspend the sitting for ten minutes.
At 4.10 p.m the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 4.23 p.m with Mr Speaker in the Chair
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, let me start by congratulating my good friend, hon.Dayal, for having brought this motion to the House and thus allowing us to have a debate on thesubject of this motion. And lest we have forgotten what the motion was about - because it hasbeen a while since the debates on this motion were adjourned - let me refresh our memory on thewording of the motion as it stands before this House. It read as follows –
“This House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examination Syndicate should conductall examinations concerning Asian languages taught in extension schools. ”
The extension schools that the motion refers to, as pointed out by hon. David and otherMembers of the House, have in their existence and continued existence, the memory of History.
We are talking here, Mr Speaker, Sir, of today, as it will stand, some 783 schools with 1,912teachers teaching a total of 52,474 students in languages as diverse as Urdu, Hindi, Tamil,Telegu, Marathi and Mandarin. As I said, these institutions that are already providing theteaching of these Asian languages bear within them the memory of History. The history of thoseextension schools is inextricably interwoven with that of the country and that of the valiant fightagainst the annihilation of the richness and diversity of cultures and languages in this country.
Today, Mr Speaker, Sir, we speak highly of our diversity and we have to remember thatthis has been made possible by the vision and determination of the many many individuals andcultural organizations and it is befitting for me here, as my colleagues have done before me, topay homage to all of these courageous individuals and these organizations including, especiallySir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who persevered in their endeavour to preserve the richness of our
diversity despite sometimes having been ridiculed, if not vehemently criticised for that type ofwisdom and foresightedness.
Some Members on the opposite side of the House in the course of the debate on thismotion have expressed the concern that maybe, with this motion, we may be talking about theputting away or putting aside of the 783 schools that are covering some 52,000 students of thiscountry. I don’t believe that this is what this motion is about. This motion is not about puttingaside or diminishing the importance of the existing extension schools as some Members on theother side of the House had expressed some concern that that might lead to that but, as far as Iam concerned, this motion is not about that, it is a question of moving to the next step. It’s a
question of aligning ourselves with today’s context and to modernise and to continue the workwith better tools. With the collaboration of the Mauritius Examination Syndicate the (MES) – and I’ll come later on to what shape this collaboration could take with the extension schools –standard-based instruction and assessment practices can meet to form a seamless connection andwhen we are talking about international standards today we have to – there is globalisation, we
move around - also take into consideration the importance of international standards.
Mr Speaker, Sir, we are also talking of not continuing with the unsaid implication thatlanguage should be a synonym for religion as hon. Shakeel Mohammed had mentioned in hisspeech - a speech which, I must say, I greatly appreciated. Because when we are talking aboutlanguage and the way we come to a language, the reason why we come to learn a language, italready affects our socialisation. So, hon. Mohammed in his speech mentioned that, forexample, when we go to school - I did when I went to primary school; it was already decided for
me that I should go and learn Hindi and not any other languages and that had its reason, but wemust be careful, as hon. Mohammed has said - we do not imprison languages with other socialboxes. I think this is why it is a good idea to have a national institution like the MES tocollaborate with the existing extension schools. As I said, we have to modernise, we have to livewithin the times that we are living and if I may just use a quote from a musician by the name of
Brian Eno and he said –“ In a reasonable world, the boldness of youth would be balanced by the wisdom ofexperience, so that society neither explodes in a flurry of incompatible revolutionaryideas nor ossifies in frozen consensus; it is when the balance fails that things go wrong”
So, We have to see how that balance can be found. We can’t afford to be ossified infrozen consensus, we have to move on, but yet we cannot upset the apple cart as well, we have tofind the balance and the collaboration between the MES and the extension schools have to findthat balance within our social context. We have seen how our ‘tribuns’ have fought for thepreservation of languages. So, we see that the learning of languages was actually a formidabletool in the survival of identify and this goes to the reason that hon. Shakeel Mohamed had mentioned in his speech. I think we have achieved that and we must now move beyond ensuring
the survival of identity through language learning. People can study a language or another language in the hope of finding a rewarding career, let's say internationally. Some may beinterested in the intellectual findings, the intellectual exploration and the intellectual challengeand the cognitive benefits that the study of multiple languages can bring. It is well known, MrSpeaker, Sir, now - with research that people have made - that people who study two or morelanguages receive, not just the language but the additional cognitive benefits. So, people may
study languages for that. Other people may study languages in order to understand other peopleand other cultures. The challenge in nation-building, while preserving our richness of thediversity of our language is to move away from a singular reason for which students would signup to study a particular language to the multiple reasons that I have mentioned above for whichpeople seek a sort of épanouissement in the studying of languages.
As I said, we need to move away from a child of five or six years old coming into aclassroom and the teacher already deciding for that child on what language he or she would learnin school. We need to move away from that singular reason to the more diverse reason why, forexample, a child, today – I know the case of a cousin of mine - who has studied Hindi all throughthe primary cycle, but now that she is in the secondary cycle, her parents thought that it would begood for her to study Mandarin. That reason was to seek the cognitive benefits and also to learnanother language and another culture. So, what I am saying is that we should move to anotherlevel of the reason why we study a language and also to move into this collaboration with theMES not just to be an administrative collaboration, but it should be inscribed right into thenotion of nation-building. I think this is why this motion is very important. It is very importantfor us to reflect upon the ways in which the MES can achieve this by doing the standardisationand also by taking us forward in nation-building.
I think hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun, in her speech, had said: ‘are we saying that theseextension schools have not done their job properly (…)’. This is not at all what this motion isabout. We are not saying that the different organisations have not been professional in theirteaching and so on. That is not the point. The point is that we need to move forward and weneed to see how we can have that seamless connection between academic standards and theinteraction with society and also moving our nation forward.
In order to do that, Mr Speaker, Sir, as I said before, I would try to see what shape thatcollaboration could take which the MES could have with the extension schools. But, as it stands,
Mr Speaker, Sir, there is nothing really new under the sun. We don't need to reinvent the wheel,because we have examples in different countries in the world where they have taken differentlanguage institutions together and have a national standard. When I did the research for thisintervention - because I was not sure what I was going to talk when the hon. Chief Whip askedme to intervene on this matter - I got more deeply into some of the notions of this motion. I
found out that in the US and in Canada - I am going to share this with the House because I foundit very interesting and this part of my speech will be drawn highly with the example of the US.
The process in the US under the Clinton administration developed a national standard for theteaching of what they call foreign languages. As I said, I have been researching the subject and Ihave also contacted some friends in Canada who are teaching languages, they have given mesome interesting ideas. In Canada actually they call it the National Standards for Teaching WorldLanguages, not Foreign Languages. So, it is more integrative.
Let me come back to the US experience. It is noteworthy that with the help of the threeyeargrant from the US Department of Education and National Endowment for the Humanities,they set up an 11-member taskforce, representing a variety of languages, a variety of levels ofinstructions, the programme models and the geographic regions. They undertook the task ofdefining content standards, what students should know and should be able to do in foreignlanguage education. It took a long time to prepare that document. The final document which is
called the Standards for Foreign Language Learning preparing for the 21st Century, which wasfirst published in 1996, represents a wide consensus among all these stakeholders: the educators,business leaders, Government and the community leaders on the definition and the role offoreign language instruction in American education. This is a really impressive document and it
has been used by teachers, administrators and curriculum developers at both the State and locallevels to improve world and language education in schools across the United States. There arethousands of these schools in different community areas which we might call the extensionschools; they have a kind of similar set up with our extension schools.
What is important to note here, Mr Speaker, Sir, is that these standards are not a
curriculum guide. Instead, they suggest the type of curricular experiences that students need tohave in order to enable them to achieve the standards. I will explain in more details in a little bit
of time. These standards do not describe the specific course contents nor the recommendedsequence of study. They are meant in the US to be used with State and local standards andcurriculum frameworks to determine the best approaches and reasonable expectations for thestudents in individual districts and schools. As I said, we could learn from this, Mr Speaker, Sir.
There is a set of standards and it is up to the individual schools to develop the best approaches,the best curriculum content that would leave the national standards to be met. This is where, andthe kind of role that the MES could play in collaborating with the extension schools as acollaborative partner. The shape of the MES collaboration, in my view, would be in devisingthose standards and ensuring that whatever approach, whatever curriculum content is used by the
individual schools, the standards are met.
Let me come to what kind of standards generally we are talking about and therefore whatthe collaboration of the MES would take in terms of real experience. In the US, and, as I said inCanada, they have identified five goal areas that would encompass all the objectives sought inlanguage education. These are known as the 5Cs of World Language Education and these are –
(i) communication,
(ii) culture,
(iii) connections,
(iv) comparisons, and
(v) communities.
Each of these five overall goals is broken down in standards to be achieved for thesegoals. For example, in the communication goal Standard 1.1 requires that students are able toengage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions andexchange opinions. That is one standard in the communication goal. This is the case whateverthe language is and whatever method and approach. For example, in our case, the extensionschool might take to get to Standard 1.1 if we were to take that kind of route. And Standard 1.2,
for example, looks for students to be able to understand and interpret written and spokenlanguage on a variety of topics. Standard 1.3 ensures that students can present information; theycan present concept and ideas to an audience of listeners and readers on a variety of topics. So,you see, Mr Speaker, Sir, what they have done at their level in the US in terms of preparingthese national standards, is preparing what you want to achieve in terms of communication, in
terms of connection, in terms of culture and in terms of connectivity. And then from then on –and this is what, I think, for example, the MES could do because this work cannot be done bythe individual extension schools. It has to be done at a national level, you set the standards andthen you let the extension schools provide within that framework. For example, if you have thefive Cs and then each of the five Cs, you have the standards, then you have what they callprogress indicators, whereby you can see whether the child has been able to assimilate thelanguage enough to be able, first of all, to comprehend someone else, to be able to express andto be able to share ideas and concepts in whatever language and whatever extension schoolsthey are with other people.
So, I do not know whether you will allow me, Mr Speaker, Sir, to briefly go over thestandards in each of the categories. The first category was communication and I have mentionedthree of the standards. It is really interesting because we could inspire ourselves.
The second overall category is cultures and standard 2.1 requires that students
demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of theculture studied. Standard 2.2 requires that students have to demonstrate an understanding of therelationship between the products and the perspectives of the culture studied. Number 3, theconnection goes, standard 3.1 requires students to reinforce and further their knowledge of other
disciplines through the language they are studying. Standard 3.2 requires that students acquireinformation and recognise the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through thatlanguage and its cultures.
Now, when we come to the comparisons - overall goal - standard 4.1 requires that
students have to demonstrate understanding of the nature of the language through comparisons ofthe language studied. So, the other language studied and their goal. Standard 4.2 - students haveto demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through the comparison of the culturesstudied and their goal. The fifth ‘C’, which is the community’s goal, standard 5.1- students usethe language both within and beyond the school setting. So, that is one of the other standards.
Standard 5.2 - the last one - students have to show evidence of becoming lifelong learners byusing the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment and sharing with others.
So, I think, Mr Speaker, Sir, this is quite an impressive framework as far as I could seethrough my research. I am not saying that the MES should be a copycat and just copy this. But itprovides a sort of framework from which we can inspire ourselves and from which the MEScould contextualise with the 483 existing extension schools. I think, the first step should be -following this idea of the motion by hon. Dayal - for a national institution like the MES to launch
a debate like they did. The process is important as well; not only the final consensus document,but the process of communicating and seeking the input of all these extension schools in terms ofdefining a national standard because we have to bring everybody together and have a consensusdocument. It cannot impose on the MES. It will never work because people will say: ‘no, I donot do this’, ‘no, I do not do this way’ and so on.
It has to go; we have to take the time that it takes. Whatever time that it takes, whether itis weeks or months, we have to bring representatives of the different extension schools together,in a wide forum of debates and exchange of ideas, start with something. You do not start withjust nothing on the board, but you could start with something like a framework, then you modifyit and contextualise it in the Mauritius context. I think, this is a very good and inspiringdocument and it is a very inspiring type of experience that multicultural countries like the United
States and Canada have already gone through and we can learn from those experiences.
So, as I said, Mr Speaker, Sir, there are also within each of these standards that I
mentioned, I would not go through them, but it is good to know that also within each of thesestandards, there are progress indicators which have been extensively defined to show whether thestudent is going through this goal and is achieving these goals.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to adopt the global best practiceswherever we can find them and adopt them for the local context. They said, Mr Speaker, Sir,that all linguistic and social knowledge required for effective human to human interaction isencompassed in the following ten words, and I quote –“Knowing how, when and why to say what to whom.”
They say that these 10 words encompass all of the linguistic and social knowledge that isrequired for effective human to human interactions. Knowing how, when and why to say what towhom. I think this is quite beautiful. This is precisely what these five goal areas with each ofthese standards have tried to grapple with in the US and Canada.
Now, Mr Speaker, Sir, when we learn a second language or a third language, sometimes -especially I think I find in Mauritius and I take my own experience - we do not realise becausewe take it for granted, we do not realise the richness that this brings us. It is only when we arefaced with situations, when we have to use those languages outside Mauritius that it really dawnsupon us that we have something more than what our other counterparts might have.
For example, let me share! As you know, Mr Speaker, Sir, I represent our Parliament atthe level of the JPA. I get there and sometimes we have sessions with the ACP meetings. I amsure you know the ACP meetings, Mr Speaker, Sir, and I am sure other people in the House alsoknow. ACP meetings tend to go on and on beyond the time allotted. Sometimes, the interpreters
have to go and then we are left in the room with speakers of English and French languages,especially you have the African nation who speak either French or English, they do not speakboth.
So, I found myself, Mr Speaker, Sir, in a room where we have to continue the debate, butthe interpreters, this is regulation, they have to go and I had to officiate as translator and the firsttime that happened to me, I said how can this happen. Really I never saw that having French andEnglish was a big deal because we take it from granted. But it was there that I realised that thatwas something that we have in Mauritius that is more than big countries like Nigeria or other
countries in the African States like South Africa, that we little Mauritius we had. So, it reallydawns upon you then, what kind of richness, what kind of heritage we have had in this countryand the work that previous leaders of the organisations have done for us. And here I have toreally pay homage to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam again for the education system. I was myselfreally pleased that I was called upon. They naturally said that the representative from Mauritius
should translate. It was a bit difficult, Mr Speaker, Sir, because, as you know, the debates are intechnical terms and they cover all kinds of political disputes between countries. So, I had to findthe right words, because you have to be diplomatic as well. I wanted to share that experience justto demonstrate that sometimes we take for granted the kind of richness that our forefathers andour previous Leaders have beleaguered to us.
Mr Speaker, Sir, before I conclude, I would like to congratulate heartily hon. Dayal forbringing this Motion and allowing us to ponder over the subject. I have to confess that when Iwas asked to speak on this Motion, I had a bit of a panic attack as I thought I was too ignorant onthe subject matter. I have, myself, learnt Hindi up to form III and I can get around fine when Iam in India and I can also rather honourably get by in reading and writing it. I also grew up with
grandparents and parents, especially my mother who spoke Bhojpuri. And there was a time whenmy brother and I were still very young, my parents thought that speaking Bhojpuri was a way toensure that my brother and I would not totally understand what they were concocting or plottingagainst us. We noticed that there was always a revival of Bhojpuri whenever, for example, therewas a visit to the doctor or the dentist in the pipeline. But they really underestimated our ability
to take the language from our grandparents, because we used to spend holidays in CheminGrenier or in Rose Hill where my grandparents used to speak Bhojpuri all the time. Theyunderestimated our capacity to learn from just listening and we would always be able to crackthe code. I can remember once my mum’s surprise was really great. She was really surprisedwhen one day I actually replied in Bhojpuri that I was not planning to go to the dentist with her.
Anyway, today it is the hon. Chief Whip, my good friend hon. Dayal, who forces me to speakBhojpuri with him. So, he has to suffer my terribly grammatically incorrect Bhojpuri, but I haveto say he is very patient. I thank him for allowing me to reflect on the subject, to reflectespecially on how he can move from languages as a form of cultural survival to languages as aform of épanouissement and enriching our linguistic diversity in the context of nation building.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir,At 4.53 p.m the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 5.31 p.m. with Mr Speaker in the Chair.
Mrs S. Hanoomanjee (Second Member for Savanne & Black River): Mr Speaker, Sir,before I enter fully into the subject of conduct of examinations concerning Asian languagestaught in extension schools, I just wish to pass a remark on the motion itself – hon. MsDeerpalsing has just read the motion - but it says that the House is of opinion that the MESshould collaborate with the existing recognised institutions in conducting all examinations. Itsays the MES should collaborate.
In my humble opinion, Mr Speaker, Sir, the MES being an authority, the MES being anational examination body, should it collaborate with the existing institution or because it is anational authority, ultimately, it would be up to the existing institution which would have tocollaborate with the MES or should we understand that the MES would knock on the doors ofthese institutions and ask for their collaboration? Why I am mentioning this, I think thissemantic is important in the sense that, in the end, we may find the MES imposing all sorts ofconditions on these institutions, but hon. Ms Deerpalsing just mentioned and I agree with her to
the extent that MES cannot come up and impose conditions on these institutions and decidesolely on the conduct of these examinations. Une paranthèse aussi, M. le président, when wetalk of ancestral languages and conduct of examinations. I just want to mention in one sentenceand very briefly that there was a historical decision also which was taken in 2004 by the thenGovernment for the recognition of oriental languages at CPE level. Et le précédentgouvernement avait maintenu la comptabilisation des langues orientales à part avec les autresmatières, ce qui fait qu’aujourd’hui les langues orientales ont toute leur signification dans le
cursus scolaire.
Having said this, Mr Speaker, Sir, I have gone through the speech of the mover of themotion, hon. Surendra Dayal. From what I gathered from his speech, I see that one of his qualmsis - and I am going to quote what he said then. I quote –
“Government has obligated a sum of around Rs52 m. annually to assist these schools inthe advancement of the ancestral languages.”
Rs52. M. is quite a substantive amount of money. This is why in presenting this motion to thisHouse, I wish to emphasise the need for harmonising the manner in which examinations for theAsian languages are conducted for the award of certificates, diplomas, but also for morejudicious use of public funds. I agree to the extent that we have to make judicious use of publicfunds, but I am going to come up with some arguments just to show whether right now these
institutions are not making judicious use of those public funds. But, Mr Speaker, Sir, before Ianalyse the gist of what has been said by hon. Dayal, and when I had to decide on whether tospeak in favour or against this motion, I have taken the pain of consulting some of theseinstitutions. I have studied the structure that they have put in place since long, I have studied thelevel of teaching, the way examinations are being carried out. Unfortunately, I could not get all
of them but, at least, I have been able to contact, talk and discuss with the Hindi PrachariniSabha, to the National Urdu Institute, to the all Mauritius Tamil Examinations Syndicate and tothe Mauritius Marathi Sahithia Parishad
Mr Speaker, Sir, from what I gathered from these institutions, they are so well structuredand doing such a fantastic job that I believe it would be a pity to interfere in whatever way inwhat they are doing now. Let me explain. Hon. Ms Deerpalsing just mentioned examples of theUnited States, she mentioned examples which she took from Canada. But, we should, at thesame time, bear in mind that in Mauritius already Asian languages are being taught in our
schools, be it at primary or at secondary level, because in Mauritius we are a multi-culturalsociety, il y a une diversité des cultures, il y a la préservation des traditions et des cultures andthat these Asian languages are also being taught in those schools. What we are talking of todayis the informal way of teaching Asian languages. Mr Speaker, Sir, these institutions exist -almost all of them - since 40 or 50 years. They all have designed appropriate syllabuses, they allhave their own textbooks, which have been designed by well qualified experts in the subjectsconcerned and which comprise not only the language, but also there is a blend of culture andreligion in their textbooks. They all carry out their examinations with confidentiality and all theseriousness it deserves. Whilst discussing with them, they even pointed out to me that, up to
now, the level at which they’ve carried their examinations have been at a high level, and thatthere has never been any question of leakages in the conduct of their examinations. Tounderstand better, I’ll just give whatever information I have had on each of these institutions, sothat we can understand where we are going. The Hindi Pracharini Sabha has about 300 schoolsall around the island. It runs evening classes for primary level students as well as secondary levelstudents. Examinations for primary level are carried out by Mauritian examiners, whereas
courses of secondary level and tertiary level, that is, examinations for Parichaye, Prathama,Madyama and Uttama, are conducted by the Hindi Sahithia Samelan of Allahbad India. That is,these examinations are not carried out by Mauritian examining bodies, but by examining bodiesin India. So, the question of recognition of certificates at that point does not arise, same, MrSpeaker, Sir, for the Tamil Federations. They have a body called the Mauritius TamilExamination Syndicate, and the Board comprises of persons who are lecturers, educationofficers, retired inspectors of schools, that is, persons who are very knowledgeable and who havea certain expertise in the subject matter to devise their examination papers. They have markingsystem as well, which is comparable to the MES, and which has stood the test of time. And,
every year, students of about 32 schools, which are affiliated to the institutions, take theseexaminations.
As for the National Urdu Institute, it also has a very high-level Board, which oversees theexamination procedures, and it has chief examiners which set out the question papers andorganise for correction in utmost confidentiality for students of Form I to level of HSC. TheMarathi Sahithia Parishad, which runs courses for primary and secondary level have about 500students taking final examinations each year, and it is also affiliated to the Marathi SahithiaParishad in India. It is that body in India which conducts its examinations. Again, it is not alocal body; it is another body in India.
We can see, Mr Speaker, Sir, that these institutions are working in a professional wayand, up to now, nobody has complained about the way the exams are being carried out. Whilst Iagree that we should move on, there should be certain level of progress and development but, atthe same time, I don't think that we should come up with certain decisions and impose these onthese people. I believe that we should be able to take on board these institutions, have a certainlevel of debate with them, discuss with them, and see how best we can move forward. I met them
only yesterday, Mr Speaker, Sir, and they’ve told me that, whilst they are concerned with thepromotion of languages, they are also deeply concerned with the promotion of culture andreligious practices, that is, when the courses are being held, at the same time they teach theculture, they teach religious practices. They've drawn my attention as well to the fact that theirown textbooks - I believe there has been a decision somewhere to say that the textbooks whichare being used at primary or secondary levels, there should not be any notion of religion in it -
are not confined to development of the language, to language only, ut also contain thecomponent of culture and religion.
Mr Speaker, Sir, these baitkas, madrassahs, mandirams, kovils have played an importantrole in promoting cultural values and any sort of collaboration. If we say collaboration with theMES, it would mean reviewing the whole syllabus. Their syllabus will have to be reviewed; thetextbooks will have to be reviewed. I have tried to see what would be the disadvantages of goinginto that sort of collaboration.
First, the MES is already overburdened with work. The MES will need personnel to setthe examination papers. It will need invigilators, supervisors, moderators, and it will need peopleto correct the examination papers also. At the same time, it will have to ensure confidentiality.
Second, besides the personnel required, there is also the question of cost. If the textbooksare revised, will those students following the extension classes have to buy new textbooks and, ifthey have, at what price would be these textbooks? Will they be asked a certain amount of fees totake these examinations? Because there is a cost component at the level of the MES, and weknow these students will have to pay to take these exams. At the same time, we should also bearin mind that, at present, all these institutions are working on a purely voluntary basis. They arededicated people; they have at heart the promotion of languages, the promotion of culturalvalues, and they are doing all this on a purely voluntary basis. Government gives a certainamount of allowances only to the teachers, but these people who are involved at the top arepeople who are dedicated and who do voluntary social work.
Third, Mr Speaker, Sir, there is the motivation of the people doing this social work. Ihave had the privilege, during the past four years - I won’t say before - of visiting several ofthose evening schools. I have had also the opportunity of attending several of the functionsorganised for the distribution of certificates after these examinations, and I have been able tonote the sense of satisfaction, the sense of pride of these people who are at the top and whoconduct these examinations at the end of the year.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I will repeat what I have just said, namely that we agree that we shouldnot impose on them. But, at the same time, we should not demotivate these people. Let us notdemotivate them; let us not destroy that spirit of voluntarism within these institutions. Hon.Dayal, in his speech, said that –“It would be a good thing to add value to the certificate and diploma being awarded bythese institutions”. I agree that his intentions are very good, but at the same time, the waythat it should be done - hon. Ms Deerpalsing has attempted to address the issue and sayin what way the collaboration could be done, but I could not find any of these in hon.Dayal’s speech, the way the collaboration should be done.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I must also admit that this is beyond party politics, in spite of the factthat hon. Dayal said in his speech that he had raised the issue with the representatives of theorganisation concerned, I quote -“They are very enthusiastic and supportive”.
But I am sorry, Mr Speaker, Sir, I have to report the contrary. Maybe, in-between December andtoday there had been a change in their attitude, but when I met them yesterday they asked me tobe their mouthpiece and to say that they wish to continue the work the way it is being done now.
They said that they have started things years ago. They are fully satisfied with the courses, theyare fully satisfied with the way that they have conducted these examinations and that they wouldnot have in attendance so many students if the students themselves, or the parents of thesestudents were not satisfied. In fact, there are about 28,000 students in Hindi Language, more than16,000 in Urdu, about 4,000 in Tamil, about 900 in Telugu, more than 1,200 in Marathi and
about 700 in Mandarin languages respectively. This brings me again to what hon. Dayal had saidabout Government spending Rs52 m. on these institutions and making judicious use of thesefunds. But what they say is what could be a better evidence than what they have been doing,more than 50,000 students have been benefiting, and continue to benefit, from these courses andobtain certificates which are already recognised.
At the end of the day, Mr Speaker, Sir, what I wish to say is that we have got to be
careful. There cannot be any change brought about overnight. If there needs to be a change, Iwould tend to agree with hon. Ms Deerpalsing and say that we have to be cautious and we haveto see in what way that collaboration can be organised so that, at the end of the day, whendecisions are taken, they are taken avec consensus where these institutions also are partieprenante de la décision du gouvernement.
Before ending, Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like, as my other colleagues have done it,
congratulate these pioneers, congratulate all those who are still ensuring the teaching of AsianLanguages: Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Marathi, Telugu and Mandarin, all those people who have hadup to now a high sense of commitment, of duty, of responsibility towards the preservation andreinforcement of our ancestral languages and cultures. They have done it, they are still doing itand I don't think that we should demotivate them by just roping in the MES but working it
together with them.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir.
(5.54 p.m)
Dr. P. Ramloll (Third Member for Quartier Militaire & Moka): Mr Speaker, Sir, it iswith a lot of emotion and nostalgia that I would like to put my contribution on the mover of themotion of my colleague, hon. Surendra Dayal, which read, I quote –“This House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should conductall examinations concerning Asian Languages taught in extensions schools.”
Mr Speaker, Sir, I just heard hon. Mrs Hanoomanjee talking about this word
‘collaborate’. Just to avoid confusion on this very terminology, I would like to make it veryclear. I think that the word itself speaks very clearly. It means, in the simple English definition:‘to work jointly and to cooperate especially in literary and artistic production’. It is aninteraction, but it is never an imposition. Both ways, be it the MES, be it the existinginstitutions. It is an exchange of the modus operandi. It is not that the MES is exercising itspower, Mr Speaker, Sir. It is a partnership - a partnership in the true sense of the word - aimingat the value, the existence, the perpetuation of Asian Languages which is very, very dear to us.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I went through the previous exposé of my friend and colleague, hon. Dr.Mungur. In fact, he had started by saying that if you fail to prepare, get prepared to fail. I thinkthat is what our ancestors had in mind. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, all the stalwarts, all theleaders at that time were shaping the future of this country and that is why the Asian Languageshad a very special prime place in the future of this country.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the words ‘aware’ and ‘awareness’ seem very simple. They have
repeatedly cropped up throughout. Sometimes, people are not aware of their culture, of theirlanguage or their religion and, if they are aware, they are not practising it the way it should be.
Hence, they cannot attain the spiritual and religious growth. Thanks to Sir SeewoosagurRamgoolam, we are aware of what is essential: awareness of the ancestral language.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to quote, with your permission, what Sir SeewoosagurRamgoolam had said on 29 December 1942, during the 6th Meeting of the Select Committee,appointed to study the Ward Report on Education. He was a member of that Committee. I willjust quote part of it because it is quite long -“The Indian community of this island has a strong attachment for its languages. Wemay spend all our life learning other languages and imbibing other cultures, but until weknow what is ours, we will never be able to become a man in the true sense of the world nor wewill be able to understand and cherish our culture.”
He goes on by saying –“The Indians on this island must be taught their languages and that properly andeffectively, because that is the only way in which they can preserve their cultureand also because they have not the least intention of being denationalised in theprocess of time.”
In 29 August 1986, on the inaugural address of the Second World Hindi ConferenceConvention which was held at the MGI, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam again said, I quote – “It isour belief that if the languages of Mauritius are preserved, it will help preserve the essentialcultural values of our different communities. Though through the synthesis of these variouscultures alone will create a united culture of Mauritius in which we can corporate.”
So, this is all very clear that language is just like God. It is intimately associated with us,so intimately that it is part of us. Language remains the interface between man and man. It isknown to everyone that language is power. But which power, Mr Speaker Sir? It is power toread, to write, to communicate with the fellows. It is related with goodness and wisdom. Nodoubt the path of language is very long, Mr Speaker Sir. We need to work to assimilate it. Weare now at a point where we can define what has been achieved in terms of evaluation of ourlanguages. We are now conscious of the contribution of language to our well-being. In Latin, theword ‘conscious’ means, Mr Speaker Sir, ‘con’ means ‘with’, ‘cir’ means ‘to know’, therefore‘conscious’ means ‘to know with’. Languages have helped us to know and to re-know ourselves.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I feel very proud and privileged to speak on this motion at the sametime. I hail from a village in the eastern part of the island and I am one of the lucky ones, MrSpeaker Sir, who had studied, I should say, Hindi just up to Standard VI in the extension classes.
And I am also the few lucky ones who have been blessed by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolambefore proceeding for my medical studies to India. I have taken full use of what free education isand I have also been among the few lucky ones to have continued in the political arena andpresently forming part of a Government under his son, Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam. No doubt,I have been also lucky to been have initiated in politics and economic independence by SirAnerood Jugnauth. Why I say all this, Mr Speaker Sir, it is only because it is only through
language and education that one’s character, one’s future is shaped, what he is going to become.
With your permission, Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to go down memory lane on Asianlanguages, very briefly, because my colleagues have spoken on this issue before. I should notonly congratulate but pay tribute to the pioneers, to the architects, to the visionaries whocontributed to the initiation, the promotion, the propagation and the preservation of ancestrallanguages. We know very well, Mr Speaker, Sir, those days about the evening classes, thebaitkas, the madrassahs, the muktabs, the kovils, the mundirams and the Chinese classes. What is
very important is to know the change in the trend of the teachings in the past and in the presentdays, Mr Speaker, Sir. In those days, those who were teaching these Asian languages, they did iton a voluntary basis without any remuneration. Themselves, without diplomas and degrees, MrSpeaker, Sir! Why? As hon. Dr. David had said, in his presentation, I was very much pleased to
go through his speech because some of the words speak for themselves. They did it, Mr Speaker,Sir, for the love of culture. This is what hon. Dr. David said in his exposé of last time.
It is only through languages that culture can transcend from generation to generation. MrSpeaker, Sir, to ensure transmission of cultural values from generation to generation, thereshould be a relentless appeal to the elders, to keep on transmitting this cultural enriches asMinister David said again. This is how like me, many of us have benefited from these teachings,Mr Speaker, Sir, like many of us here.
Let me say, Mr Speaker, Sir, the little Hindi I learnt in those days, allowed me to read, towrite, to understand and to deliver even a complete film dialogue while I was studying medicalstudies in India. My Indian fellows could not understand how a Mauritian could speak such goodHindi and sometimes Urdu and played music as well. They would not understand that inMauritius we have such students who have so much of good mastery of the language. This iswhat somehow I understand proudly, I should say, that many of us in this House have studied inIndia and I think all of us have gone through the same feelings and the same situations.
Mr Speaker, Sir, we have been the true ambassadors as Mauritian students in India andelsewhere, in other countries, as well. I have the feeling that the political ties that have beenconsolidated between India and Mauritius, we students we have a small contribution by creatingthis image that we, in Mauritius, we are at par as far as language, culture, teaching and educationare concerned, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is a big achievement, Mr Speaker Sir.
Let me come to some statistics of the Asian languages. I think my colleagues have justsaid it. We know that we have around 52,000 students studying Asian languages, 29,000 aroundin Hindi, 17,000 in Urdu, 4,500 in Tamil, 1,000 in Telugu, 1,500 in Marathi and 700 inMandarin. As far as these evening schools are concerned, Mr Speaker, Sir, we have 450 schoolsteaching Hindi, Urdu 250, Tamil 60, Telugu 25, Marathi 25 and Mandarin 6. The budgetaryallocations for these as we just heard also are Rs52 m. earmarked by Government.
As far as remuneration is concerned, Mr Speaker, Sir, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, forthe first time, he allocated Rs300 for these teachers. In 1999, Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, thethen Prime Minister increased this. For those teachers who had a School Certificate: Rs1,000;those who had an HSC: Rs1,500 and those who had a degree: Rs3,000, Mr Speaker, Sir. Mycolleague, hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun was querying like hon. Mrs Hanoomanjee about the
money, about the funds that may have to be made available. We know that this collaboration is
going to come. But let me reassure them, Mr Speaker, Sir, that when education was made free by
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, no one was aware they had no formula at hand, they just started it.
But it is with wisdom, with vision that the then Government under the leadership of Sir
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam found the necessary funds for running these classes.
This was at the time when free education was on the agenda of the then Government. Mr
Speaker, Sir, let us speak of the situation today. In the worst era of the world economy, Mr
Speaker, Sir, these days, Mauritius, a small island State, has sailed through the most turbulent
waters, the most rough seas, the cyclonic winds, the grey skies and there has been no sun at all.
But with the vision of the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, hon. Dr. Sithanen, and
the input of the hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, we have invented, what I
call, the economic agenda of present Mauritius, Mr Speaker, Sir.. We have the vision, we have
taken the decisions and let me tell to certain of my colleagues who are a bit unaware or query
about the funds, that for progress in education there is no cost for it. We will look for funds and
we will have them made available for the nation.
Mr Speaker, Sir, we are now coming to, what I call, the winds are fading, the waters are
silent, the sky is getting clearer, the sun is rising. We can design a new formula for the financial
situation of the country. This is not a worry for us, Mr Speaker, Sir. I should pay tribute also to
the existing institutions: the Arya Sabha, the Hindi Pracharini Sabha, the federations, namely the
Tamil Temple Federation, the Marathi Mandali Federation, the Urdu Speaking Union, the
National Urdu Institute, the Chinese schools. They all have been all the time been involved in
ancestral language teachings and examinations. The Arya Sabha and the Hindi Pracharini Sabha,
Mr Speaker, Sir, have been collaborating with the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Prayag of Alabad
University in preparing and correcting examination papers by our institutions. And who does not
know this institution, Mr Speaker, Sir? Just to give a few examples, they have produced famous
names: Harivansh Rai Bachchan - he is from Alabad University - who is the famous poet. His
son, Amitabh Bachchan, the international mega star and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is also a
product of Alabad University.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the National Equivalence Council has not found any flaw so far in all
the machinery in conducting exams for oriental languages, be it in any subject. The collaboration
with the MES is vital. Why I say that? It is no secret to anybody that it is a professional
examining body. It has the experienced staff. It has the experience in conducting exams. It has
the organisational expertise and capacity. What I believe, Mr Speaker, Sir, is that it will
uniformise the exams and the standard of these languages. It will harmonise the syllabuses. It
will bring national and international recognition to the certificates and diplomas. Mr Speaker,
Sir, it will encourage students to go for Asian languages at HSC and degree levels. Degrees and
diplomas will earn, what I can say, acceptability and respectability, Mr Speaker, Sir. This motion
is aimed at a synergy. Hon. Minister Anil Bachoo always says: wherever there is a confluence,
wherever there is Sangam, wherever there is confluence, Alabad is one place where there is the
confluence of Ganga and Jamuna and we know the effect of the confluence. Here also, whenever
we have the confluence of the MES and these institutions I have referred to nothing else, but the
best of products can be achieved.
Mr Speaker, Sir, academic bodies of Asian languages working in collaboration with the
MES is the reason why this motion has been brought to the House today. It has, of course, added
value, better products and better results. This will bring about understanding, perpetuation of
ancestral languages, the transmission of cultural values from generation to generation and finally
a vital element of social harmony, Mr Speaker, Sir, towards nation building which is so dear to
us in Mauritius.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir.
(6.16 p.m.)
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade (Dr.
A. Boolell): Mr Speaker, Sir, when the Chief Whip moved a motion that the MES should
collaborate with existing recognised institutions in conducting all exams concerning Asian
languages taught in extension schools, his object was neither to rise, nor to fall on such a
sensitive motion. In fact, this is a motion which is impregnated with substance and we, of course,
have to tread cautiously because this is a motion whose substance is the very essence of national
unity. Of course, our friend, hon. Suren Dayal, made it a point to discuss the issue with all
relevant bodies. In fact, there was wide discussion at the bar of public opinion and it is not the
first time that he has raised this issue. Perhaps it is the first time that there is a Private Members’
Motion on this issue. But being a prominent member of the Arya Samaj Movement and a
stalwart in the promotion, preservation and protection of ancestral languages, our friend has
made it a point to raise the issue and discuss very forcefully, interact very intently, with the
Hindi Pracharini Sabha, with the Arya Sabha of Mauritius, the Mauritius Arya Ravived
Pracharini Sabha, the Urdu Speaking Union, the Tamil Temple Federation, the Andhra Maha
Sabha, the Mauritius Marathi Mandali Federation and I am sure he also interacted with the
Chinese Federation.
Mr Speaker, Sir, this Government puts a lot of premium on the promotion, protection and
preservation of ancestral languages. In fact, the very foundation of the Mauritius Labour Party is
based on the transmission of these ancestral values. Having said so, we do not believe in the
tyranny of the majority. In fact, we have to be grateful that we are in a country which is a secular
country with a strong pluralistic dimension. In today’s world where globalization has become
inevitable and with the constant breakthrough in communication and technology, there is a new
world which is emerging and there is the emergence of a bundle of minorities. It is precisely
based on these values that today we have to congratulate those unsung heroes. We have to say
loud and clear, Mr Speaker, Sir, if it were not for them, there would have been the demise of
language and, therefore, culture.
We just have to look elsewhere, in Réunion Island, for example, the French,
unfortunately, with their policy of assimilation, have tried to undermine the values, ancestral
languages, culture which we cherish and we imbibe. In Mauritius things have been different.
Perhaps, to some extent, we have to pay tribute to some of those British Governors who had
worked in India and had made some attempt to preserve Indian languages and culture, but others
were dead against and, in fact, if we have to refer to the world reports where it is stated very
clearly that Government cannot fork out money to support those who are keen to study ancestral
languages. The gentleman, then liaison officer, stood up and put across the case of the Indian
people very forcefully and the object was to be in line with what Mahatma Gandhi had preached
-
“If you want to put up a fight, if you want to fight for what is a just cause, first and
foremost, learn the language of the colonial masters. Then, be active in politics.”
This is the relevance of Baitkas, Mr Speaker, Sir, of Madrassahs, of other sites where other
Oriental languages are taught. Those people, there and then, Mr Speaker, Sir, were not paid,
neither in kind nor cash, but they had the political will, the will to preserve what the value was of
prime importance to their community, the safeguarding of ancestral values and languages.
Despite all the odds, all the prejudices, without fear, they stood up to preserve the ancestral
languages and culture, Mr Speaker, Sir. Those unsung heroes were the beacons of their
transmission of what we cherish today and what our forefathers cherished then. In fact, we pay
tribute to those unsung heroes. This is where we beg to differ with our good friend, hon. Mrs
Hanoomanjee. It is not the first time, but it happens, more than once…
(Interruptions)
Battle of the roses, but not battle of the sexes!
Mr Speaker, Sir, we have to be practical, pragmatic and realistic despite the fact that we
are all very keen to move into the mainstream of our ethnicity, for economic, educational or
political reasons, but we need this cross fertilization to be a good citizen and this is what we
learned from our forefathers, those who dispense and impart knowledge to the kids in the
Madrassahs, in the Baitkas, etc. But then, Mr Speaker, Sir, hon. Mrs Hanoomanjee was wrong to
say one, that there was no discussion. As I have stated, there was wide discussion. In fact, the
views of our friends were taken on board and this is precisely the reason why our good friend,
hon. Surendra Dayal, moved an amendment to the original motion. That was the voice of reason
and wisdom and this is precisely the values that we, in the Labour Party, in the Alliance Sociale,
we cherish, pay heed, listen, take stock, exchange information, react promptly, be active and
proactive. This is what it is all about. When hon. Mrs Hanoomanjee stated, only the day before,
she interacted, she had a meeting and it was her responsibility to assuage these feelings and to
ensure that things become rosy, let me tell her, in fact, we’ve prepared the rosy bed with petals of
rose and not petals of dust. And what did we tell our friends? Miss Roses has thorns, but they
pick only those who are nasty.
(Interruptions)
What did we tell them? Of course, we interacted with our good friend, Mr Matabadul. We were
full of praise for him and, in fact, we told him “Had it not been for your organisation, this
community would have been neither here nor there.” We reminded him that the Hindi Pracharini
Sabha started in 1926, an organisation which was set up to weave the unity and solidarity within
that community and, of course, which would later on be embedded within a large framework of
national unity. This is precisely what was taught. The values of the scriptures don’t teach things
that are not relevant to emancipation, the values of tolerance of being virtuous, Mr Speaker, Sir.
So, when there is the milk of human kindness, you cannot but turn out to be a good human being
and this is what citizenship is all about, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is what tolerance is all about. This
is, Mr Speaker, Sir, the very chariot of fire of this religion, but then we have to make sure - as I
have said - that we do it, extending the hand of friendship and love to our neighbours; love thy
neighbour as one loves thyself and this is what it is all about. When hon. Ms Deerpalsing stated
that we have created a climate of uncertainty, her argument hovers in thin air and I did expect the
hon. lady to hover in thin air, because she carries more weight and better substance.
Let me also refer to something which is relevant to what we’ve discussed. When I stated
that we have to be thankful to our friends, those movers of the movement, the Hindi Pracharini
Sabha and of the good work they’ve done because we have to sometimes sympathies with our
friends of Afro descent, and if I have to refer to what Mr Hira said in a paper written by him and
which has been published in a book entitled ‘Multicultural Society’ and the conference, of
course, saw the participation of many eminent people and there was an excellent speech, as
usual, delivered by hon. Dr. James Burty David. Let me just refer to this great loss which was
highlighted by Mr Hira. There is a lot of truth in the popular saying: If you want to destroy a
culture, destroy its language first and the culture will die a natural death. For historical reasons,
none of the African languages have survived in Mauritius and so have their cultures. Referring to
this great loss, Hira has this to say –
“All that remains of Africa is the séga and a little bit of witchcraft. It is indeed a great
loss to Mauritius and to the people whose ancestors came from Madagascar,
Mozambique, Senegal, Gambia and other parts of Africa. They have been, for
generations, cultural derelicts, looking for an identity after being deculturalised. In the
light of such a catastrophe, one would wish that for once, history must not repeat itself.”
And this is precisely what the Labour Party did shortly after independence, removed a
Eurocentric from the mainstream of the Mauritian culture and introduced instead in a pluralistic
society, the pluri-cultural dimension and when the AOU conference was held in Mauritius in
1976, the object, Mr Speaker, Sir, was to give new thrust to the Afro/Mauritian community. That
was a period of redemption and this is what the Government has constantly been doing,
empowering those at the lowest rung of the ladder, irrespective of community, colour, creed or
caste, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is the very essence of this motion. This is why I say that this
motion which has been introduced by our friend, hon. Surendra Dayal is impregnated with
meaning and substance. What we read extends beyond new horizon and this is a new dawn, a
new era. This is why I say the policy of this Government is in consonance with values preached
by those unsung heroes.
Let me, Me Speaker, Sir, come back to the relevance of Hindi because whether we like it
or not, today, Mr Speaker, Sir, Hindi has become a universal language and it is the most spoken
of all oriental languages in the world and to impress upon our friends on the Opposition that the
seriousness of purpose, the Hindi Pracharini Sabha Bill was introduced in this House and
enacted. So, how can we, as a responsible Government, see to it that there is going to be
encroachment by the MES? Under no circumstances, you cannot, Mr Speaker, Sir, with the
stroke of a pen, erase the contribution of such a Sabha to emancipation, to enable this country to
forge national unity.
So, the MES, as has been stated, and hon. Dr. James Burty David made a very good
point: why can’t we have a proper framework? Why can’t we have a Memorandum of
Understanding? It is true that the demarcation line - between those examining bodies, between
those recognised institutions and MES - is going to be wide. But if we want to meet the
challenges of change, Mr Speaker, Sir, we have to cross that line and forge our thoughts towards
a common objective, that is, to give new value to the degrees or diploma being awarded by the
Hindi Pracharini Sabha or for that matter any relevant recognised body. And it is relevant
because there is a need for proper symbiotic approach. There is a need for proper harmonisation.
The resources that one lacks can make up for the shortcomings of the other and vice-versa. In
today’s world, we have to put emphasis upon dialogue and it is dialogue that helps to ease off a
lot of tension. And this is precisely one of the many reasons as to why this Bill is being
introduced and Government has been consistent I’ve said over and above the Rs52 m. earmarked
and released upfront to fund the running of those recognised institutions. Of course, we want to
do more, we can do more, Mr Speaker, Sir, nothing stops us because, as I have stated, we have to
put the premium on national unity and we have to forge that national solidarity, Mr Speaker, Sir.
So, there is no question of demotivation. If anything, we are creating a climate of
confidence; it is a new era and our friends know perfectly well that if they want to move ahead, if
they want to move up the beaten track, Mr Speaker, Sir, they have to forge that relationship with
MES. That stands to reason. What make things a little bit difficult is perception and not reality.
What they are saying, Mr Speaker, Sir, those people who have been trained and have been
awarded a diploma, unfortunately, when they apply to be recruited as teachers, they feel that they
don’t get their due although they are qualified and that the award which they have obtained is not
taken into consideration despite the fact that they have this additional edge over those who
simply have School Certificate or HSC. It is more of a perception than reality because the
diploma is recognised by the Ministry of Education and when recruitment is made by PSC, there
is no problem, but there has been that perception and we have to make sure that we dissipate it
and the only way to do so is through dialogue.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the world today is facing conflicts and everybody is talking of
intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Why is it that between two institutions which have
contributed so much to empowerment and emancipation, relevant to the cause of national unity,
to the preservation of language, protection of culture, promotion of ancestral values, nothing
stops those institutions to get together. But, of course, MES should not give the perception that it
is overpowering. What is needed is a proper consultation and, through consultation and dialogue,
establish a clear framework, look at areas where there is commonality of interest, and then move
the process forward.
Mr Speaker, Sir, today, there is every reason to be proud. In this pluralistic society of
ours, not only do we put premium upon our ancestral language, culture, but there are many
young people who have shown the zeal to acquire those values. This commitment, Mr Speaker,
Sir, is loaded with hope, and we can proudly say that, as a Government, since the early days, we
have done everything within our means to create that platform of hope and to instil new values in
the young generations. Despite certain recrimination and unwarranted criticism in 1979, the then
Prime Minister was right to bring Oriental teachers at par with General Purpose teachers. We
know the recrimination and bitterness that this provoked. But, ultimately, the good sense
prevailed and, again, through dialogue and intercultural faith, everybody was on board; the
Roman Catholic Education Authority, to whom we could never ever say ‘thank you’ for what it
is doing and what it has done in the past to propagate those values and to encourage mobility
through an investment, which we all cherish and which we call education.
But let me, before I conclude, Mr Speaker, Sir, remind our friends what successive
governments have been doing, but more than any successive government, the government under
the able leadership of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and, now, Navinchandra Ramgoolam.
In respect of the evening schools, since 1976, allowances were granted to teachers
involved in the promotion of languages, cultural activities, arts and religious activities. These
activities, Mr Speaker, Sir, were organised by socio cultural organisations in government
buildings; baitkas, temples, madrassahs. To ensure the implementation of the project, a whole
system was put into place with the directors, principals, school inspectors, desk officers,
teachers; pupils’ ratio and all these issues were looked into. Desk officers had to, in each zone,
look after the processing of files, attendance, returns, calculation of allowances, registration of
schools, registration of new teachers and correspondences. They also keep plan of visiting
officers and collect all their visit reports, etc.
What we are trying to convey, Mr Speaker, Sir, is that the system is well structured. But,
there is always room for improvement. This is why I say that we constantly need to meet up the
challenges of change. Government, of course, has always a droit de regard, and it would not hurt
anybody's feeling nor should we be seen to send the wrong signals if we say that MES would
have a droit de regard. This is what has been occurring since a very long time, because, as we
have said, the exams of the higher level are conducted under the umbrella of a recognised
institution from India. So, Mr Speaker, Sir, our friends on the Opposition bench can rest their
worries and concerns. This is a Government, which is responsible, and when our friend, hon.
Surendra Dayal, moved the motion, he mentioned the merits of the motion. Of course, there is no
demerit to the motion that he has introduced. If anything, the object and purpose of this motion is
not only to meet the challenges of change, but also to strengthen existing organisations. Why is it
that we need to strengthen those organisations? Because we have responsibilities, as decision
makers, to give all support to those registered institutions that constantly help in nation building.
Thank you very much.
(6.47 p.m)
Mr R. Guttee (Third Member of Grand’ Baie & Poudre D’or): Mr Speaker, Sir,
allow me, as most of the previous speakers, to congratulate hon. Dayal for bringing this motion
to this House. Hon. Dayal is the Chief Whip of the Government, a permanent member of the
Arya Sabha, but the most important part is that he is one of the managers of the extension
schools being run in this country. We are sure that, being a member of the Arya Samaj, and
being in the extension school, he has got enough experience, he has had many consultations
before coming with that motion. If I can take the liberty to say a very wise saying, namely -
“You don't pull the tail of a sleeping dog; you can face many reactions”.
I think that when hon. Dayal came with the first motion, there were so many good
reactions and, sometimes, reactions not really biased. He came with a motion to amend it,
namely that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should collaborate - the word is very
important - with the existing recognised institutions in conducting the examinations concerning
Asian languages taught in extension schools. This word ‘collaboration’ means that the Mauritius
Examinations Syndicate, being itself a very professional body, has got all of the reasons and the
ability to guide as far as conducting examinations are concerned. When we speak of extension
schools, these two words bring much emotion to many of us in this House. I am sure that, like
me, many of us are products of the extension schools. When we speak of a school today, the
child has in his mind a very good concrete building, with a vast playing ground, and all the
amenities like water, good chairs and tables to sit, write and look at the board.
Those were the times when the extension schools started. It was just the “Shantiniketan
of Rabindranath Tagore that came in this country. All the schoolsthat I am speaking of, at that
time, started under a tree. And when I stand in this House today, and speaking of this, I say it is
emotional because I find myself sitting on a stone under a big tree and, at the side, a small sad
roof called the Baitka, not even a concrete thing, with not even a light, a chalk or blackboard.
The Guruji, after having worked in the field – he is not even a teacher, he worked in the sugar
fields - came in the evening voluntarily; he called the children of the villages around and we all
assembled, and we started with a prayer. And this is what is emotional, every school started with
a prayer and the Guruji started teaching us. The materials being taught were those of culture, of
values and this had to grow to that language. And we speak the Asian Language. We called
them our ancestral languages, be it Hindi, Tamil or Telegu. Every language has the same
weightage and the same value as far as cultures and values are concerned.
Mr Speaker, Sir, allow me also to pay tribute to those people who have worked in the
Baitkas, in the Madrassahs, in the Kovils, in the Chinese institutions or anywhere they could find
a place to help the community to regenerate their cultures, the different values. That's why that
makes a difference today, a difference between the students of those days and the students of
today, because we feel the lack of the culture, the lack of the values that had been taught to us in
those days. If we have lived with our languages, it is because of the relentless struggle of those
pioneers who have worked out without the aim of getting money or without the wish of getting a
living out of this teaching in the extension schools. It is due to the hard work and the
perseverance to keep the Asian Languages by so many unknown persons that we, today, can
stand in this House and speak about collaborating and bringing some more water to the mills, to
the factories of those extension schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, there is no doubt when we speak about the MES collaborating with the
Baitkas and with other extension schools, with all those institutions that are recognised by the
Ministry of Education & Human Resources. When we speak of them there is that fear, as has
been pointed out by some of the Members of the Opposition. There is a fear that we are willing
that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate takes over all the work that has been done by those
pioneers and the work that is being done today by the extension schools, whether it is in the
evening classes or even classes during the weekends - that is not so. What we are trying to say by
this motion is that what has been done and what is being done can be also improved, and to
improve what we are looking for is because MES, as we say it, has got this professionalism, has
got that staff also that can help, advise and conduct examinations under the leadership of the
MES together with the collaboration of all the extension schools and teachers that are working in
these schools.
The motion is that the MES should collaborate with the recognised institutions in
organising different examinations. Now, I would like here to just make a point. Why do we
stress that the MES should collaborate to organise examinations, being from the Hindi belt, I will
take an example from the Hindi institution, if I am may say. The Mauritius Arya Sabha runs
different schools in this country and, therefore, at the end of the year, the Sabha organises
examinations. The questionnaire are prepared by themselves and, therefore they organise the
examinations. There is nothing wrong in that. Similarly, the Mauritius Ravived Sabha also runs
different extension classes and, therefore, at the end of the year, will normally prepare the
examination papers and therefore will hold the examinations. And similarly goes to other
institutions, everybody preparing his own questionnaires.
Now taking the Hindi Language only, if I may say, there are three recognised institutions
that prepare the examinations. The Arya Sabha has all the different examination papers; the
Mauritius Ravived Sabha has got a different examination paper, the Hindi Prachaya Sabha has
got a different examination paper. Now what we want to say about this ...
Mr Speaker: May I interrupt the hon. Member? He is left with only with three minutes. I
think he will not finish his speech so I’ll ask him to move for the adjournment of the debate.
Mr Guttee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned. This will
give me some more time to come to this later on.
Dr. Ramloll rose and seconded.
Question put and agreed to.
Debate adjourned accordingly.
ADJOURNMENT
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that this Assembly do now adjourn
to Tuesday 20 October 2009, at 11.30 a.m.
The Deputy Prime Minister rose and seconded.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr Speaker: The House stands adjourned.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ MOTION
ASIAN LANGUAGES – EXTENSION SCHOOLS – EXAMINATIONS (18/01/10)
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on the following motion of the Second
Member for Quartier Militaire & Moka (Mr S. Dayal):
“This House is of opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should
collaborate with the existing recognized institutions in conducting all examinations
concerning Asian Languages taught in extension schools”.
Question again proposed.
Mr R. Guttee (Third Member for Grand’Baie and Poudre D’or): It is indeed an
honour for me to stand up once more to speak on the motion presented by hon. Surendra Dayal.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the House may recall that the original motion that the MES should conduct all
examinations was amended. The motion now stands as –
“This House is of opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should
collaborate with the existing recognized institutions in conducting all examinations
concerning Asian Languages taught in extension schools”.
20
Therefore, in brief, I will recall the points that I made during my last intervention and
then continue with a few more points concerning the above motion. Mr Speaker, Sir, after paying
tribute to the pioneers, teachers, helpers and well wishes for their contribution in keeping our
ancestral languages, that is, the Asian languages alive, I said that “the extension schools are well
organised under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and the Human Resources and that
the extension schools are doing very well”.
Mr Speaker, Sir, allow me to quote a few figures from the status report from the Ministry
of Education and Human Resources concerning the extension schools –
“There are a total of seven hundred and eighty-three schools in different part of the island
teaching the Asian languages which are Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi and Mandarin.
Some one thousand nine hundred and twelve teachers are involved teaching some fifty-two
thousand four hundred and seventy-four students in the extension classes. Teachers deliver
teaching for a minimum of twelve hours monthly and are entitled to allowance according to their
qualifications that is School Certificate, Higher School Certificate or degree holders.
Classes are held either in the evening on week days or for half days on weekends.
Presidents and managers of schools monitor the smooth running of the school whereas
supervisors and assistant supervisors make frequent visit to schools and they are remunerated for
that”.
Mr Speaker, Sir, my point was that the MES can guide, can help and collaborate with the
existing institutions to conduct the examinations. I proposed that there should be a common
syllabus for each language respectively. There should be common textbooks and there should be
common exam papers. Having said so, Mr Speaker, Sir, to come to this common programme of
work that I proposed there should be exchange of views between the MES and all the existing
institutions. Workshops, seminars are options to be considered so as to get acquainted with the
different ways and means to come to a consensus just to avoid any frustration and any sign of
discouragement or disincentive for the continuation of the good work being done by the existing
institutions.
Mr Speaker, Sir, what do we want through this motion is to have a uniformity in teaching
and conducting the examinations. The MES can guide us and it is well placed for that job. There
21
should be upgrading of the teaching and therefore also the international recognition of the
certificates awarded for the examinations through the different institutions.
For sure Mr Speaker, Sir, a lot of work has been done and is still being done. It is due to
the excellent work done throughout the island by these different institutions that today we have
come to the creation of the different cultural centres in this country. The credit goes to them,
those unknown teachers of our ancestral languages. Had they not kept the languages alive, it
would have been hard for cultural centres to start afresh. That is why we say that after covering
such a long and hard journey, we still have to go a long way. Hence the MES should collaborate
and facilitate to make the journey pleasant.
Mr Speaker, Sir, on the other hand, cultural centres are playing an important role in
keeping the cultural values alive, that is why they are being given subsidies by the Government.
Similarly, the extension schools and different evening classes and classes run during the
weekend play an important role in keeping the cultural values alive. All they need is a boost-up
and encouragement to continue in this noble cause. These schools are in fact mini cultural
centres in every town and village of this country.
The Mauritius Examination Syndicate is a professional examining body, therefore the
collaboration of the Mauritius Examination Syndicate with the different extension schools would
be of vital importance. These mini cultural centres would get inspiration and would not be left on
their own. The collaboration would be of great encouragement and I have no doubt that the
extension schools in the different languages would be very happy to welcome the guidance and
collaboration of the MES. Mr Speaker, Sir, when we speak of facilitator the MES so far has been
conducting exams in different bodies and has given satisfactory results.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I spoke to some of the stakeholders of the different institutions, they
explained to me that they have an apprehension that if the MES conducts the examination, the
exam fees may be high and, therefore, not within the reach of all the students. For example, I am
told that the Certificate of Primary Education exams conducted by the MES costs about Rs3000
per student whereas the existing institutions hold examinations that cost only about Rs500 per
student. Therefore, the motion that the MES should collaborate with the stakeholders stands
good because there is always room for improvement. The different stakeholders can, at least,
start to contemplate over the issues. Sitting round a table and discuss and find out solutions does
more good than any harm. All the issues, whether it be the cost of holding the exams, using the
22
number of invigilators, the regions the exams to be held and so many other issues, should be
taken on board.
M. le président, la lumière au bout du tunnel will be found once the dialogue between the
MES and the different stakeholders starts.
Any long journey starts with a first step. I am convinced that once the idea of
collaboration is accepted, the work can start. It suffices to have a positive thinking and
conviction that whatever is discussed should be in the interest of the students, the upliftment of
our ancestral languages and, of course, something good pour ce pays arc-en-ciel que nous
aimons tant, M. le président.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in my concluding note, allow me to pay a tribute to those pioneers of
this noble cause. They had a mission: to keep the Asian languages - our ancestral language -
alive and use them as a source of inspiration to bring peace and harmony with the different
cultures in the different communities.
It is now our turn to support this commitment. Let us all wish that this motion be passed
for the benefit of one and all. Let us not fail in our duty to preserve and propagate our ancestral
languages, our values and our cultures, the symbol of our identity.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I thank you.
(4.12 p.m.)
The Minister of Industry, Science and Research (Mr D. Gokhool): Mr Speaker, Sir, I
am very happy to take the floor and say a few words on the motion that is before the House.
Mr Speaker, Sir, this motion relates to an issue with direct relevance to our cultural and
linguistic heritage and also the influence that cultural and linguistic diversity can have on the
developmental processes of a society. I’ll elaborate on this issue later.
Mr Speaker, Sir, on 12 December 2009, my good friend, hon. Suren Dayal, the Chief
Whip of the Government, presented a motion to the House which was subsequently amended and
the new motion reads as follows:
“This House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should
collaborate with the existing recognized institutions in conducting all examinations
concerning Asian languages taught in extension schools”.
23
Mr Speaker, Sir, in presenting and developing his motion, hon. Dayal, who is an
experienced academic not only as a teacher, but also as an administrator of the Aryan Vedic
School, is directly involved in the promotion and propagation of Hindi. Hon. Dayal commented
on the situation of Asian languages in Mauritius both from a historical and a contemporary
perspective. In fact, he resumed the situation as follows -
‘The schools providing evening classes or extension classes are 783 in number.
The student population is 52,474 and the teachers 1912. The budget amounts to
Rs52 m.’
Once the motion was submitted, my good friend hon. Dayal went around talking again to
the stakeholders and came back with this amendment because this is such an issue where we
have to move in a consensual manner. We have to move by consulting in a collaborative
approach. This is the spirit. In this spirit, he came back and amended the motion so that the
motion now reads as I have mentioned.
Mr Speaker, Sir, during the debates on the amendment of the motion, we have heard
orators from both sides of the House and it is clear that, on both sides of the House, there is
consensus about the efforts and contributions of pioneers, those people who had made
tremendous sacrifices and efforts for the promotion and propagation of Asian languages at
different stages of our history. This has to be commended and I associate myself to the tribute
that has been paid to those pioneers and those who have contributed to the propagation and
promotion of Asian languages.
The orator also underlined the role and contribution of late SSR. In fact, he has a very
important contribution in uplifting the Asian languages and, of course, it was very critical in
terms of the stand he took that languages are very important for the people. People’s identity is
recognised with a culture and languages. It is very strong in his thinking and he supported all
efforts that were being made for the propagation and promotion of Asian languages. Of course,
subsequent Governments improve on that and today we have the situation that we have.
The third issue that was mentioned was the role and contribution that MES would make.
It is important to know, Mr Speaker, Sir, that MES conducts some 100 examinations - local,
regional and international. We know that in terms of logistics, in terms of resources, MES is not
equipped to take much more workload unless the resources are provided. So, these were the
24
points which were made and I think the issue now is: should MES be involved in the conduct of
examinations taught in the evening schools and why? This is the first issue.
Mr Speaker, Sir, as we look at the status of Asian languages, the examinations are being
conducted by various examination bodies, but the point is that whatever examinations are
sanctioned by MES gain a recognition whether it is local or international. This is a fact. So,
associating MES with these examinations would be nothing but add to the recognition of these
Asian languages. It will enhance the recognition of these languages. Definitely, it is going to
strengthen the status of the languages. We all recognise that languages constitute our precious
national heritage and contribute to our cultural diversity in a global world. These attributes, that
is, the status we give, the recognition we give to languages in general, but, in particular, the
Asian languages which are the subject of the debate, contribute to our cultural diversity in a
global environment. Today, internationally, it is recognised that a country which promotes
diversity is a country which is equipped to face the challenges of a new international economic
order. I think my good friend had a long term view of where we should start and where we
should go. In fact, I must put it to the House that my good friend and I had the opportunity to
work on the Commission of Education for the Labour Party and that’s why we are thinking of
what would be the longer term implications of strengthening the status of Asian languages. So,
already, as we know, bilingualism is recognised as an asset for Mauritius internationally. We
have the project of circular migration and it is working wonderfully well because one of the
attributes is that Mauritius is bilingual.
Mr Speaker, Sir, languages are known to contribute towards our cultural, intellectual and
also technological status of countries. With your permission I would like to highlight why is it
important to strengthen and give better recognition to languages. Let me read an extract from an
article by UNESCO, “A pillar of cultural diversity”. –
“Languages with their complex implications of identity, communication, social
integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the
planet. Yet due to globalisation processes, they are increasingly under threat of
disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of
cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and
expression, valuable resources for ensuring a better future are also lost.”
25
Similarly, I would just like to quote Mr Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO
who had this to say about languages –
“Languages are indeed essential to the identity of groups and individuals and to
the peaceful coexistence. They constitute a strategic factor of progress towards
sustainable development and a harmonious relationship between the global and
the local context.”
I think it makes the point that it is very important that we do strengthen the status of
Asian languages because it is a plus for the country and for its people.
Mr Speaker, Sir, this is why there is a global movement for the promotion and protection
of diversity for cultural expressions. The Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions 2005 of the UNESCO points in this direction because we are, in fact, in front of a
big challenge and it is estimated that 50% of the 7000 languages spoken in the world may
disappear if they are not strengthened, if appropriate steps and policies are not advocated to
strengthen the languages. That is why….
Mr Speaker: Can you move out of the House if you want to speak!
Mr Gokhool: Mr Speaker, Sir, that is why recognising and raising the status of Asian
languages and all other languages for that matter is an opportunity to enrich humanity and the
civilisations and this motion is a step in the right direction. Let me also underline, Mr Speaker,
Sir, the contemporary situation that is arising in our society. We know that there is a lively
debate about the place of Creole, but I may add, why Creole? We have Bhojpuri, we have
Sanskrit and these are languages which have to be promoted. So, it is not an either/or, and I
would invite those people who want to promote Creole language not to look only in one direction
because we can all benefit from the promotion of Bhojpuri, Sanskrit and Creole. That is why I
think that Government is right to move cautiously. We should not give in to certain pressure
groups, it is not a matter of pressure, but it is a matter of national importance and that is what we
should do.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the second point that I would like to elaborate on is if we believe that the
status of the languages should be strengthened and MES should join in, what kind of
collaboration there should be? Here also we have to tread carefully although I believe that we
should not leave it to MES alone because there should be the partnership between the MES and
those examining bodies whether from India, Pakistan and other parts of the world which have
26
been collaborating in the holding of examinations of Asian languages. So, we must therefore
build on what has already been achieved. As a start, I think that I will agree with hon. Guttee
who proposed that the Ministry of my colleague hon. Dr. Vasant Bunwaree could consider the
possibility of convening a roundtable of all stakeholders. Let all the stakeholders come and share
their views on this issue and the modalities of the kind of collaboration. I think that the scope and
the nature of the collaboration have to be thrashed out. We should move step by step because this
is an issue which will have long term implications, so we should not rush into it, but go step by
step. In fact we can note that there is a lot of interest and this is a good thing for the country.
There are two ways of looking at it when there is a debate on languages – one is looking at it
from a very narrow perspective, but the other is a broader and larger prospective of what can this
debate bring towards national development for every child in this country, not only a particular
section. We should look beyond these arguments. We should adopt a vision and we should adopt
strategies, but not look at the short term considerations. I think that we should look far beyond
that.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the right language policies as well as the accompanying measures for the
preservation and promotion of Asian languages and for that matter any other language need to be
evolved in a consensual manner. That is why this motion is a wonderful opportunity and I am
very happy that my colleague hon. Suren Dayal, Chief Whip of Government, has brought this
motion to give us an opportunity to reflect on this very important issue, not only because of its
importance to our cultural diversity, but also for the future development of Mauritius.
With these words, Mr Speaker, Sir, I thank you for your attention.
At 4.26 p.m. the sitting was suspended.
27
On resuming at 5.09 p.m. with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
(5.08 p.m)
Mrs B. Juggoo (First Member for Port Louis North & Montagne Longue): Mr
Deputy Speaker, Sir, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague, hon. Dayal, for
bringing this motion to this House.
The debate of today is about the motion stands in the name of Hon. S. Dayal on the Order
Paper, namely that this House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examination Syndicate
should conduct all examinations concerning Asian Languages taught in extension schools.
We cannot just go to the point of the examination without remembering the importance of
our ancestral languages. For example, we take Hindi which is one of our ancestral languages
that is commonly taught in our extension schools and this is why hon. Dayal has brought in this
motion. Hindi is, in terms of politics, population and cultural tradition, one of the World’s ten
leading languages.
Hindi occupies a prestigious place in Mauritius and it is the only country to have set up a
World Hindi Secretariat by an Act of Parliament for the global promotion of Hindi language.
Mauritius had to undergo a long struggle to give Hindi this respectable position.
When we think of Asian languages, I think of my – we used to call it a village before now
it is in the vicinity of Port Louis, it is included in the Municipality of Port Louis, that’s Vallée
des Prêtres. I was at the age of five years old and I remember we come from Port Louis, a place
where nobody speaks Asian language. We used to hear Chinese a little bit next to the Chinese
shop. We used to hear “set fan, min pow,” and whatever, but then when we come to Vallée des
Prêtres it was a different tune and there was the echo of the mountain saying “tu kaha hawé” –
Bhojpuri. And we used to hear a lot of Hindi and Bhojpuri and I was that. Sanskrit was not that
much, maybe in the prayers in the temples, but it is also true when we think of languages in the
terms of English and German, the word ‘Hindi’ maybe used either as the name of the cluster of
dialects or as the name of a particular standard speech development out of one of the dialect of
the cluster.
28
Standard Hindi, in Mauritius, when we say we speak Hindi, Hindu and Hindi are two
different things classified. A Hindu can speak Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi and
we are a small little island – unfortunately for us or fortunately maybe – we are not like India
with all States where people can speak 101 Asian languages. Standard Hindi, as I was saying,
which is always written in the native Indian scripts has developed out of a western Hindi dialect
called “Khariboli”. Khariboli, after its parent dialect. When used with larger number of words
or phrases borrowed from the Persian or Arabic and is written in a modified form of the Arabic
script it is known as Urdu. When you say in creole – “pas prend tracas”. In English it is “don’t
bother”. “Ne t’inquiètes pas”. See the difference in Hindi “taklif mat karo” and makes it in
urdu “takalluf mat karo”. The difference between “taklif mat karo” and “takalluf mat karo”,
when it comes these romantic and so sweet languages and this is why hon. Dayal was wondering
our young generation should into the sense of getting to know their ancestral language, the love
for culture, the love for the languages and the love when you travel abroad how would that help
you as an individual.
You would see the Indian labourers when we talked of our ancestral, when I said we
cannot come to the examination when we haven’t spoken of the root itself. When our ancestors,
the Indian labourers, came to Mauritius, they came to work in the sugarcane fields as we all
know, but we cannot go without saying the difficulties they had, the struggles without a “ouf”.
They preserved that language for us, that culture and, of course, through their culture and
language, their own identity that is our identity. That time Higginsons, the British Governor in
1957, came up with the idea of teaching the Indians, our ancestors in their native language. So,
in the absence of formal education, they taught Hindi with great devotion in evening schools
based in small huts. This is what we used to call the “baitkas”.
The social life of the Indian Immigrants central round the “baitkas” which was the village
club. That time there was no danger. The entertainment was – meeting in the “baitkas”,
teaching the language, the culture, singing with the “jhal dholak” in the Bhojpuri songs and so
forth. The social life, as I said, of the Indian Immigrants central around the “baitkas”. Later on
Hindi was added to the list of subjects taught in Government schools. Today, Hindi is being
taught from primary to tertiary levels. I will repeat, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, hon. Dayal’s quote
from the statement of Sir Sewoosagur Ramgoolam during the inaugural address of the Second
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World Hindi Convention held in Mauritius on 29 August 1976 at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute.
While we quote it we should all remember –
“It is our belief, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, that languages of Mauritius are
preserved, it will help preserved the essential cultural values of our different
communities. Through the synthesis of these various cultures alone will be
created a united culture of Mauritius in which we can all cooperate.”
Reminding us at the same time, the usual saying of our father of the nation, Sir
Sewoosagur Ramgoolam – do not touch language, culture and religion. Being able to speak
another language makes us more cultured and seem more attractive. We live in the world of
shrinking dimension. Our society is incredibly mobile. Technology has also made travelling
even more accessible and affordable. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, you will remember when we went
to India last year - you were the leader of our delegation - when we met the Prime Minister of
India when he came towards us and I spoke in Hindi when he asked me – is it your first visit to
India? I replied in Hindi and said –“Mauritius, our humara chota bharat hum log até jaté hein”.
He was so pleased to hear and he spoke longer. Even when you go to China it is the same thing.
The fact that you know a little bit of these Asian languages makes it easy for you to be accessible
and people would accommodate you.
India and China are becoming popular destinations for Mauritians. If we do not speak the
language or are not being encouraged we are in and that’s commonly used worldwide getting out
of the difficult situation can be next to impossible because we cannot communicate with those
who can help us. Knowing Hindi, for instance will make it more enjoyable and meaningful, to
communicate with the local people, as I said we have an Indian delegation today, it was very
easy to access because of language. I would not only say Hindi, but even Mandarin – Asian
language – is already a UN language. It is also a matter of time that Hindi is also acknowledged
as the medium of communication in the UN. No one will be able to prevent this as India with its
economic might, young population and human resources march at rapid strides to become the top
four economic powers. We have a large section of the population who speak and understand
Hindi as they are used to other languages quite close, if not a substitute, to Hindi, namely
Bhojpuri, Urdu, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati just to mention a few.
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Surprisingly, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there is a snag. The hitch is that even where there
have been independent initiatives to promote the language, there has been a reluctance to
recognise the ability of persons’ proficient in such languages. For instance, there is no full
recognition for some of the examinations held in Hindi by the MES or other competent
authorities when it comes to recruitment for jobs or promotion, and I think this is why, again,
hon. Dayal was thoughtful to bring in this motion. A case in point is various Hindi
examinations, which are not recognised by the MES, although the examination is held by the
University of Chandigarh. The reason apparent is that classes are held on Sundays and the
examinations are held on Sundays.
Multi-lingualism has immense importance in the business world today, and we should not
be looking at our language policy with a myopic eye. There are many career opportunities for
people who can speak more than one language. In spite of all, our socio-cultural bodies, a few to
mention, the Arya Sabha runs afternoon Hindi classes in more than 200 of its branches where
400 teachers teach Hindi to 18,000 students. It employs 18 part-time inspectors to supervise
these schools, and conducts yearly examinations.
Another example again is the Hindi Pracharini Sabha. The Hindi Pracharini Sabha is
running Hindi classes in 135 primary and 20 secondary institutions. 30 part-time inspectors, Mr
Deputy Speaker, Sir, have been recruited to supervise those Hindi classes.
The Mauritius Arya Ravived Pracharini Sabha, since its very inception, is involved in the
propagation of Hindi, and appoints supervisors to inspect classes and conduct yearly exams; of
course, without forgetting the Tamil Temple Federation, the Marathi Federation, the Andra Maha
Sabha, and the Urdu Speaking Union. They all have put in the effort to try and see that
languages and culture combined together are kept alive, and that’s what makes a nation. There
are many to mention, but there are just few examples, and these organisations have acted as nonexisting
Baitkas, as we mentioned previously, in our villages, and our youth are kept away from
alcohol, drugs, prostitution, and all these issues.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we should consider the motion brought in by hon. Dayal, as this
will take us a long way in doing justice.
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To all these extension schools and all other institutions, which played a crucial role in
preserving our ancestral languages, these organisations are matured enough to collaborate with
the MES, and they can share their expertise and also give support of their experience to the MES
for the future of Asian languages. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this will also allow more youngsters
to learn more languages and benefit from a recognised certificate, which will open more avenues
for our young generation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I wish to reinforce the issue of the motion of hon. Dayal to the
effect that steps be taken by the relevant competent authorities, after a due diligence exercise, to
make arrangement to recognise examinations that promote Asian languages, and specifically
Hindi. As one national institute, all can collaborate to inspect, supervise and conduct exams
jointly.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
(5.25 p.m.)
Mr C. Sayed-Hossen (Fourth Member for Montagne Blanche & GRSE): M. le
président, je souhaite commencer par remercier et féliciter mon ami et collègue, l’honorable
Suren Dayal, pour l’introduction de cette motion à l’Assemblée nationale.
Cette motion est au sujet du Mauritius Examinations Syndicate et des examens prescrits
par les différentes institutions non-gouvernementales, non-MES, qui sanctionnent des études de
langues orientales dans ce que nous appelons couramment les extension schools. Cette motion
est, en apparence du moins, technique, en apparence administrative et en apparence
bureaucratique. Mais comme on dit généralement, M. le president, there is more to it than meets
the eye. Indeed, this is a very, very important motion, because it has to do with languages of
origin – not all languages of origin of Mauritius, but most of them actually. It has to do with
culture, it has to do with what the French call very beautifully la mémoire et, encore mieux, la
mémoire collective, M. le president. It has to do with identity; it has to do with several aspects
of identity, existing identity: inherited identity and, secondly, identity in development. Encore une
fois, ce que nous appelons en français, l’identité en devenir, parce que nous savons tous que
l’identité, que ce soit l’identité individuelle, l’identité de groupe, l’identité nationale, n’est pas
quelque chose de figé, n’est pas statique, n’est pas tout simplement quantifiable. C’est pour ces
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raisons que cette motion est importante, et que la notion des origines est importante. Ce serait
tout à fait injuste, M. le président, de débattre de cette motion du point de vue simplement
technique, sans prendre en considération et sans évoquer en détail même, je dirai, la dimension
culturelle, la dimension d’identité dans les préoccupations qui, je suis sûr, ont animé notre
collègue, l’honorable Suren Dayal, quand il a proposé cette motion.
Nous avons la chance, M. le président, de vivre dans un pays merveilleux, de faire partie
d’une nation merveilleuse. En fait, c’est un bonheur que de naître et que de vivre mauricien dans
une île pareille, où nous avons à peu près une dizaine de langues différentes dont nous avons
héritées - certains diraient de par les accidents de l’histoire, moi, je dirai de par notre histoire tout
court ; des langues en provenance de la vieille Europe, de la vielle Afrique, de la vieille Asie.
Donc, la configuration du settlement démographique mauricien a fait que nous avons hérité de
cette très, très grande diversité, et nous avons aujourd’hui une richesse probablement unique au
monde, non seulement d’héritage linguistique mais aussi de capacité linguistique. Nous savons
aussi, M. le président, que le langage ou la langue n’est pas simplement un concept technique, un
outil de communication, un outil de stockage de la connaissance, de mémoire et de transmission
de la connaissance et de mémoire. Peut-être plus important que tout cela, M. le président, la
langue est un vecteur de civilisation. Et c’est de cela qu’il s’agit principalement, à mon avis, dans
cette motion. Evidemment, le concept de civilisation, au moment où nous parlons au début du
21ème siècle, a un contenu tout à fait spécifique. Nous parlons de civilisation en 2010 de manière
différente dont nous aurions parlé de civilisation il y a 15 ans de cela, 50 ans de cela, un siècle
ou deux, ou 500, ou même deux millénaires de cela.
La société humaine, le regroupement des hommes et des femmes a commencé
certainement avec des civilisations familiales, claniques, d’où nous sommes passés à la
civilisation tribale qui a un contenu un peu plus large que le concept clanique. De là, a émergé
une civilisation régionale et ensuite une civilisation nationale à partir du moment où ont
commencé à émerger les Etats Nations. Pendant le 20ème siècle, nous avons vu le
développement, l’émergence et l’épanouissement, on pourrait même dire d’une civilisation
internationale, principalement avec la généralisation de la langue anglaise et de la culture anglosaxonne
et américaine à travers le monde et le début du 21ème siècle voit l’émergence d’une
civilisation globale, M. le président. Evidemment, la civilisation globale est différente de la
civilisation internationale et le concept de global nous amène au concept de globalisation. La
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globalisation est un sujet dont nous avons ici et ailleurs beaucoup parlé. Donc, beaucoup de gens
très bien informés et d’autres moins bien informés, ont beaucoup débattu, ont analysé de long en
large et nous savons déjà maintenant que la globalisation a à faire avec l’économie, les
investissements, la production des biens et des services, le commerce, la politique et les
considérations géostratégiques. Mais, il ne faut pas oublier que la globalisation a aussi une
dimension très importante qui est la dimension culturelle et civilisationnelle.
Il y a environ deux ans de cela, l’UNESCO a publié un rapport très intéressant qui
commençait par l’exposé des espèces en voie de disparition. Ces espèces étant principalement
des espèces de flore et de faune. Mais, ce qui était intéressant dans ce rapport, c’est que
l’UNESCO parle aussi de langues en voie de disparition. L’UNESCO a mentionné dans ce
rapport un certain nombre de langues régionales, ancestrales et qui sont définitivement
civilisationnelles et en voie de disparition. Et ceci pour des raisons très simples, M. le président.
Premièrement, le manque de logistique, l’absence de moyens pour la retransmission, pour
la reproduction et pour la continuation et la permanence de ces langues.
Deuxièmement, en raison d’un processus comparable à la marche d’un rouleau
compresseur, qui est le processus d’anglicisation du monde et de généralisation du modèle
culturel linguistique et du modèle tout simplement de consommation de tout type anglo-saxon et
américain.
Nous sommes tous à Maurice, M. le président, des citoyens du monde et nous sommes
tous confortables chez nous ; nous sommes à l’aise chez nous et nous sommes tous confortables
et adaptables. En Europe, nous avons beaucoup de nos concitoyens, ou de descendants de nos
concitoyens, qui sont aujourd’hui installés, totalement intégrés dans beaucoup de pays européens
du sud de l’Europe, l’Italie, l’Espagne jusqu’au nord de l’Europe, la Scandinavie, la Finlande et
l’Islande. Confortables, à l’aise et adaptables en Afrique, en Asie partant du Moyen Orient pour
aller jusqu’à l’Extrême Orient. Mais, il est clair que personne ne peut être un véritable citoyen
du monde sans être d’abord un citoyen de sa propre culture, de son propre milieu, d’où
l’importance dans la motion de mon ami et collègue, l’honorable Suren Dayal, de la
reconnaissance officielle - parce que c’est de cela qu’il s’agit – des examens et des résultats
sanctionnant les études des langues orientales dans les extension schools.
Evidemment, quand nous parlons de reconnaissance officielle, cela ne remet pas du tout
en cause l’excellent travail, le travail extraordinaire souvent dans des conditions difficiles et
34
précaires de tous ceux qui ont oeuvré depuis deux siècles et demi à l’enseignement et à la
transmission des langues orientales.
Avec votre permission, M. le président, je voudrais citer quelques lignes de ce qu’a
déclaré notre regretté ami, frère et collègue, feu l’honorable Dr. James Burty David quand il est
intervenu dans cette Chambre le 12 décembre 2008 sur cette même motion. Et il parlait des
enseignants bénévoles qui ont travaillé très souvent dans l’obscurité, très souvent inconnus du
grand public, très souvent inconnus de ce qu’on appelle l’officialdom, très souvent sans
récompense, très souvent sans compensation et qui ont gardé vivant cette flamme des langues
orientales et ancestrales. Et je cite feu l’honorable Dr. Burty David qui disait -
« Qu’est-ce qu’ils avaient ces enseignants dans les baitkas et dans les
madrassas ? Ils n’avaient que l’amour de la culture, ils n’avaient aucune
formation universitaire mais ils transmettaient. Si j’entends encore les enfants et
ceux de notre génération parler Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Urdu et toutes les
langues orientales, c’est grâce à ceux qui malgré les difficultés ont su transmettre
ces langues. Ils ont sacrifié leur temps, ils ont sacrifié leur énergie pour que
soient enseignées les langues orientales. »
Je crois qu’il n’y a pas de meilleur hommage qui puisse être rendu à ces glorieux
prédécesseurs qui ont très souvent oeuvré dans l’obscurité la plus totale. Et la demande pour la
reconnaissance officielle ne remet pas du tout en cause, comme je viens de le dire, le travail
titanesque, abattu dans des conditions difficiles par ces prédécesseurs.
Si j’ai bien compris la motion de mon ami, l’honorable Suren Dayal, ce que nous
demandons c’est la standardisation pour que nous puissions atteindre la reconnaissance officielle,
la standardisation des contenus, la standardisation de ce qu’on appelle plus techniquement les
syllabus et les examens. La reconnaissance officielle par le biais du passage à travers un
organisme central et officiel, des certificats, diplômes et autres qui sanctionnent ces examens.
Ayant écouté mes collègues des trois côtés de la Chambre qui sont intervenus sur cette motion, je
n’ai pas l’impression qu’il y a beaucoup de dissension; j’ai l’impression même qu’il y a un
consensus relativement généralisé sur la nécessité de faire quelque chose dans ce sens, et ce qui
m’amène à quelques commentaires d’ordre un peu plus technique.
35
Premièrement, je voudrais mettre en exergue, si c’est nécessaire, le sérieux, la
connaissance des questions en présence et l’engagement vers la crédibilité de notre collègue,
l’honorable Surendra Dayal quand il a changé le libellé de sa motion de le MES to collaborate
with existing institutions to conduct examinations. Evidemment cela montre une connaissance
parfaite et profonde de la question, une connaissance parfaite et profonde de l’environnement
dans lequel nous évoluons et évidemment des capacités relatives du Mauritius Examinations
Syndicate.
Le deuxième point, M. le président, qui est un point très important et qui est un point très
souvent soulevé – je suis sûr que la plupart des membres de chaque côté de la Chambre ont dû
faire face, ont dû écouter ce genre de doléance. Cette doléance c’est le fameux ratio 1:25. Très
souvent, des représentants des institutions d’enseignement de Tamil, de Telugu, de Marathi et
d’Urdu et même des représentants des institutions enseignant le Hindi pour les classes
supérieures - je veux dire higher grades of Hindi. Très souvent, ces représentants on mis en
exergue les très grandes difficultés auxquelles font face ces institutions, ces extensions schools
pour pouvoir arriver à trouver 25 étudiants, 25 élèves dans une classe spécifique. Si j’ai bien
compris, pour que l’enseignant qui enseigne dans une classe spécifique pour les langues
orientales, soit rémunéré selon les termes, selon la réglementation du ministère, il faut qu’il y ait
un minimum de 25 étudiants dans cette classe.
M. le président, je fais un appel particulièrement au ministre de l’éducation, et je suis sûr
que le ministre de l’éducation a dû aussi entendre ce genre de doléance à travers tout le pays, que
ce soit dans les régions urbaines ou dans les régions rurales, de la très grande difficulté de
trouver pour des classes spécifiques, pour surtout le Tamil, le Telugu, le Marathi et l’Urdu et
aussi pour le Hindi dans les classes plus élevées de trouver 25 étudiants. Nous savons très bien,
M. le président, que pour pouvoir répondre à ce genre de doléance, pour pouvoir dire
effectivement nous allons diminuer ce ratio de 25:10, 25:12 ou 25:15 quelque soit le chiffre qui
soit déterminé, nous savons très bien qu’il y a des contraintes. Il y a des contraintes de capacité
donc de disponibilité d’enseignant, donc des contraintes de ressources humaines, il y a des
contraintes d’infrastructures, il y des contraintes de logistiques et il y a aussi des contraintes
financières. Mais M. le président ou on veut ou on ne veut pas.
(Interruptions)
36
M. le président, ou on veut véritablement promouvoir les langues ancestrales et les
langues orientales non seulement pour des raisons culturelles non seulement pour des raisons
civilisationnelles, mais aussi pour des raisons purement économiques parce que dans le monde,
dans l’homo economicus d’aujourd’hui se retrouve évidemment, automatiquement, avec un très
grand avantage s’il maîtrise plusieurs langues et autant de langues qu’il puisse maîtriser autant
cela vaut mieux pour lui. Donc mon appel à mon ami, l’honorable ministre de l’éducation c’est
de revoir, dans les limites des possibilités, ce ratio de 1:25 pour que nous puissions voir, nous
puissions témoigner d’un véritable épanouissement de l’enseignement des langues ancestrales.
Le troisième point technique concerne carrément le libellé de la motion qui est -
« This House is of the opinion that the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate should
collaborate with the existing recognised institutions in conducting all
examinations concerning asian languages taught in extension schools.”
My comments, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, have to do with the term ‘collaborate’.
‘Collaborate’ can be given a very narrow meaning; ‘collaborate’ can be given a very broad
meaning and, of course, it all depends what we mean, what we understand and what we expect
by such collaboration. I suppose being given that if we go by the French adage “qu’on fait ce
qu’on peut” that the capacity availabilities of the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate have to be
taken into consideration before such an issue be addressed. But then once we have assessed the
availabilities in terms of capacity of the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate, we only have two
options, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. We can either say that we have a limited capacity and we will
stay put, that is, we will direct our action; we will orient our action relatively to our capacity. So,
we adapt. Or we can say we enhance this capacity because we believe in the promotion of Asian
languages, we believe in giving official recognition to the examinations which sanction the study
of Asian languages. We believe that it is important to give a national, an official credibility to
these certificates, diplomas and degrees and we believe that it is only fair, ce n’est que justice
que ces examens portant sur les études, sur les langues orientales soient sanctionnés par des
diplômes qui ont une reconnaissance officielle, et qui dit officiel dit aussi international.
37
At the end of the day, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the question is: what do we want? Do we
want simply to adapt our action taking into consideration our limited capacity or do we want to
really achieve the objective that we have set? Generally, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, philosophers
and would-be philosophers also make a difference between success in life, that is, having a good
job, getting a decent salary, getting the material, physical trappings of economic success in life
on one hand and living very simply a successful life. And we all know that the Alliance Sociale
Government of the hon. Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister has set as one of its main
objectives to enhance equality and to bring social justice to this country. And if we go by the
definition of that author, Economist, Nobel Prize winner whom the hon. Prime Minister has
quoted a number of times, Dr. Amartya Sen. Dr. Amartya Sen defines equality and social justice
as being the capacity of every individual to lead a life of his or her own choice. Dr. Amartya Sen
defines equality and social justice as being the capacity of every individual to lead a life of his or
her own choice and this is what, I suppose, was one of the preoccupations. This is, I suppose, one
of the motivations of my brother and colleague, hon. Suren Dayal, in presenting this motion to
the House.
Having said this, I wish to make an appeal to the Minister of Education to consider with
sympathy this motion. Actually, indeed, more than sympathy parce que la sympathie est quelque
chose de volontariste. On décide si on veut ou non être en sympathie avec quelque chose. But
this is a matter of necessity, it is not a matter of choice parce que, comme nous le savons et, si je
me souviens bien, je crois que c’est mon ami, l’honorable Dr. Vasant Bunwaree, le ministre de
l’éducation, qui un jour m’a dit, au cours d’une conversation, ‘mais tu sais très bien que
l’homme ne vit pas que de pain’. I would like to return that quotation to my hon. friend -
l’homme ne vit pas que de pain and, therefore, my appeal is for a gesture, for a move, for an
effort, a simple gesture in the direction of the overall appeal that my friend and colleague, hon.
Suren Dayal, has made to this motion. As we all know a simple gesture, a small gesture can be
very important.
I would like to terminate my intervention, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, just on that issue of a
small gesture – un petit signe as we say in urdu – samaj dalon kelie ichara kafié hai. For those
who understand a simple signal is sufficient.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
38
(5.52 p.m.)
The Minister of Consumer Protection and Citizens Charter (Mr S. Tang Wah
Hing): M. le président, d’emblée, je dois vous remercier de m’avoir permis aujourd’hui
d’apporter ma pierre à l’édifice et, en même temps, de féliciter mon ami l’honorable Suren
Dayal pour sa motion sur les langues orientales.
Certes c’est un sujet qui a toujours fait débat et qui fera toujours débat surtout quand on
sait que nous vivons dans un pays arc-en-ciel tout en prenant en considération ce que nous
devons non seulement préserver mais en même temps nourrir nos langues ancestrales, car c’est
un héritage légitime qui nous a été légué par nos aînés.
M. le président, avant de rentrer dans le vif du sujet, un bref retour dans l’histoire
s’impose. Nos aînés ont eu à faire un choix pour une meilleure vie quand ils ont pris la décision
de venir à Maurice. Délaissant famille, proche, leur pays entre autres, ils se sont embarqués pour
une aventure en espérant trouver l’herbe plus verte ici. Et ils se sont vite rendus compte que ce
n’était pas une partie de plaisir car ils ont dû bosser dur, très dur même, cela sans leur famille et
leur proche pour les soutenir. Graduellement, ils ont pu s’adapter à la situation tout en se faisant
de nouveaux amis.
A l’instar des chinois, il y a ceux qui venaient de Guangdong et d’autres de Mei Xian
plus connu comme Moi Yen et aussi comme les Cantonnais et les Hakkas respectivement.
Comme vous le savez tous, ils se sont lancés dans les magasins d’alimentation connus comme les
boutiques pour approvisionner les laboureurs indiens à l’époque. Les chinois ont dû apprendre
sur le tas la langue créole et le bhojpuri pour pouvoir communiquer avec leurs clients. Je suis
moi même témoin de cela car mon papa est un commis à la campagne, il parlait couramment le
bhojpuri. Il peut facilement tenir des conversations comme il le veut. Alors tout cela démontre,
et c’est ce qui est vraiment important à Maurice, ce mélange de cultures.
39
Au fil des ans, certains ont fait venir leur femme et enfants alors que d’autres se sont
mariés à Maurice. Les chinois continuent à parler chez eux leurs langues ancestrales. Ainsi par
coutume et par tradition, la langue ancestrale a pu être préservée et les enfants ont également été
envoyés dans des écoles comme le Chinese Middle School pour apprendre le Hakka, le
Cantonnais et le Mandarin.
M. le président, avec l’introduction de l’éducation gratuite, grâce à la vision du père de
la nation que la population mauricienne ne finira jamais de le remercier, Maurice s’est
embarquée dans une ère nouvelle. Car l’éducation gratuite vient de mettre sur le même pied
d’égalité tous les enfants. Forcément, il ne faut pas être riche pour aller à l’école et avoir une
éducation. Les pauvres aussi jouissent de ce privilège. C’est ainsi, qu’ultérieurement les élèves
ont pu continuer à étudier à l’école et au collège les langues ancestrales tout en prenant part aux
examens du School Certificate et du Higher School Certificate.
L’éducation, M. le président, est un passeport pour la vie qui nous ouvre les frontières.
Tout en étant reconnaissant aux institutions qui ont enseigné aux enfants les langues ancestrales
durant des années et ce jusqu’à ce jour Maurice doit être fier qu’il y avait toujours des
volontaires pour guider nos enfants à préserver leurs cultures.
Ces volontaires méritent d’être salués car ils ont joué un rôle important voir primordial
dans notre société. Je profite pour leur rendre hommage pour leur contribution dans l’éducation
de nos enfants surtout ceux qui ont été derrière les rideaux, mais qui ont abattu un travail
formidable.
M. le président, il faut évoluer avec le temps. Si je puis me permettre, je pense que c’est
ici la démarche de l’honorable Suren Dayal qui pense qu’il est grand temps que la Mauritius
Examinations Syndicate (MES) soit mis à contribution to collaborate with the existing
recognised institutions in conducting all examinations concerning Asian languages taught in
extension schools.
40
M. le président, la réputation de la MES n’est plus à faire. C’est une institution qui, par
définition, s’occupe des examens. D’ailleurs, c’est une référence sur le plan national, régional et
international. L’instance de Réduit travaille en étroite collaboration avec plusieurs universités
dans le monde entier. Je dois ici ouvrir une parenthèse pour dire que certains parents, dans le but
de perfectionner leurs enfants, n’hésitent pas à les envoyer en Chine pour six mois ou même un
an pour revenir avec un diplôme en mandarin. Un ami à moi a envoyé son fils en Chine pour
apprendre le mandarin. Avec son diplôme en poche, l’enfant s’est ensuite rendu en Angleterre
pour poursuivre ses études tertiaires. Tout ceci c’est pour vous dire que cet enfant, après ses
études tertiaires, aura certainement un grand plus sur les autres car il possède déjà un diplôme
reconnu en langues.
M. le président, avec la globalisation, il est désormais un plus de connaître des langues
ancestrales. Cela permet de gagner sa vie. Ici, je fais référence aux secteurs touristiques,
financiers entre autres. Avec un diplôme reconnu en poche, c’est un passeport, l’avenir est
assuré. C’est la raison pour laquelle qu’il serait souhaitable d’harmoniser et de permettre au MES
de jouer ce rôle catalyseur afin que nos enfants aient le passeport universel.
Néanmoins, je ne suis pas en train de dire qu’il faut faire l’impasse ou encore moins
négliger ces extension schools. Loin de là. Il faudra la collaboration de tout un chacun pour
dégager un consensus afin que nos enfants puissent sortir gagnants. Pour moi, ce qui est
important pour notre île Maurice arc-en-ciel, c’est de voir dans toutes les couches de la
population cette chose normale de leurs vies qu’ils veulent comme l’honorable Suren Dayal l’a
dit ni hao, c'est-à-dire qu’il voulait exprimer en chinois. En tant qu’homme politique, quand je
vais dans des réunions, j’essaie de parler en bhojpuri et en urdu pour exprimer cette valeur
ancestrale que nous avons pu obtenir de nos ancêtres. Mon ami me demande de parler en
bhojpuri, kaiser ba, acha pas na, thik ba na, ce sont des mots qu’on connait.
(Interruptions)
Tout cela pour démontrer que notre île Maurice a sa valeur d’être, c'est-à-dire cette valeur
arc-en-ciel.
41
Pour terminer, M. le président, je tiens à dire que c’est en nous réunissant que nous
aurons plus de force. D’ailleurs, nous sommes tous dans le même bateau et nous voulons tous
que nos enfants aient un meilleur avenir pour faire face aux nombreux défis.
Merci M. le président.
(6.00 p.m)
Mr R. Issack (Second Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central): M. le
président, tout d’abord je voudrais remercier l’honorable Suren Dayal pour cette motion qui nous
permet d’avoir un débat sain et national. Nous qui sommes là, sommes tous des mauriciens et en
chacun de nous, il y a tout un mélange de cultures. Il y a une interrelation qui fait honneur à la
nation mauricienne à cause de cette pluralité qui habite chacun de nous.
Aujourd’hui c’est un jour spécial au parlement qui se tient d’ailleurs un lundi. Nous
avons reçu la visite de nombreuses personnalités indiennes et nous savons ce que représente
l’Inde avec ses langues, ses cultures et ses traditions. Nous avons aussi parmi nous le président
du Mauritius Marathi Mandali Federation, M. Balraj Narroo. Il y a des présidents et membres
d’autres sociétés qui auraient tellement souhaité que la motion de l’honorable Suren Dayal soit
adoptée. Il y a à peine une dizaine de jours de cela, M. le président, vous étiez vous-même en
Inde. On a assisté avec le ministre de l’éducation et l’honorable Anil Bachoo à une rencontre de
la diaspora indienne, people of indian origin. Fait intéressant est que le président de Gopio
International, notre compatriote, M. Mahendra Utchanah avait fait une remarque anecdotique
mais pertinente. Il a rappelé comment quelques années de cela, quand le premier ministre Indien
d’alors M. Gowda était en visite à Maurice, il avait voulu assister à une fête culturelle. Après
avoir assisté à la fête, il n’a pas caché sa stupéfaction car il avait dit ce jour là au ministre d’alors
M. Utchanah que même en Inde on n’a pas su préserver l’authenticité de cette langue ancestrale.
Je crois que c’était le Telugu. Il avait tellement apprécié et il était tellement agréablement surpris
qu’il nous a fait une fleur. C’est pour dire combien l’île Maurice a préservé plusieurs langues,
cultures et traditions. Alors la motion présentée par l’honorable Suren Dayal, comme l’a souligné
il y a quelques instants de cela notre ami l’honorable Cader Sayed-Hossen, a son lot de
technicités, mais aussi cette motion a son aspect culturel et son lot d’émotions.
42
A Maurice il y a plusieurs langues et plusieurs communautés. Les langues ancestrales
asiatiques comme l’Hindi, l’Urdu, le Telugu, le Tamoul, le Mandarin de même que le Marathi,
j’espère que je n’ai raté aucune autre langue. Il y a plusieurs langues qui fleurissent sur notre sol.
(Interruptions)
J’ai dit le Telugu.
Vous voyez la réaction ! Dès que vous ratez ou qu’on croit que vous avez raté, on réagit
parce qu’on est tellement attaché aux langues de nos ancêtres. Il y a d’autres langues encore
comme le Gujrati.
Alors qu’est qu’il nous faut ? Il nous faut préserver et un moyen de le faire c’est à travers
les études. On apprend et on préserve l’authenticité. Qui dit études dit aussi examens. Quand
vous valorisez une langue à travers un diplôme certainement il y aura beaucoup qui vont
s’intéresser à ces langues. Si au niveau de la Higher School Certificate il y a des lauréats
musulmans qui ont pris l’Hindi au niveau principal de même qu’il y a des hindous qui ont pris
des études islamiques au niveau principal, demain il se peut que chacun étudie non pas la langue
des autres mais les langues des autres. Tout dépend de ce que nous voulons et de ce que nous
allons décider et faire.
Jetons un coup d’oeil ailleurs. Que se passe-t-il à l’étranger ? Que se passe-t-il avec les
langues ? Que faisons-nous avec nos langues ? A l’école, dans les collèges, partout on privilégie
les langues ancestrales. On accorde une importance particulière à toutes les langues ancestrales
dans ce pays. Tandis que dans certains pays on perd les valeurs, si on essaye de comprendre ce
qui se passe à Guadeloupe par exemple, ou ce qui se passe au Fiji ou encore qu’on essaye
d’analyser ce qui se passe au Sri Lanka où à un certain moment il y avait une ‘détamoulisation’,
estimons nous heureux ici d’avoir la possibilité non pas de parler et d’étudier mais de vivre
plusieurs langues à la fois. Donc, M. le président, ici il y a une prise de conscience. Même en
Angleterre il y a cette prise de conscience, ce revival et on met l’accent sur les langues de nos
ancêtres parce que ces langues sont aussi les langues des livres sacrés.
L’Inde ! Que représente l’Inde pour nous? La Chine, avec toutes ses cultures, toutes ses
traditions, toutes ces magies, ces féeries. Nous avons hérité de tout cela ici. Une petite île qui est
devenue finalement un microcosme du monde. Notre ami, l’honorable Cader Sayed Hossen,
disait « toutes ces langues représentent pour nous un patrimoine. C’est la mémoire ». Une langue
est en elle-même l’histoire. Chaque langue a une histoire, chaque langue représente une culture,
43
des traditions, une manière de vivre, une manière d’être, et une manière de prier. La langue c’est
également la foi. Evidemment, c’est aussi l’identité. La langue c’est l’histoire ; la langue c’est la
sagesse.
C’est avec beaucoup de nostalgie que j’ai écouté mon ami, l’honorable Cader Sayed
Hossen, quand il citait l’honorable James Burty David, notre ami et frère disparu. Il avait ici
même dans cette Chambre parlé des premiers laboureurs, ceux qui avaient foulé pour la première
fois notre sol, qu’ils soient de Chine, de l’Inde ou de n’importe quel district de l’Inde. Comment
sont ils venus ? Qui étaient-ils ? Des laboureurs, des gens qui n’ont jamais été à l’école, mais qui
nous ont donné la meilleure de toutes les éducations. C’est gens-là ont su préserver les livres
sacrés, nos langues et nos cultures. Ils ont été des professeurs anonymes ; ils travaillaient de
manière discrète. N’oublions pas qu’à cette époque il n’y avait presque pas de lumière ; on
travaillait, on apprenait à la lueur des lampes à pétrole ; ti éna la bougie.
Ces gens-là ont su préserver nos langues, traditions et cultures. Ils nous ont appris à
apprendre. Si eux, à l’époque, vu leur niveau, leur intellectualité, ont pu faire progresser leurs
enfants, ont pu leur inculquer tous ce savoir, nous qui sommes éduqués, que ne pouvons-nous
faire ? L’exemple c’est eux. Qu’avaient ces gens comme outils pédagogiques ? Ils n’avaient
qu’eux-mêmes, le verbe, la parole, et on apprenait dans des huttes, des cases. Il y avait des
muktabs, madrassahs, des écoles chinoises, des baitkas. On essayait, avec des moyens de bord,
d’ouvrir la porte du savoir, de la sagesse aux enfants. Aujourd’hui que nous avons l’occasion,
l’opportunité et des opportunités, allons-nous cracher sur l’histoire, cracher sur la mémoire, sur
le patrimoine ? L’occasion est en or ; il faut la saisir, et il faut maintenant cristalliser ce rêve de
nos ancêtres. Et il n’est pas difficile de le faire. Ces gens-là avaient l’instinct de préservation.
Mais, aujourd’hui, nous avons - mon ami, l’honorable Suren Dayal, vient de me donner
des statistiques - dans 414 écoles, 28,854 élèves qui étudient l’hindi, et nous avons pour cela
1,063 professeurs. Pour la langue Ourdou, dans 246 écoles, il y a 16,481 élèves et 611
professeurs ; pour le tamil, 64 écoles, 138 professeurs, et 4,225 élèves ; pour le telegou, il y a 31
écoles, 36 professeurs, et 945 élèves ; pour le marathi, 22 écoles, 45 professeurs, 1,270 élèves et,
pour le mandarin, six écoles, 19 professeurs, et 699 élèves. Que constatons-nous ? The figures
are dwindling year after year. Mais si jamais nous maintenons le cap, si nous encourageons les
élèves, s’il y a des certificats, des diplômes, le nombre évidemment va accroître. Dans le monde
44
en ce moment, il y a un manque aigu de traducteurs. Et nous, nous avons la possibilité non pas
seulement d’être bilingues mais multilingues.
Nous pouvons envoyer uniquement des mauriciens travailler aux Nations Unies, dans de
grandes conférences internationales, mais nous ne réalisons pas parfois ce que nous possédons
comme trésor. Mais là, il faut faire un appel directement au ministre de l’éducation. Il faut
encourager. Il ne faut pas se fier au ratio 25 élèves pour un professeur. Si on peut encourager les
gens, donner plus de chance. Pour ce qui est de la culture, la langue, l’histoire, les traditions, la
religion, la foi, tout cela n’a pas de prix. Payons ! Il faut dépenser. Augmentons, si besoin est, le
salaire ou l’allocation de ces professeurs. Il faut motiver. Nous avons aussi des institutions à
Maurice ; le Mauritius Examination Syndicate est une institution crédible qui a fait ses preuves.
Si nous refaisons confiance au MES et à toutes les autres institutions socioreligieuses, ces
institutions qui ont pris naissance avec l’arrivée des travailleurs et des commerçants indiens,
chinois, nous pouvons certainement réaliser des miracles. Il suffit que nous ayons confiance en
nous, il suffit que nous nous crédibilisons, il suffit que nous croyons en nous. A ce moment-là,
nous allons définitivement réussir dans notre tâche, dans notre missions Reste à savoir
maintenant si le ministre de l’éducation va bien vouloir nous aiguiller dans la bonne direction et
cristalliser ce rêve de nos ancêtres.
Merci, M. le président.
The Deputy Speaker: The Speaker will now resume the Chair.
(6.20 p.m)
The Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr
Speaker, Sir, we are debating the Private Member’s Motion of hon. Surendra Dayal, the
Government Chief Whip, which is entitled after amendment that the MES should collaborate
with the existing recognised institutions in conducting all examinations concerning Asian
Languages.
Having listened, until now, to the various orators on both sides of the House who have
intervened on this Motion, it is clear that there is, in fact, the willingness of trying to seek the
expertise of the MES in the conduct of the examinations for certain reasons. I wish, first of all,
to thank the hon. Member for the interest he has shown insofar as the teaching of Asian
45
Languages in Mauritius is concerned and I would also like to thank the various orators who so
far have intervened on this passionate subject at different sittings of the National Assembly.
The hon. Chief Whip came with the first Motion which he amended and I believed that
this amendment was a well thought one. In fact, if we had - in the Motion – asked the MES to
conduct the examinations, it would have been absolutely different for various reasons.
Mr Speaker, Sir, asking the MES to collaborate with the existing recognised institutions
in conducting the examinations is something that is well thought of and, in fact, in one way or
the other, we can consider and try to make it become a reality after some procedures.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in 2009, the MES celebrated its 25 years of existence. It is an institution
which has proved itself, but there have been difficulties and crisis in the past and it has overcome
the various hurdles that were found on its way. I wish here to take this opportunity to
congratulate all those Directors of the MES - I think there were five altogether - who have been
doing a marvellous work. In fact, this institution is today a very credible institution and is also
an example in this part of the world. There are many countries which are trying to send their
representatives in Mauritius to see in what way they can learn something from what the MES has
been doing and is still doing. The MES, in fact, conducts examinations in more than one
hundred fields.
Mr Speaker, Sir, this subject of oriental languages touches all of us deeply and we have
felt this in the various speeches that were delivered in the House since we have started the debate
on this Motion, because it deals with our ancestral languages and our very culture, our roots.
Just now, hon. Reza Issack has very emotionally expressed this in his own way.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I must say that language is, in fact, the basis of culture. There is no
culture if there is no language. In fact, in the beginning when there were no languages, when
people had first come in the world, they must have been communicating through gestures and
sign languages which we use sometimes for those people who cannot hear well. It is only after
language came into existence that cultures could be expressed and could therefore exist.
Mr Speaker, Sir, may I take this opportunity again to thank all those people who are
involved de près ou de loin with the promotion of languages and cultures in our country.
I wish also to take this opportunity to congratulate the President of the Marathi Mandali
Federation who is in the House today. This shows the importance that he gives to this subject.
46
Mr Speaker, Sir, the very fact that the matter is being discussed today in the National
Assembly is in a way homage paid to those who have been contributing in the past, and still in
the present, towards the promotion of ancestral languages in Mauritius. I have no doubt that the
hon. Chief Whip, through his Motion, is concerned with improving the current system.
We know of his attachment to the Oriental Languages and the work he has done so far for
the promotion of these languages. If he is coming with such a Motion it is because he would like
to find in one way or the other how we could improve the current system of examinations that
are carried out.
Before we look into the examination aspects, Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to invite the
House to reflect on the common heritage that our ancestors have bequeathed to us and the role
that languages have played in the emancipation of the people and also for the development of our
society. We need to examine the system first, analyse its working before we think of reviewing
the whole process. In fact, we are not talking of reviewing the process, but in one way or the
other this is at the back of our mind. The languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi and Urdu
reached Mauritius in the days of indenture. This is well known. They came at various times and
when the indentured labourers came, they came with their languages and also with their sacred
books, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Koran and their languages. Those who were
from Tamil Nadu, now Chennai, came which the Tamil Language. From Andra Pradesh, they
came with the Telegu Language. From Maharashtra, they came with the Marathi Language;
those from the Northern Indian States they came with their languages, Hindi and Urdu at various
times, of course, when they had to travel to Mauritius for the first time.
We know the conditions in which they came to work. Of course, I won’t go into the
details of the story, but they were promised to turn the stones to find gold. We know that the
conditions of work in those days were very tedious and after a hard day’s work, they used to read
their sacred books and do the chanting following what was described in their books and that was
essentially - as it has been mentioned by hon. Mrs Juggoo – pou blié zot traca, pou blié zot hard
day’s work. These languages flourished little by little thanks to the baitkas and madrassas that
were set up in those days one after the other and also after sometimes as evening schools mostly
in the rural regions. That was one of the best ways for them to promulgate their languages and
cultures and, at the same time, allowing their languages to continue to live.
47
It must also be recalled here, Mr Speaker, Sir, the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in
Mauritius in 1901 which was a decisive step in the promotion of education, in general, for the
indentured labourers and we all know that he encouraged the Mauritians of Indian descent
essentially, the Mauritians in general to educate their children, to start getting involved also in
the affairs of the country. This is what gave the leaders of those times the interest in further
helping the oriental languages to find their way. Soon after the visit of Mahatma Gandhi, baitkas
and madrassahs started mushrooming all over the island where languages like Hindi and Urdu
began to be taught. Through the medium of Hindi, students were also taught culture and human
values. This is continuing until today, Mr Speaker, Sir. It was the baitkas which laid the
foundations of the development of the society and side by side, on parallel lines, the
development of the country itself.
I am informed that the first printed book which arrived in Mauritius in 1903 was the
‘Satya Prakash’ of Swami Dayanand. While trying to get some ideas to speak in this Assembly
today, it was brought to my attention that this was the first printed book which arrived in
Mauritius in 1903. The Arya Samaj movement started preaching its principles and the medium
adopted, of course, was Hindi. It is generally believed, Mr Speaker, Sir, that the very first
manuscript which accompanied the indentured labourers to Mauritius was, as I told you, the
Ramcharitra Manas of Goswami Tulsidas, but it was in the Awadhi dialect and lots of works had
been done afterwards to be able to allow this sacred book to be translated in other languages and
allow the Mauritians to learn what is in it.
The first half of the 20th century turned out to be a glorious period for Asian languages,
especially Hindi, I must say. Soon, the children of labourers started scoring good results in
general subjects while, at the same time, studying ancestral languages and that was mostly in the
baitkas. We have to salute the Arya Samaj movement which definitely deserves our homage for
running Hindi schools all over this island since 1910; that is a long way back. There must have
been people of vision…
(Interruptions)
Yes, in fact, exactly a hundred years. It is to be noted also that the Mauritius Sanathan
Dharma Temple Federation too had baitkas in the country teaching Hindi and also Indian culture
to the children.
48
In 1935, Hindi was already being taught part-time in 48 schools. The other oriental
languages, namely Tamil and Urdu started entering the 48 schools. So, three oriental languages
had already started entering schools in 1935. The baitka, which came into being in the early
decades of the 20th century, went on to become a veritable institution which has well-endured the
test of time.
On various occasions, we have been given the figures which reflect the state of health of
that institution, that is, the number of schools being run by the various institutions. The first one,
as I said, is Arya Samaj. The number of schools is more than 150, some people say it is nearing
200. The Hindi Pracharini Sabha runs 125 primary and 30 secondary branches, the Arya
Ravived Pracharini Sabha takes care of 35 branches in the country and, added to all this, you
have various other federations like the Tamil Temple Federation, the Marathi Mandali and the
Andhra Maha Sabha which continue to do the same type of work. In the afternoon, classes are
being run to teach the various languages to the children of these communities and Mandarin, as
my colleague has just been mentioning, is not left behind. The figures have already been given. I
must say, Mr Speaker, Sir, that in all zones of the country, we have a number of schools that are
being run. The total is 783. We have, for example, in zone 1: 237 schools; zone 2: 222 schools
for the various oriental languages and Mandarin included; for zone 3: 223 and zone 4: 95. The
teachers also follow the same pattern and the pupils as well follow the same pattern.
All these show the Government policy and that our main concern for the running of these
evening classes is of great importance to the preservation of ancestral languages in our country.
In this context, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources, since 1976, had agreed
to grant allowances to the teachers who were involved in the promotion of the teaching of these
languages, the literature, the cultural activities and also in the practice of arts and culture. These
activities are, as we know, organised by various socio-cultural organisations, but the teachers – I
think it is worthwhile reminding the House – when they started in 1976, they were getting
peanuts and that amount had remained the same for many, many years. It was only when our
present Prime Minister became Prime Minister for the first time, that is, in 1996, I remember
well because I was Minister of Finance in those days and I took the initiative myself, it was
under the first Navinchandra Ramgoolam Government that we realised that they were getting
peanuts; they started with Rs300 and it had remained Rs300 until 1996. Then, we decided to
49
give further recognition to these teachers and the amount that was paid to them was modified. In
the first instance, it was brought from Rs300 to Rs500, that was a first gesture, knowing full well
at that time, because I was myself responsible, as I have just mentioned; for the work they were
doing that was not enough, but in a budget, we have to ‘couper trancher’ comme on dit. So, that
is how it came, it was raised from Rs300 to Rs500. But the year after and realising the good
effect that it had caused to the teachers of the country, then the year after, it was significantly
increased from Rs500 to Rs1,000 for the general teachers for the lower classes and for those who
were teaching classes up to School Certificate, it was Rs1,500 and those teaching for higher
levels it was Rs2,000 per month, which was really significant. I must confess that that was in
1998 and ten years later it is still the same. I have just listened to Members of the House making
their points. I think there is some reason, here, to believe that this will have to be reviewed in
one way or the other. It cannot be done immediately, but we’ll seriously consider this. It is not
only to encourage these teachers to continue to do the same. But, at the same time, I must also
say that there is a system of monitoring, because there have been some abuses in certain cases. It
is not because allowance is given that it should go without notice. So, there have been, in some
cases, certain types of abuses where teachers have asked for remunerations, but where the classes
were not being run according to the conditions that have been spelt out. But to ensure the
implementation of this project, there are many stakeholders who are directly concerned. There
are, first of all, the Directors of the zones. I have said we have four zones and four Directors,
and they keep an eye on what is going on and how these evening classes are conducted. There
are also other stakeholders, such as the Principal School Inspectors, Desk Officers, Managers and
President of the Socio-Cultural Organisation. These are responsible people, and we draw the
attention to the fact that they have also to oversee what is happening in their organizations, and
see to it that the money that is spent to pay these teachers is used in a correct manner. And there
are, of course, teachers and pupils.
The point has been made just now by one of my friends on this side of the House. I think
hon. Cader Sayed-Hossen said that there is a ratio of 1:25. For the school to qualify for the
payment of a teacher for an oriental language in evening classes, there should be one teacher for
25 pupils. Then, the class is accepted and can be run. When we come to students who are
studying for high levels like B.A, for example, we may not find one class of 25 pupils.
Therefore, if the conditions are applied strictly, the class is not going to be run and the teachers
50
are not going to be paid. But I must say to my colleague, hon. Cader Sayed-Hossen and,
therefore, inform the House that there is some flexibility. We have already started to see to it
that students are not penalised because of that ratio. Before trying to change the ratio itself, we
are trying to do the best we can to see to it that students are not penalised because of the ratio.
This is a good thing that is happening. Teachers are running their classes, and they are doing
their level best to see to it that languages continue to be taught in all parts of the country.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the motion that is in front of us today gives us the opportunity to repeat
something that we should all know, that our history has witnessed the coming on the scene of
some Hindi stalwarts who devoted themselves heart and soul to the promotion of Hindi and
Indian culture. We can go into details for the various oriental languages. We will find, in all
cases, stalwarts have been there at the right point in time and allowed their languages to walk a
step forward. But in the case of Hindi and Indian culture, I think it will be my duty to remind the
House of the case of the Bissoondoyal brothers who have gone down in history for initiating a
nationwide movement, to sensitise the people in their days to the need for promoting ancestral
language and culture. The country will ever stay indebted to them for launching the campaign of
learning to sign. That was a major step in our democratic process. In fact, they launched the
campaign of learning to sign one’s name in one’s ancestral language, which came to be
considered adequate at that point in time to become basically eligible for voting at the general
elections of 1947. I think, Mr Speaker, you should be the one who knows that better than anyone
else. And we are all aware that these elections saw the returning of a significant number of
candidates, whose forebears were of Indian origin. This is why I wish to underline the work that
has been undertaken by the Bissoondoyal brothers, that is, launching the campaign to make
people learn to sign in their oriental language and, in so doing, being allowed to vote in those
elections. This change, Mr Speaker, Sir, in the configuration of the Members of the Assembly
has already been a determining factor in shaping the political history and the political destiny of
Mauritius.
As we are all aware, the coming on scene of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Father of the
nation, was largely instrumental in the promotion of Indian languages in Mauritius. It is befitting
today to remind the House and the country of this. Soon after the 1947 elections, under the
impulsion of the Father of the nation, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Professor Ramprakash, an
Indian expert, came to Mauritius to arrange for the training of teachers. And we all know today
51
that, in education, if we want something to happen well, training is of utmost importance. In
those days, there could be no better way than getting an expert from India. Professor
Ramprakash, whom I have known, in fact, for some time at the Royal College, Port Louis, was
teaching Indian culture, and I had the opportunity and the chance of learning from him. That
expert came to Mauritius to arrange for the training of teachers, and the first batch of Hindi
teachers was trained by him in 1951. The first batch of Hindi teachers came on the market. We
had already a number of teachers who had been trained and, Hindi, as a language, was taught on
a full-time basis as from 1954. For the first time, in 1963, it was examined at Primary School
Leaving Certificate, and mention of Hindi was made on the certificate. That was another point
worthwhile noting.
Since 1954, Hindi could be studied in almost all primary and secondary schools. Today,
it can be studied also, as we know, at tertiary level. Not only Hindi, even some other subjects,
but for Hindi, it was since 1954. Indeed, Hindi occupies a proud place in the universal education
system of our country. Degree and PhD courses are run at the MGI and also at the University of
Mauritius. Some 5,000 students study Hindi at School Certificate level and 400 students at
Higher School Certificate level. This is for Hindi. I can give the figures for all the other oriental
languages, and I can assure the House that, in all schools, all the oriental languages are being
taught.
In fact, it is also important for me to mention that we have been having some criticisms in
the education sector to the effect that, in some schools, because the number of children who opt
for oriental languages is too small, less than 10, for example, there is no teacher, because one
teacher is offered for more than 10 students. So, when the number is less than 10, the oriental
language cannot be taught. We have innovated this year, and we are trying to put an order in this
state of affairs. We are clustering the schools in such a way that when we add up the children
doing the same oriental language in three, four or five schools, we reach a significant number for
the teacher to teach the subject. And, therefore, the schools will offer transport to allow the
children to move from one school to the other, follow the classes and come back to their schools
through the transport that is being offered to them. In that way, this difficulty for children not to
study their oriental language because the number in their schools is not sufficient is no longer a
problem.
52
This clustering of schools is starting this year. In fact, there is already the possibility for
teachers to work part-time in one school and part-time in another school. This practice has been
there for quite some time and we are continuing with it but, apart from that, we have moved to
the clustering of schools and offering transportation facilities to students to move from one
school to the other and timetables are arranged in such a way that students can continue in that
way.
Mr Speaker, Sir, a significant number of Mauritians are serving the country and
contributing towards its development today thanks to the oriental languages that they have
studied. Mr Speaker, Sir, it is noteworthy to know that, in 1975, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam
was the chief guest at the First World Hindi Conference held in Nagpur, India. And then, on the
proposal of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam – it is good for the House to know – the Second
Conference was held in Mauritius the following year. And, in 1993, the Fourth World Hindi
Conference was again held in Mauritius. It is, indeed, a rare honour and privilege that the World
Hindi Secretariat stands today on the Mauritian soil. We know that the World Hindi Secretariat is
being run from Mauritius. Mauritius is, therefore, as the Hindi capital of the world, striving to
give Hindi its rightful place among the languages on the international field, that is even at the
United Nations. We are fighting to get Hindi recognised as a language at the UN.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I have half an hour more to go. I wish to propose that the debate be now
adjourned.
Mr Bundhoo rose and seconded.
Question put and agreed to.
Debate adjourned accordingly.
ADJOURNMENT
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn to
Tuesday 23 March 2010, at 11.30 a.m.
The Deputy Prime Minister rose and seconded.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr Speaker: The House stands adjourned.
At 6.53 p.m. the Assembly was, on its rising, adjourned to Tuesday 23 March 2010, at
11.30 a.m.
 
SOCIO-CULTURAL ORGANISATIONS
– EVENING CLASSES – ORIENTAL LANGUAGES (07/06/16)
 
(No. B/536) Mr S. Mohamed (First Member for Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the fees paid to the persons/teachers teaching oriental and ancestral languages in evening classes run by registered socio-cultural organisations, she will state the names of the said persons/teachers, indicating in each case, the amount of money paid thereto since January 2015 to date.
 
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, in my reply to PQ B/417, I had informed the House that the persons teaching oriental language in evening classes are paid allowances depending on their qualifications. This range from Rs1,000 to Rs2,000 monthly provided they have covered 12 hours of teaching.
 
The information pertaining to names of the persons and teachers teaching the different languages and the names of the schools is being tabled in the National Assembly.
 
Madam Speaker, I am informed that, from January 2015 to April 2016, an amount of around Rs31 m. has been spent on the allowances paid to for the teaching.
 
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Shakeel Mohamed!