SCHOOLS (PRIMARY/SECONDARY) – TEACHER TO STUDENTS RATIO (11/11/08)
(No. B/1223) Mr Y. Varma (First Member for Mahebourg & Plaine Magnien) asked the Minister of Education, Culture & Human Resources whether he will state the current teacher to students ratio in primary and secondary schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the average teacher:pupil ratio at primary level, GP and OL teachers combined, is 1:22. The ratio in respect of GP teachers alone is 1:29. These figures have remained steady over the past five years.
As regards the secondary level, the average teacher:pupil ratio which again, has remained steady over the past five years is 1:16.
This is accounted for by the fact that, contrary to the primary sector, teaching is subject-based at secondary level and my Ministry’s policy is for schools to offer a subject if there is a minimum of 10 students for subjects considered to be scarcity areas (oriental languages, Design and Communication/Design and Technology, Home Economics) and 16 students for other subjects. 73 Although the average ratio is 1:16, the situation differs from subject to subject. This is understandable.
For example, for “core subjects” like English, French and Maths, the ratio would be higher than the average, generally in the region of 1:30 whereas for optional subjects and scarcity areas subjects, it will obviously be lower.
Mr Varma: Can the Minister inform the House whether it is being envisaged to improve the teacher:student ratio as far as the core subjects are concerned?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is a constant work that is being done at the Ministry. In fact, it has stayed steady for the last five years but, of course, we are trying to improve and when we look at it generally compared with other countries, Mauritius is well placed.
PRIMARY SCHOOLS - EDUCATIONAL TOOLS – FRIDAYS (12/05/09)
(No. B/471) Mr S. Lauthan (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East ) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the circular letter recently issued to the primary schools stating that, henceforth, excursions will have to be organized on Fridays instead of Thursdays, he will state if he is aware of the prejudices that such a decision will cause to the teachers of the Muslim faith in accomplishing the Friday prayers.
Reply: It had been observed that a majority of pupils coming back from educational tours, commonly known as outings, absented themselves on the day following the tour on ground of tiredness. The rate of absenteeism was high in schools with, in some cases, going up to 100%. It generally ranged from 42% to 100% on many days. Moreover, in ZEP schools, it was noted that the problem was more pronounced and was becoming rampant.
With a view to addressing the problem of absenteeism in Primary Schools on the day following educational tours, it was decided in January this year that henceforth educational tours organized by Primary Schools for pupils should be held on Fridays. In this respect, a circular was issued by the Ministry on 22 January 2009 to all Heads of Primary Schools to convey the decision.
Following the issue of the circular, my Ministry received representation in February 2009 to the effect that the scheduling of educational tours on Fridays was not convenient for teachers of the Muslim faith who have to attend prayers.
After taking into consideration the representation, my Ministry reviewed the matter and decided that there should be flexibility in the scheduling of educational tours in Primary Schools with high concentration of teachers of Muslim faith.
This decision was communicated to the Principal Inspectors of all Zones during the course of a meeting at the Ministry on 4 March 2009 and Heads of schools concerned were informed accordingly.
LA GAULETTE PRIMARY SCHOOL – IT TEACHER (23/06/09)
(No. B/613) Mr A. Ganoo (First Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the La Gaulette Primary School, he will state the reason as to why a full time IT Teacher has not been posted thereat, indicating the remedial measures that will be taken.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the policy of my Ministry is for an ICT Teacher to dispense ICT courses at a frequency of 3 periods per class per week.
I understand there has been some problems in the school because we have had, in fact, we are still having a lack of ICT Teachers.
I wish to apprise the House, however, that there is an ICT Teacher at La Gaulette Government School where there are only six classes, 1 class for each Standard. ICT courses are being offered to all six classes on a basis of 3 periods per class per week, that is, 18 periods per week implying that, pupils at La Gaulette Government School are being exposed to the maximum number of ICT courses as required according to norms.
Mr Ganoo: Can the hon. Minister then confirm that, at some time, recently there was no IT teacher, but the problem has been solved now?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, I would say that not only at La Gaulette we have had some problems with the ICT teachers, because many of them have been employed on contract, in fact, they have left after the PRB Recommendation because there are some changes which are going to take place. In fact, the requirement for ICT teachers is 253 and we have only 189 ICT teachers for the time being. So there is, of course, a sharing among schools. As I said, we are making sure that the maximum number of classes are being organized.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has just mentioned that many ICT teachers have left because they were on contract. May I ask the hon. Minister what measures are being taken so that we have full-fledged ICT teachers to avoid the situation where they are going to leave because they are on contract since four years, I think?
Dr. Bunwaree: We are in the process of recruiting. In fact, in the course of the coming weeks the number 253 will be acceded to.
BAMBOUS A AND BAMBOUS B GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS – COMPLAINTS (14/07/09)
Mrs S. Hanoomanjee (Second Member for Savanne & Black River): Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to raise an issue which concerns the Minister of Education regarding Bambous A and Bambous B Government School. I am sure the Minister must have received a letter of complaint from the PTA of Bamboo A Government School concerning several problems, first of which, is the frequent absences of teachers about four of them who are following courses and others take frequent sick leave. Secondly, there is no floating teacher to replace those absences and, thirdly, an excessive number of pupils per class, that is, an average number of 45 pupils in one class instead of the normal number of 30.
Moreover, now in Bambous B Government school, it has already exceeded its capacity and there are additional pupils moving being admitted almost every day from La Vallette and those who move from La Vallette. I think it is now compulsory for the construction of a third phase of Bambous B Government school. Now it has been rumored and parents are very anxious that very soon with the delay in the construction of the third phase of Bambous B Government School that their children will have to move to La Gaulette Government School. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but parents are very anxious about this and could you please request the Minister of Education to please see whether the situation can improve at Bambous A Government school and the construction of the third phase of Bambous B Government school.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, we are well aware of the problem. In fact, the hon. Member talked to me and, at the level of the Ministry, we are having some ré-aménagement, but I will look into it and make sure that there is no undue problem caused on the parents or on their children.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS - STUDENTS – ROAD CROSSING (27/07/10)
(No. 1B/333) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether he will state the precautionary measures that are taken for students crossing the roads on arrival at and departure from educational institutions.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, child safety and security are a central concern of my Ministry and are already well embedded in our curriculum. Precautionary measures that are taken to ensure the security of our children are as follows -
• Policemen are posted in the vicinity of schools every morning and every afternoon to help students to cross the road and to canalise the traffic flow in the school vicinity. There is also the posting of ancillary staff at main gate and caretakers standing whenever necessary with the child crossing signs especially in
case of the absence of Policemen.
• Projects concerning construction of new schools take on board the need for security measures such as placement of pedestrian crossings (humps) or handrails after consultation with the Traffic Management and Road Safety Unit of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, National Development Unit, Land Transport and Shipping.
• Reinforcement of awareness and sensitisation on precautionary measures and good practices relating to safety on the roads is offered through curriculum materials especially those that have been newly developed. Equally, children are sensitised during morning assembly about the risks involved if they disregard basic precautionary measures that have to be taken when on the roads.
• The Traffic Management and Road Safety Unit also carries out sensitisation campaigns. Pupils are sensitised at school level to use pedestrian crossings both those in close proximity of the schools and on the roads. This is part of the process for creating awareness about the highway code in general.
• The Management at school level, in close collaboration with the Police Force and other competent authorities, exercises constant vigilance to ensure the safety and security of pupils and students on arrival and departure from schools.
Mr Bhagwan: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned Police Officers in front of schools, this is what we see daily, but in many cases there are no Police officers and one of the main problems is the school buses. Il y a une anarchie dans beaucoup d’endroits - je vois cela presque tous les jours - en ce qu’il s’agit du parking et comment est gérée l’arrivée de ces minibus. Est-ce que le ministre pense rencontrer l’association de ces minibus pour leur sensibiliser eux aussi ?
Dr. Bunwaree: M. le président, cela se fait et effectivement on est en train de voir comment on peut améliorer le système davantage. There is much to be done and much room for improvement also.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, we are all aware that it is very difficult to have Police officers at all the schools in Mauritius. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he will consider the setting up of a network of volunteers around the schools as it is the case in many countries? I know that in Canada it is the case. There are people from the community, some are pensioners and so on who volunteer to help the kids while coming and leaving the schools. Will the hon. Minister consider setting up such a network around the schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: The idea is interesting, but of course it has also to take into consideration the responsibility in case some problems crop up. The legal aspects also have to be looked into, but there is also the question of - I mentioned it in fact, in my reply - posting of ancillary staff at the main gate. They can deal with the Police when they are there and when they are not there, they go outside with the child crossing signs. And they can take on board what the hon. Member is mentioning, of course.
SCHOOL CANTEENS - NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON NUTRITION (03/08/10)
(No. 1B/380) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the school canteens, he will state the reasons why the sale of yoghurts thereat has been discontinued, indicating if it is proposed to resume the sale thereof and, if so, under which conditions.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, in the context of the implementation by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life of the National Action Plan on Nutrition, which, inter alia, covers strategies and intervention for nutrition, my Ministry was informed of the new Food (Sale of Food on Premises of Educational Institutions) Regulations 2009 which were to be implemented as from January 2010. Consequently, with a view to ensuring compliance with the Regulations, the schools were informed that only food items in the Schedule to Regulations could be sold on their premises, and the Schedule did not include yoghurt.
Then, following representations made by school canteen operators, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life came forward in February 2010 with a general framework under which they may be allowed to sell additional items, subject to specific conditions in the Food Act and Regulations being met. Under the general framework, one of the additional items was reduced fat yoghurt with reduced fat milk, without fruits, flavouring, colouring or artificial sweeteners, and subject to certain specifications regarding sugar, milk fat and calcium content.
The new framework was circulated to the schools for compliance.
As regards the last part of the question, I am informed that only a few of the schools resumed the sales of yoghurt subsequent to the issue of the new framework. Canteen operators will have to sell reduced fat yoghurt, as specified under the relevant Regulations and Framework on food items set by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether he is aware that no company is ready to manufacture reduced fat yoghurt especially for schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, out of 456 school canteens inspected recently, 211 are already selling this type of yoghurt. So, I believe they must be getting that from the companies which are producing.
Mr Obeegadoo: Would the hon. Minister kindly inform the House whether yoghurt is still being distributed in ZEP schools and, if so, whether they need these requirements?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is a different question. But ZEP schools are having a favourable regime concerning diet for children.
POINTE AUX PIMENTS GOVERNMENT SCHOOL - CHILD BEING TIED UP – ALLEGED CASE (05/04/11)
(No. B/150) Mrs A. Navarre-Marie (First Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the alleged case of a child being tied up by her mates at the Pointe aux Piments Government School, he will state if an inquiry has been carried out thereinto to find out the reasons why the children were left unattended during school hours.
LOUIS NELLAN GOVERNMENT SCHOOL - PARENTS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION (12/04/11)
(No. B/179) Ms K. R. Deerpalsing (Third Member for Belle Rose and Quatre Bornes) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Louis Nellan Government School in Quatre Bornes, he will state if he has taken cognizance of the grievances of the Parents Teachers Association thereof and, if so, the actions he proposes to take to help mitigate the problems encountered by the Association.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Bhagwan, please!
Dr. Bunwaree: According to records available at my Ministry, the PTA of Louis Nellan Government School…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Bhagwan, please! I am calling you to order for the third time.
Dr. Bunwaree:… raised by way of a letter dated 25 February…
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, on a point of order, I heard the hon. Minister of Industry & Commerce telling the hon. Member: ‘to ene femme’.
The Deputy Speaker: Please!
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, women are not in this House to be insulted.
Dr. Bunwaree: On a point of order!
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, please! Order! Order!
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I do believe that not only myself, but all women of this House consider such remarks as being most sexist and insulting to the women of the House.
The Deputy Speaker: I must tell that there was so much noise that I did not hear.
But, in any event, if the hon. Minister did make a remark which is sexist, I leave it to the Minister to respond to it.
Mr Soodhun: C’est ene compliment pou ou !
Mr Baloomoody: Mr Speaker, Sir, by his answer, he has admitted that he has stated that word. Can we have a ruling from the Chair? Either he withdraws or his word is unparliamentary.
The Deputy Speaker: I will ask the hon. Minister to withdraw the word.
Mr Soodhun: I reserve it.
The Deputy Speaker: No, you should make an unreserved withdrawal.
Mr Soodhun: I make an unreserved withdrawal.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I insist this is a sexist remark and it should be withdrawn.
The Deputy Speaker: He has done so. He has withdrawn the word.
I asked him to make an unreserved withdrawal and he withdrew the word. Hon. Bunwaree!
Order! Hon. Jhugroo, please!
Mrs Bappoo: Please, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, on a point of order. I fully subscribe to what hon. Ms Deerpalsing and hon. Mrs Labelle have just said. These kinds of words are not to be tolerated in this House.
The Deputy Speaker: I heard the hon. Minister withdrawing unequivocally and, just for the sake of clarity, I am again asking the hon. Minister to withdraw the word.
Mr Soodhun: I withdraw.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, according to records available at my Ministry, the PTA of Louis Nellan Government School raised by way of a letter dated 25 February, 2009 the following issues -
(i) absence of ICT teachers;
(ii) non-operation of the science lab;
(iii) the poor condition of the toilet;
(iv) lack of cleanliness of the school, and
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Dr. Bunwaree, one moment please! I will urge all Members, the incident is over, I want silence because I am not able to hear what the hon. Minister is stating and if there is any comment you want to make, please do it outside the House. It is clear from my side that I won’t tolerate any grumbling and I want to listen to the hon. Minister in silence and I want all Members to cooperate with the Chair.
Dr. Bunwaree: Should I start again, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir?
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, I prefer that we start again.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to records available at my Ministry, the PTA of Louis Nellan Government School raised by way of a letter dated 25 February, 2009 the following issues -
(i) absence of ICT teachers;
(ii) non-operation of the science lab;
(iii) the poor condition of the toilet;
(iv) lack of cleanliness of the school, and
(v) the lack of proper drainage system.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, certain remedial actions have already been taken. I have to mention that the school has one full-time and one part-time ICT Teacher and all pupils are having ICT classes.
In so far as the science lab is concerned, action is underway at the level of the Zone Directorate to provide adequate equipment, materials and exhibits to ensure that the science laboratory is fully operational.
In regard to toilet facilities, the two toilet blocks are now, I am informed, in a good state.
With regard to cleaning, I am informed that the state of cleanliness of the yard and toilets at Louis Nellan Government School is good.
With regard to the lack of drainage system, the problem still remains with water from Charles Bruce Street flowing into the school yard in time of heavy rainfall.
My Ministry has taken up the matter with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, National Development Unit, Land Transport & Shipping, the Road Development Authority and the Municipal Council of Quatre Bornes with a view to having a proper drainage system put up in the vicinity of the school. Given that there are major works being undertaken by the Waste Water Management Authority in the area, drain works can be undertaken in Berthaud and Charles Bruce Streets, adjacent to the school, only after wastewater works are over by the end of this month I am informed.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister, in the list of grievances that has been forwarded to him, whether he is aware that the PTA and the teachers of the Government school have made a representation so that the different blocks are covered? This is the oldest primary school in Quatre Bornes, it has evolved and different blocks have been built overtime. Is he aware that there is a request that the different blocks be covered because when there is heavy rainfall the kids are in a really bad situation?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, I am aware of this, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, and in the forthcoming works that are going to be proposed for 2011, there will be the construction of three additional classrooms and of a covered link passage to link the various blocks of the school.
Ms Deerpalsing: May I ask the hon. Minister when is that phase to happen?
Dr. Bunwaree: According to what is mentioned in my file, it is during the year 2011.
Ms Deerpalsing: Can I ask the hon. Minister, in addition to the grievances, in addition to covering the blocks, whether he is aware that one of the blocks is really in a bad situation where cement has started to fall and that some people have said that that particular block is condamné and whether that block will have to be pulled down and replaced before the new classrooms are built and whether he will consider that that block, which is in a really precarious state, be pulled down and a new block be built so that the new classrooms are not just built on another block adjacent to that one?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this will be taken care of.
ATLEE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL - STANDARD I – TEACHER (17/05/11)
(No. B/331) Mr E. Guimbeau (First Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Atlee Government School, in Forest Side, he will state if one Standard I class is not being taught by a full fledged teacher, since February 2011, and if so, the reasons therefor.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that following the transfer of a teacher of standard I since February 2011 from Cité Atlee Government School, a teaching Deputy Headmaster (DHM) who is a full-fledged teacher reckoning 31 years of teaching experience has been allocated the Std I class. Moreover, he is being supported by a full time mentor.
SCHOOLS - FOOD & BEVERAGES – SALE (21/06/11)
(No. B/528) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether, in regard to the food and beverages sold by hawkers in the vicinity of the schools, she will state if inspections are carried out to check the quality thereof.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Health Inspectorate of my Ministry that there are no hawkers in the vicinity of most schools. However, hawkers are visited regularly by the Health Inspectors in the course of their activities to control their foodstuffs.
Following consultations with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, the proposal to prohibit hawkers from working within a radius of 100 metres from an educational institution was retained. My Ministry is therefore working in close collaboration with that Ministry to prepare such regulations.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am very surprised to hear the hon. Minister saying that there is no hawker around the schools. I invite the hon. Minister to come around any schools in Mauritius. The hawkers are not only around the schools, they are almost in the schoolyard; selling to the students food and beverages that have been interdicted in school canteens. I would like to ask the hon. Minister to visit those schools, first of all.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I don’t have any reason to doubt what the Health Inspectorate of my Ministry is saying.
Furthermore, Mr Speaker, Sir, let me say that it’s not only the responsibility of the Health Inspectorate of my Ministry. The Head Teachers act very promptly when they see that there are hawkers around the vicinity of schools. I have got even one; I can mention one case where the Head Teacher has even written to the Police when he has noticed that in spite of the fact that he is asking the hawkers not to come in the vicinity of schools, they are persistently coming. He has even written to the Police. So, the Head Teachers also, are giving a helping hand to see to it that hawkers do not come in the vicinity of schools.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I allow myself, contrary to the Minister, to doubt the report of the Health Inspectors. I invite the hon. Minister to come to the schools where yogurts, fried food and cakes are held in the sun and are there till the afternoon to be sold to students.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, if the hon. Member has got evidence of what she is saying, could she please tell me exactly where and when?
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I’ll just answer in most schools. I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether she is ready to review - with the collaboration of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources - the list of food and beverages that are being sold in school canteens, because it’s not surprising that students go to buy from hawkers instead of buying…
Mr Speaker: No, sorry, I will have to intervene. This question relates to food and beverages sold by hawkers and not food sold in the canteen. If the hon. Member has a question on the canteen, she has to come with a specific question.
Mr Obeegadoo: May I request some clarifications from the hon. Minister, on the one hand…
Mr Speaker: No, I am sorry! During Question Time, the hon. Member must put
questions. No clarifications!
Mr Obeegadoo: It is a question for clarification purposes. On the one hand, the hon. Minister says that she is discussing with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources the introduction of new regulations to ban hawkers from operating in the immediate vicinity of schools. On the other hand, she says that Head Teachers should, as of now, intervene and report to the Police hawkers who are in the vicinity of schools. Which is which?
Mrs Hanoomanjee: It is clear, Mr Speaker, Sir, when I am saying that we are all the time discussing with the Ministry of Education to see whether we can find solutions to certain problems. I have mentioned a specific case where there were hawkers coming in the vicinity of schools, but the Head Teacher has acted promptly.
Mr Obeegadoo: I insist: would the police intervene if the regulations are not there?
Mr Speaker: Yes, that is the right question.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I have just said that we are in discussion with the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education has a Central School Health Committee and officers of the Ministry of Health and Quality also forms part of that Committee. So, perpetually we are discussing.
Mr Speaker: Last question!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister how many Health Officers are available to go round all the schools of Mauritius?
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, we have got around 25 Health Inspectors going round and they have got other things to do besides…
Mr Speaker: No, the question is clear: how many Health Inspectors are there to do this particular jobs?
Mrs Hanoomanjee: We have got 25 in all.
At 1.00 p.m. the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.31 p.m with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
The Deputy Speaker: The Table has been advised that Parliamentary Questions B/529, B/531 and B/543 have been withdrawn. Hon. Seetaram!
EMILIENNE ROCHECOUSTE GOVT. SCHOOL - SELF MUTILATION CASES (28/06/11)
(No. B/599) Dr. S. Boolell (Second Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to self mutilation, he will state the -
(a) number of reported cases thereof at the Emilienne Rochecouste Government School;
(b) number of cases thereof or group mutilation reported at both primary and
(c) actions being considered to prevent any future recurrence thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that the cases at Emilienne Rochecouste Government School refer to 35 pupils with self inflicted mild cuts and slight bruises, but without any evident external blood effusion nor any oozing.
The incident took place on 15 June 2011. My Ministry viewed the matter very seriously, and called for an investigation to be carried out at school level on the spot.
A team from the Zone, comprising a Senior Educational Psychologist and a School Inspector, proceeded to the school on the spot on the same day. The pupils involved in the incident were identified and questioned. The School Inspector also met parents and informed them of the situation, and requested them to have strict control over their wards at home. The Senior Educational Psychologist and Educational Social Worker held class talk sessions with the 35 pupils. Dedicated psychological support and counselling were given to these pupils.
According to the Senior Educational Psychologist, the situation is under control, and the Head Master has been requested to be vigilant.
At my request, Mr Samioullah Lauthan, social worker had a working session…
Well, he is experienced in that! Members should be happy! I must say that I have been having discussions with him for the last two years on the matter - not now. He had a working session at Emilienne Rochecouste Government School with the teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as the parents of the pupils on 21 June 2011. He made an exposé on the phenomenon of causing physical harm to the self, highlighting the adverse effect it may have on our children and society
at large. He also advised on the ways to deal with and observe children both at home and school through proper listening, observation and communication.
I seize this opportunity to express my appreciation to Mr Lauthan for his dedicated support to the cause of students.
As regards part (b), in respect of the number of cases reported at both primary and secondary levels over the past five years, the information is being compiled.
With regard to part (c), I wish to reassure the House that we are taking strong measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents as follows -
(a) Efforts are being sustained to continue to exercise vigilance at school, and to detect any abnormal behaviour that might lead to self-inflicted cuts. In this regard, I have instructed the National Education Counselling Services of my Ministry to pay special attention to such cases, and reinforce its sensitisation programmes with particular attention to this phenomenon.
(b) In each of the reported cases, an Educational Psychologist follows the students and provides back up support. It is also important for the parents to be vigilant, and assume their responsibilities. It must be highlighted, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir,
that some cases of self-inflicted cuts take place in the home of the child.
(c) We are making every effort to promote the holistic development of the learner through the implementation of a number of measures that would transform the student into a responsible citizen -
(i) the curriculum level is being designed to focus on a number of values that foster discipline, positive thinking and respect for self and others, and
(ii) we are also seeking the participation of parents, social workers and the community to sensitise our children on the need to exercise self-discipline, and refrain from acts that may lead to self-injury.
In addition, we are also encouraging students to participate in co and extra-curricular activities, and providing them with the necessary exposure to healthy living.
We are also working with the MIE, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, to put in place a system, to provide educators with appropriate techniques and skills for an early detection of abnormal behaviour among students. Relevant expertise will be tapped, and a training of trainers programme will be organised. Psychologists and social workers will also be taken on board.
Dr. S. Boolell: May I ask the hon. Minister at what time of the day did the events
Dr. Bunwaree: I think it was at the end of the morning session, but during recreation around 11 o’clock, that is, after the oriental classes took place.
Dr. S. Boolell: May I ask the hon. Minister whether this matter is not one for a clinical psychologist or a child psychologist as opposed to an educational psychologist, and certainly no matter for any amateur experience?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have often replied to such questions in the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. In fact, we don’t have enough clinical psychologists. Some of them are based at the Ministry of my colleague, the Ministry of Gender Equality, but we tap their expertise for such types of work.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether, following an inquiry, we have come to know the cause or causes of such behaviour and also whether he will ensure that we look for proper help? Because it is very dangerous in such situations to have recourse to unqualified persons in that domain, be it an educational psychologist or a person of good will but who does not have the professionalism to help these children. It can be very dangerous.
Dr. Bunwaree: If I look into the figures that I have for the time being - because they are being compiled; they are not all here - I can say that when the problem crops up, then the psychologist enters and, in almost all cases, the problem has been solved. But my problem goes further. It is to prevent such occurrence in schools. This is why I am saying I have thought that the best thing is to train teachers themselves, to be able to detect the behaviour of children before
the actions take place.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question! Time is over!
Dr. S. Boolell: Would actually the hon. Minister consider using the educational psychologists to see whether there is a link between the school curriculum, the cut-throat competition and the cut-hands competition?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is being looked into. We all know this problem but, as I said, the educational psychologists are doing a very good job, and I should thank them for that.
The Deputy Speaker: I will allow hon. Obeegadoo to put his question, as he has been catching my eyes for so long.
Mr Obeegadoo: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Will the hon. Minister not agree that the instigator, as reported, was a CPE repeater? This is a high esteem, high demand school CPE wise. Will he not agree that this problem, as these problems of self mutilation, is related to the excessive competition, rat race related to the CPE, as he himself admitted in days gone by, and will he look into the possibility of setting up a dedicated unit at the Ministry to deal with prevention of school violence, whether it be self mutilation, whether it be bullying, whether it be other acts of violence and learn from the experience of other countries?
Dr. Bunwaree: We already have a unit looking after school violence etc, but the problem in such cases is essentially familial ones, and also other problems associated. We have to go deeper into the matter.
The Deputy Speaker: Time is over!
BEL OMBRE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL – CPE PASS RATE(05/06/12)
(No. B/241) Mr A. Ganoo (First Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Bel Ombre Government School, he will state -
(a) over the past five years, the;
(i) number of pupils who have attended/are attending thereat;
(ii) percentage pass rate at the Certificate of Primary Education examinations;
(b) if he has received complaints regarding the;
(i) frequent transfer or absences of the teachers posted thereat, and
(ii) project for the fencing thereof.
BEL OMBRE PRIMARY GOVERNMENT SCHOOL – MRS S. A. – REMUNERATION (19/06/12)
(No. A/163) Mrs J. Radegonde (Fourth Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether he will state if he has been informed that one Mrs S. A., who worked as attendant during the last summer school at the Bel Ombre Primary Government School has not yet been remunerated therefor and, if so, indicate if remedial measures will be taken.
Reply: I am informed that Mrs S.A is not an attendant of the Ministry, but a cleaner employed by a private contractor to perform cleaning services during school hours and school holidays in Government schools.
As such Mrs S. A. did not directly form part of the staff (Head Master, Teacher, Resource Person and Caretaker) which was involved in the Summer School Programme. However, the Head Master of the school had retained her services on specific days (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) for period 30 November to 22 December 2011 for the whole day for cleaning purposes as the pupils were attending school on full day during the Summer School Programme.
The issue of additional payment for such services has been sorted out and arrangements have been made for payment at the level of the school.
BEL OMBRE GOVT. SCHOOL – CPE PASS RATE (26/06/12)
(No. B/369) Mr A. Ganoo (First Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Bel Ombre Government School, he will state, over the past five years -
(a) the number of pupils who have attended/are attending thereat, indicating the percentage pass rate at the Certificate of Primary Education Examinations, and
(b) if he has received -
(i) complaints regarding the frequent transfer or absences of the teachers posted thereat, and
(ii) representations for the fencing thereof and, if so, indicate in each case, the measures taken in relation thereto.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a) of the question, the figures are as follows -
(1) Concerning School Population
Year Number on Roll
2008 - 216
2009 - 199
2010 - 184
2011 - 172
2012 - 174
(2) Regarding the percentage due rates at the CPE examinations over the last five years are -
Year Pass rate
2007 - 18.4%
2008 - 33.3%
2009 - 34.7%
2010 - 46.9%
2011 - 32.5%
As regards part (b) (i) of the question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that verbal complaints had been received from parents regarding the absences of the Deputy Head Master teaching Standard VI as from January 2012. The latter’s attention had been drawn to the need to be regular and the situation is being closely monitored. However, the quantum of leave taken (for personal reason) is within his entitlement.
As for part (b) (ii) relating to the project for fencing of the school, a representation was received by way of a letter dated 16 June 2011reporting that the fencing was in a defective state.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I wish to point out that my Ministry had already initiated action since November 2009 for the construction of a boundary wall at Bel Ombre Government School.
However, there was an issue relating to land which had to be demarcated by the Ministry of Housing and Lands and clearances which had to be sought from the Grand Port/Savanne District Council and the Traffic Management and Road Safety Unit in relation to safety. In the meantime, minor repair works had been carried out now and then to the existing chain link fencing at the zonal level.
A bidding exercise for the construction of the boundary wall was launched in November 2011. However, the exercise had to be cancelled as it was unsuccessful.
New tenders have been launched on 18 May 2012 with the closing date on 11 June 2012.
Taking into consideration the fact that the bidding exercise would involve evaluation, award, submission of performance security and mobilisation period, it is expected that the construction works would be completed by early next year.
Nonetheless, the zone has been requested, pending the construction of the boundary wall, to take necessary precautions for the safety of the pupils. My Ministry is following up this matter very closely.
Mr Ganoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in view of the reply given by the hon. Minister with regard to part (a) of the question, namely that since 2008, the population at the school is decreasing from 216 to 174 this year, and in view of the fact that the percentage of passes has varied from 18% to 46% during these past five years, can the hon. Minister tell us what are the measures which Government intends to take to see to it that Bel Ombre Government School provides better education to the students of the region?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes. In fact, the Ministry is giving particular attention to schools like Bel Ombre. There are quite a number of schools falling in that category where performance is around 30% or even less. But a list of measures has already been taken and I firmly believe that little by little this school is going to catch up with its performance.
In fact, we have a very special CPE Repeaters’ Programme which takes place at this school as in other schools. There is also the Enhancement Programme. There is a continuous assessment that has been set up with diagnostic assessment also.
There is the overall review of the CPE which is going to come, but some of the measures which are considered very good have already been put into practice in this school.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there is also the quality of intake in that school and frequent absences of pupils because if we look into the question of absenteeism, in fact, this school is one of the schools where absenteeism is quite high, nearly 20%, which for us is a matter of concern.
So, we are trying to do our best: the inspectorate, the school cadre and the Headmaster. In fact, we have just appointed another Headmaster in that school, because we feel that with the consent of the one who was already there and with the consent of the one who has just joined in, we believe that we are doing the best. I ask the hon. Member to bear with me and to try to see in what way we can help the parents in that region to help us for the better future of their own children.
BEL OMBRE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL - MEASURES AND SANCTIONS (26/06/12)
(No. A/179) Mrs J. Radegonde (Fourth Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Bel Ombre Government School, he will state if he has been informed of the outcome of the meeting that has taken place between the parents of the pupils thereof, the group Mouvement de l’Ouest, the school master thereof and the Director of the Zone 3, and, if so, indicate the measures and sanctions that are being/will be taken to address the issues raised during the meeting.
Reply: I am informed that a Meeting was held, on 11 June 2012, between a group of parents of pupils of Bel Ombre Government School, the group “Movement de L’Ouest”, the Head Master of the school and the officers of the Directorate of Zone 3 following a request made for a meeting to address grievances related to the school.
The following issues were discussed, among others, at the meeting -
• Management of the school;
• Attendance of pupils;
• Performance of the school; and
• Monitoring of the teaching and learning process.
Following that meeting, a number of measures have already been taken to address the above concerns -
• A new Headmaster was thus posted to Bel Ombre Government School as from 18 June 2012 and he has been requested to closely monitor the attendance of staff, conduct regular class visits, assist teachers on pedagogical issues, hold regular meetings with the members of the PTA and work in close collaboration with all stakeholders.
• It has been agreed that the Primary School Inspector will be visiting the school more regularly to monitor the situation.
• The assistance of Social Workers will also be enlisted to visit those pupils with high rates of absenteeism.
With regard to the fencing issue, the damaged chain link fencing has been repaired pending the construction of the block wall for which tenders are expected to be awarded soon.
SIR VEERASAMY RINGADOO GOVT. SCHOOL – STUDENT – DEATH (26/06/12)
(No. B/383) Mr K. Ramano (Second Member for Belle Rose & Quatre Bornes) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the recent death of a student of Standard III of the Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo Government School, he will state if an inquiry has carried out at the level of his Ministry to determine if the hygienic and sanitary conditions prevailing at the school had any bearing on the health of the said student.
MINOR NOVIN SEENUNDUN - SIR VEERASAMY RINGADOO GOVT. SCHOOL – DEATH (10/07/12)
(No. B/486) Mr K. Ramano (Second Member for Belle Rose & Quatre Bornes) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the recent death of a student of Standard III of the Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo Government School, he will state if an inquiry has been carried out at the level of his Ministry to determine if the hygienic and sanitary conditions prevailing at the school had any bearing on the health of the said student.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, on behalf of the staff of the Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo Government School, my Ministry, and in my personal name, I wish to convey our deepest sympathy to the aggrieved of minor Novin Seenundun, who passed away on Sunday 10 June 2012.
An inquiry has indeed been carried out on the matter at the level of the zone, and it has been brought forward that the child attended school normally on Wednesday 06 June 2012. He was even present for the enhancement programme classes that afternoon. The child was absent from school on 07 and 08 June.
According to a report from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, the child was taken to the Accident and Emergency Department of Victoria Hospital on 08 June 2012 at 8.20 a.m. He was admitted with a diagnosis of acute gastroenteritis. According to information I received from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, his condition was reported to have suddenly seriously deteriorated in the early morning of Sunday 10 June 2012, and that he did not respond to emergency treatment. He was declared to have passed away at 5.50 a.m. on that day, with a diagnosis of viral encephalitis, a disease which is known to have a very poor prognosis and high mortality rate.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to the hygienic and sanitary conditions, and according to our records, the Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo Government School falls in the category of schools with good infrastructure and acceptable level of sanitary conditions. Inspection of the school is done regularly. In fact, a visit was effected on 21 May 2012, that is, about two weeks before the incident took place. I am informed that no shortcomings were noted.
(i) On 21 June 2012, that is, two weeks after the incident, another independent inspection was conducted by officers of the Rose Hill Health Office at the SVR Govt. School which revealed the following -
(ii) the sanitary condition with regard to the schoolyard was satisfactory and larviciding of premises is done regularly;
(iii) the two toilet blocks are kept clean. A private contractor carries out cleaning three times a day;
(iv) water samples are taken on a regular basis and after analysis, the results of the last test conducted in February this year, revealed that they are in compliance with
drinking water quality standard;
(v) the disposal of waste has been found to be regular and satisfactory, and
(vi) visits are effected regularly at the school canteen and the condition thereof has been found to be satisfactory.
Mr Speaker, Sir, there does not seem therefore to be any basis to draw any correlation between the death of Novin Seenundun and the health and sanitary conditions prevailing at that school.
In fact, every effort is being made at the level of my Ministry to ensure that the proper hygienic and sanitary conditions prevail at schools.
Mr Ramano: M. le président, sans mettre en doute le rapport médical, le ministre est-il au courant que le 11 juin, soit au lendemain du décès de l’élève, la force policière a effectué une descente à l’école et a procédé à la saisie de certains éléments au niveau des cantines scolaires ?
Dr. Bunwaree: Sir, the case was reported to the Police Medical Officer and then the family was proposed to have a post mortem carried out which they refused but, in the course of the action the Police could have done its duty and found it proper to make certains prélèvements.
I don’t have the result of all these, but it is being followed and whatever we have at the level of the Ministry of Health, the tests that have been done have not proved anything so far.
Dr. S. Boolell: Mr Speaker, Sir, in view of the gravity of the diagnosis of viral encephalitis, may I ask the hon. Minister whether the report which he is giving in relation to this diagnosis is a final report, because viral studies take a long time?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, I know as well as the hon. Member, but I am replying as the Minister of Education. I just gave the information that was given to me by the Ministry of Health.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS – TEACHERS – ASSAULT (11/12/12)
(No. A/292) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley and Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the teachers of the primary and secondary schools, he will state the number of reported cases in which they have been victims of assault at their workplace, over the past five years, giving a breakdown thereof and indicating the measures his Ministry proposes to take to reinforce the security thereof thereat.
Reply: The answer to the first part of the question is being compiled and will be tabled shortly. Regarding the second part of the question, I wish to inform the House that my Ministry has established a close collaborative networking and partnership with a number of institutions and stakeholders to address the issue of violence at schools and in particular the security of school personnel.
Focussed meetings on Indiscipline and Violence at Schools are regularly held at my Ministry, with relevant stakeholders, including the Police Authorities, the Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs, the Trade Unions, the Child Development Unit, the probation and After Care Service. The Committee recommended the implementation of the following measures as a preventive measure to guard against assault and violence at schools -
(i) access to school compound is strictly controlled;
(ii) regular Police patrolling is being carried in the vicinity of State and private Schools to enhance surveillance and vigilance. This measure acts as a deterrent to defaulters and minimise risks. The Police Authorities have already been provided with a list of high risk schools;
(iii) Police are also having recourse to Intelligence-led policing and Community Participation so as to circumscribe cases of Violence/Assault. Community support is essential in this endeavour and is instrumental in helping the Police to act promptly;
(iv) sanctions are taken against students who are involved in cases of violence, which may also lead to their rustication from school for a period of time;
(v) active campaigns are carried out by respective Heads of Schools, with the participation of the school community at large (PTAs, students Councils, teachers,
Pastoral Care and Disciplinary Committees) for the creation of a fully disciplined school environment, and
(vi) CCTV cameras have already been installed in some high risk schools.
My Ministry had meetings with trade unions on this issue of security with a view to beef up security measures at schools. The possibility of providing security services during the day to risky schools is also being considered.
MATTERS RAISED :
HENRIETTA PRIMARY SCHOOL – DEMONSTRATIONS -
08 & 13 MARCH 2013 (26/03/13)
Ms S. Anquetil (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal): M. le président ma demande s’adresse au ministre de l’Education et des Ressources Humaines.
Suite à l’affaire de moeurs à l’école D’Henrietta, ayant entrainé deux manifestations de parents d’élèves le vendredi 08 mars et le mercredi 13 mars 2013 devant l’enceinte de l’école et conduit au transfert de trois personnes dont deux professeurs et un caretaker, je voudrais savoir si le ministre de l’Education et des Ressources Humaines aurait réclamé et obtenu un rapport du responsable de la zone, si oui, si le ministre envisage de rendre ce rapport public. J’ai été informé que les officiers du ministère de l’Education ainsi que ceux de la CDU suivent l’affaire de près. Je sais également qu’une enquête policière est en cours.
M. le président l’honorable Dr. Abu Kasenally, le ministre qui assurait l’intérim au ministère de l’Education, la ministre Madame Sheila Bappoo, le
président de la PTA et moi-même avons effectué une visite en présence des responsables de l’école le lundi 18 mars dernier pour s’enquérir du problème. Lors de cette visite j’ai constaté qu’un container verrouillé ayant servi de laboratoire mais hors service depuis des années reste dans la cour de l’école. Pourquoi? Aussi une maisonnette - faisant office de store - dans un état d’insalubrité, vue de l’extérieur n’aurait était clôturée qu’après l’incident, pourquoi ? Nous avons appris de la maitresse d’école que des professeurs utilisent ce store disgracieux à l’heure du déjeuner. Pourquoi garder des infrastructures non appropriées dans l’enceinte de l’école, de surcroit primaire ? Cela crée des doutes. Nous aurions souhaité que toute la vérité soit faite sur cette affaire et également que le ministre intervienne pour éviter que ce genre d’incident ne puisse se reproduire. Merci M. le président.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree):
M. le président je remercie l’honorable Anquetil d’avoir soulevé ce point ici. Maisje dois dire qu’il y a une enquête en cours, pas seulement au niveau de l’éducation mais au niveau de la police aussi. On travaille de concert, on a déjà pris certaines décisions sur le champ. On a bougé quelques membres du personnel, tout en disant qu’on ne sait pas où est la vérité parce qu’on ne peut pas pénaliser les gens sans avoir une bonne enquête. De toutes les façons, tout sera rendu public, je n’aurais rien à cacher à la Chambre et au pays et on attend quand même la fin de l’enquête mais en attendant il y a une équipe qui travaille, qui protège cette école et qui a décidé de mettre sur pied certaines mesures. C’est pour cela que vous avez vu des changements assez rapides après la découverte de cette affaire.
The Deputy Speaker: Can you afford to be shorter.
Dr. Bunwaree: Je dis M. le président qu’il faut quand même attendre le résultat de ce rapport.
RAOUL RIVET GOVERNMENT SCHOOL –
Mr R. Uteem (Second Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to address a remark to the hon.
Minister of Education and Human Resources. It relates to a teacher of Raoul Rivet Government School. I am happy to communicate the name of this lady to the hon. Minister, but I am sure that he already knows the case. This lady was teaching Standard IV last year, and this year she was supposed to do Standard V. Instead of that, she was given Standard III, and another teacher was given Standard V. She protested, the parents of the pupils protested, and the matter was referred to the hon. Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, hon. Mohamed, who stated in several press that this is an obvious case of discrimination and an injustice, and he referred the matter to the hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources to rectify this injustice. Unfortunately, we are coming to the end of the first term, and this injustice has not been corrected.
I will make an appeal to the hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources to look into the matter and correct this injustice.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree):
Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, the matter is being looked into at the level of my Ministry.
PETITE RIVIÈRE GOVT SCHOOL – 10-YEAR STUDENT –
ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE (01/04/15)
Mr A. Aliphon (Third Member for Beau Bassin & Petite Rivière): Madame la présidente, si vous me permettez, j’aurais souhaité que Madame la ministre de l’Education éclaire la Chambre si elle en a la possibilité, bien sûr, sur le cas de viol d’une élève de dix ans à Petite Rivière dans la circonscription No. 20, avec toutes sortes de nouvelles : parents en colère, mouvements de révolte, cover-up, etc. Depuis hier, la presse en parle. Nous savons que la fille de dix ans aurait été violée par le jardinier de l’école contre paiement.
Merci, Madame la présidente.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research (Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun): Madam Speaker, with your permission, I would like to address the House and inform the House on the issues related to this particular case.
Madam Speaker, with regard to this case of alleged sexual abuse on a Standard VI pupil aged 10, at Petite Rivière Government School by a person reported to be a close relative to the child. This person had been enlisted by the PTA of the school as gardener on a part-time basis during the third term in 2014.
My Ministry had taken cognizance of a school report on Monday, 30 March 2015 relating to this case of sexual abuse which was reported to have taken place on Tuesday 24 March outside the school premises. According to the same report, the accused person had, on 24 March, sought permission from the school to collect the child on the ground that there would be a religious ceremony at the pupil’s place.
The Headmaster allowed the child to leave the school after having registered the pupil’s name in the movement book as the person had, according to the school, previously picked up the pupil from the school on behalf of her parents on 15 October 2013, on 02 June 2014 and on 20 August 2014.
With regard to the release of the pupil on 24 March 2015, the parents were not consulted as opposed to the previous three cases.
On Thursday, 26 March 2015, the class teacher noticed the sum of Rs200 with the pupil and informed the parent and it was only then that the parents came to know that the relative who picked the child had given her the sum of money and the parents informed the school that, in fact, there was no religious ceremony held at their place on 24 March.
On Friday 27 March, Police had called at the school to inquire into the matter. According to the Police report dated 01 April 2015, the accused had apparently picked up the child from school at about 11.15 on 24 March and allegedly abused her sexually in a nearby sugarcane field. The accused was arrested on 26 March and remanded to Police cell. The child was also examined by the Police Medical Unit on 27 March in presence of her mother and officer of the CDU and Police inquiry is still on.
Madam Speaker, on Monday 30 March, the Headmaster of the school informed the Zone Directorate of the incident. The incident had been reported to the CDU of Bambous as well. It has been reported that on the same day, a group of parents who expressed their strong concern about the incident, had gathered at the school for a meeting with the Headmaster. Hon. Guy Lepoigneur, MP, also called at the school to meet the Headmaster and addressed the group of parents.
The Zonal Directorate had delegated officers of the school inspectorate: a School Inspector, a Senior Inspector and the Principal School Inspector on 30 March to inquire into the matter. The school has also sought the consent of the parents for the child to be seen by an Educational Psychologist of the Ministry.
Madam Speaker, I am advised that the Headmaster of the school met the group of parents on 30 March and a special meeting of the PTA was convened by the Headmaster for Tuesday 31 March at 13.00 hours on that matter. In his report to the Zone dated 30 March 2015, the Headmaster had informed the Zonal Directorate of that Special PTA Meeting.
However, it is viewed with concern that the Zone did not delegate any representative to the PTA Meeting and the Zone had issued instructions to the Headmaster to the effect that this case should not be raised at any PTA Meeting for the sake of confidentiality and welfare of the child.
Madam Speaker, in view of the seriousness of the case, I have ordered that explanations be sought from the Zone Director and the Inspectorate as to why no representative of the zonal directorate was delegated to the special PTA meeting and secondly, why instructions were issued to the Head Master for the matter not to be raised although taking into consideration that confidentiality should have been taken into consideration. Explanations will also be sought from the school as to why no parental consent was sought prior to release of the child on that day unlike the previous occasions when the parents were contacted and why a substantial delay was noted in reporting the matter to the zone and to the Ministry.
Madam Speaker, as stated earlier, enquiry is on at the level of the Police and CDU. Moreover, I have ordered a full-fledged enquiry on the matter and also on the circumstances that led to the release from school of the child on that day. The enquiry team will also be called upon to situate responsibilities and recommend disciplinary actions to be taken against officers in case they have failed in their duties. In the meantime, instructions are being issued to schools for a more rigorous control on release of pupils and to ensure that parental consent is sought and obtained in each case prior to release. I wish to reassure the House that the matter is being followed up very closely at the level of my Ministry and actions will be taken very promptly.
PRIMARY SCHOOLS – NON-TEACHING STAFF –
(No. B/291) Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the recruitment of the non-teaching staff of the primary schools, she will state the tests, if any, the prospective recruits are made to undergo before they are assessed to be fit and proper persons to work in an environment involving children.
The Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security (Mr M. Seeruttun): Madam Speaker, I am informed that the non-teaching staff posted to the primary schools comprise the following grades:
(i) Assistant School Superintendent and School Clerks recruited by the Public Service Commission, and
(ii) Head/Senior School Caretaker, School Caretaker and General Worker recruited by the Ministry under delegated powers from the Public Service Commission.
Appointment to the above grades are made either by selection from serving employees/officers of the Ministry/Civil Service or by selection from outside candidates or by promotion depending on the qualification requirements of the post. All candidates joining the Civil Service for the first time, prior to their appointment on the permanent and pensionable establishment or confirmation in their post, are required to undergo a medical examination carried out by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life as soon as convenient after their assumption of duty in order to assess whether they are medically and constitutionally fit for employment in the Civil Service. If found medically unfit, their appointment is terminated immediately as stipulated in the offer of appointment made to them when joining the service on probation or in a temporary capacity or on a casual basis.
Prior to joining the Ministry, police clearance is sought as well in respect of outside candidates to check whether there is any adverse report or police case against them.
It is also to be pointed out that School Caretakers recruited, following a selection exercise from among officers in service, are offered appointment in a temporary capacity in the first instance, and they are required to undergo a fresh medical examination carried out by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to certify whether they are fit to work in schools. In case they are found medically unfit, the appointment is terminated and they are reverted to their previous substantive post.
Mr Baloomoody: Can I ask the hon. Minister - of course he is not the substantive Minister - whether that medical test includes psychological test especially when we know that these people are going to work with young children, young girls and boys?
Mr Seeruttun: Well, Madam Speaker, I don’t think I am in a position to confirm whether it includes a psychological test. Probably I will have look into that.
DUBREUIL PRIMARY GOVERNMENT SCHOOL – PASS RATE (17/11/15)
(No. B/918) Ms M. Sewocksingh (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and
Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Dubreuil Primary Government School, she will state –
(a) the percentage pass rate thereat over the past five years at the level of Standard IV, Standard V and Certificate Primary Education Examinations respectively;
(b) the schedule and reports of inspections visits thereat, particularly, regarding the level of attendance of the teachers posted thereat, and
(c) if any survey has recently been carried out to assess the state of the buildings and of the infrastructure found on the premises thereof and, if so, indicate –
(i) when, and
(ii) the outcome thereof. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, with regard to part (a) of the question relating to pass rates at Standard IV, Standard V and Certificate of Primary Education Examinations at Dubreuil Government School, over the past 5 years, I am tabling the information that has been compiled.
The CPE pass rate stood at 50% in 2010 and has reached a peak of 74.07% in 2013. Last year, it was 57.14%. However, for Std. IV, Std. V, the pass rate reached a peak level of 81.1% and 72% in 2014. Regarding part (b) of the question, I am informed that the School Inspectors and Supervisors of the Zone Directorate of my Ministry have been effecting monthly visits at the school as from the beginning of the academic year 2015 for both pedagogical and administrative issues. The report shows that attendance rate of Teachers, for both the General Purpose and Oriental Languages, which ranges from 80 to 98% for 2015 are satisfactory.
Madam Speaker, as for part (c) of the question, surveys on the infrastructural state of schools are carried out annually and a list of infrastructural works to be undertaken subsequently identified and prioritised. I wish to highlight that minor projects are continuously being effected by the maintenance team of the Zone Directorate at the Dubreuil Govt. School. Moreover, construction of additional classrooms and conversion of existing classrooms into a preprimary unit were carried out and completed in 2014. I am further informed that since the physical state of building is sound, no new major infrastructural project has been identified thereat for this year. However, any request with regard to infrastructural issues which will be received at the level of my Ministry will be given due consideration.
Madam Speaker: Yes, hon. Jahangeer!
PUBLIC PRIMARY EDUCATION – TEACHERS & STUDENT
(No. B/938) Mr D. Ramful (Third Member for Mahebourg & Plaine Magnien) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to public primary education, she will state -
(a) the total number of –
(i) primary school teachers employed by her Ministry, and
(ii) the student population thereof
(b) if there has been a substantial decrease in the admission of pupils in Standard I
compared with the intake in the 1980’s;
(c) the ratio of pupil/teacher –
(i) presently, and
(ii) in the 1980’s
(d) the number of primary schools closed over the past five years due to lack of
adequate school population, and
(f) if any plan for a more effective and efficient use of the teachers employed therein has been worked out.
GOVERNMENT PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS - NGOs- COUNSELLING & CIVIC TALKS (13/06/17)
(No. B/424) Mr E. Jhuboo (Third Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Government primary and secondary schools, she will state if the Non-Governmental Organisations have access thereat to provide counselling and civic talks and, if not, why not, indicating if the psychologists attached to her Ministry provide same thereat.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, my Ministry works in close
collaboration with recognised and bona fide NGOs such as Terre de Paix, Action Familiale, Mauritius Family Planning Association, Ti Diams, Reef Conservation, Autisme, Mouvement pour l'Autosuffisance, Mauritius Marine Conservation Society, Lions Club, Transparency International, Blood Donor’s Association, TIPA, amongst others, for the conduct of talks and sensitisation programmes in schools in areas such as health, environmental awareness, sexuality education, life skills, family ties, amongst others.
However, I must highlight that requests made by NGOs to deliver talks to students are evaluated and examined by my Ministry. To the extent that their interventions would be in the interest of students and are in line with the provision of the curriculum, they are granted access to the primary and secondary schools.
In parallel, my Ministry has a well-structured unit in place, the National Education
Counselling Service, which acts as a support service to promote psychological and social well-being of pupils attending schools. Their families sometimes also avail of this facility.
The educational psychologists and educational social workers provide help, support and guidance and counselling to pupils who experience behavioural, learning, social and emotional difficulties. In addition, the educational social workers carry out home visits to assist parents concerned and provide advice and support.
Madam Speaker, the National Education Counselling Service also conducts talks on topics such as positive behaviour, stress management and the negative impacts of bullying, amongst others. Furthermore, it also works in collaboration with other Ministries and Departments such as the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, Child Development Unit, Life Plus, Brigade pour la protection des mineurs, ADSU, as well as the above-mentioned recognised NGOs to deliver talks and carry out sensitisation campaigns.
Madam Speaker, the necessary exposure to topical issues and civic education are
currently being provided to pupils of the primary and secondary schools, both by officers of my Ministry in collaboration with Government agencies on the one hand and by recognized NGOs on the other hand.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Jhuboo!
Mr Jhuboo: Thank you, Madam Speaker. In view of the recent rise in the cases of
indiscipline and drug related issues, will the hon. Minister consider increasing the number of psychologists in primary and secondary schools?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, we have, at present, 23 psychologists
and these psychologists serve both our primary and secondary schools, and at times support the private secondary sector. However, with the new regulations at the PSEA, they are also going to be in a position to recruit psychologists for the private sector. In fact, the number of psychologists that we have serving under my Ministry is adequate, but we will need support and, as time goes on, we might even recruit more.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Jhuboo! Yes, you have a question!
Mr Jhuboo: Un petit point spécifique. L’éducation sexuelle dans les écoles primaires est dispensée à travers un petit livret qui est distribué dans chaque classe. Ensuite, une causerie est animée par des officiers de Police, donc, qui inspire l’ordre et la discipline. La ministre ne pense-t-elle pas que ce serait plus advisable d’avoir des gens spécialisés pour délivrer ce genre de cours ?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Certainement, Madame la présidente. Pour le nouveau
curriculum que nous sommes en train de préparer à la MIE, nous sommes en train de travailler en collaboration avec d’autres associations afin d’avoir un programme de l’éducation à la sexualité plus propice pour les enfants au primaire comme au secondaire.
Mr Baloomoody: Now, with the coming of synthetic drugs on the market, it is a fact that more and more youths are tempted to go towards synthetic drugs. In fact, we have the official report to that effect. And there are complaints from ONG who are involved in sensitising youth in drugs, be it synthetic drugs or hard drugs, but, unfortunately, they do not get access to primary and secondary Government schools. So, can I ask the hon. Minister whether the matter will be reviewed?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, we have to be very careful while
allowing people into our schools. We have had cases where they were allowed in and someone talking to the students and told them how they could prepare drugs, coming up with all types of devices. So, we have to be careful and we have to be very, very vigilant to make sure that people getting into contact with our students are proper. I am not saying that those who have made requests are not, but then, I am sure that the Ministry will have to be very, very careful about this issue.
Madam Speaker: Does the hon. Member have another question on this on! Okay,
SCHOOLS - ACTIVITIES – SPONSORSHIP (14/06/17)
Mr R. Uteem (First Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Centraal): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I would like to address the hon. Minister of Education. Ever since I have been elected - it is seven years now - it has always been the practice for Parent Teachers Association of primary and secondary schools, whenever they needed sponsorship for any activities, they would come to their MPs and we would help in whatever means.
Earlier this year, in April, the Parent Teachers Association of Guy Rozemont Government School in Tranquebar approached me and, again, I helped them. But, this time, they told me that the Headmaster has told them that they have received directives from the Ministry not to allow politicians in the school.
Last week, this time it was the Parent Teachers Association of Surtee Soonee Government School. They are organising a Sports Day and so they asked me if I could help them. I said okay.
This morning, they called me again and told me, “You know, are you going to do anything?” I said, “Okay, I will come to the school at half past one and I will talk to you.”
While I was in the National Assembly, I received a call and the Parent Teachers Association told me that the Headmistress, Mrs Oozeerkhan has told them that she has received instructions not to allow MPs from the Opposition. What is really serious is that MPs from the Government are allowed to come to the school, are allowed to sponsor events, but not MPs from the Opposition. So, I think this is a very serious matter. Either there is a general policy that henceforth no Member of Parliament is allowed to help any Parent Teachers Association or guidance be given, directives be given to the Headmasters and Headmistress not to interfere whenever the Parent Teachers Association ask for any contribution from Members of Parliament in their constituency. Thank you.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Minister of Education!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have just been informed of this particular incident, but I have to say that we try as far as possible to keep schools free of political interventions. But, anyway, I will check. But if there is a policy, it will apply obviously to everyone.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Baloomoody!
STATEMENT BY MINISTER
SCHOOL CLEANERS & TRADE UNIONISTS – HUNGER STRIKE (24/10/17)
The Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations, Employment and Training (Mr S. Callichurn): Madam Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the hunger strike by school cleaners and two trade unionists which started on 16 October 2017.
I am informed that there were two categories of cleaners employed in public schools to perform cleaning duties, namely those employed by the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for cleaning of toilets and those by private contractors for the cleaning of school yards. 299 cleaners were employed by the PTA and 333 by private contractors on a part-time basis or on split hours. The Employment Rights Act 2008 provides for part-time work and defines a part-time worker as “a worker whose normal hours of work are less than those of a comparable full-time worker”. There is, however, no provision for work on split hours in our legislation. On 12 May 2017, the State Law Office has advised my Ministry that the cleaners working on split hours fall within the definition of part-time workers.
The conditions of employment of workers employed in a cleaning enterprise are governed by the Cleaning Enterprises (Remuneration) Regulations 2013, which applies invariably to any full-time or part-time worker. The part-time workers are, therefore, entitled to the same rights and benefits as any full-time worker. However, their remuneration is paid in relation to the number of effective hours worked at the prescribed hourly rate plus 5 %.
Following the expiry of the contract of Mauriclean on 14 July 2012, it was decided at the level of the Ministry of Education that as from 16 July 2012, the services of cleaners would be enlisted on an hourly rate basis and remuneration be paid by the Parents Teachers Association and refunded by the parent Ministry, that is, the Ministry of Education. These cleaners work on split hours and were paid remuneration ranging from Rs1,800 to Rs3,400, depending on the number of hours performed.
Following representations made by the Confédération des Travailleurs du Secteur Privé (CTSP), it was decided at the level of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development that the cleaners employed by the PTA be paid a monthly salary of Rs8,500 with effect from 01 January 2016 and they would be required to work full-time.
Out of the 299 cleaners employed by the PTA, Government decided on 06 October 2017 to -
(i) recruit on establishment of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research the cleaners who were below the age of 48 as at 2012 as from 01 January 2016;
(ii) offer the cleaners between the age bracket of 53 and 65 a yearly contract by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research, and
(iii) offer a gratuity equivalent to 15 days per year of service to be paid by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research, given that the public service cannot employ those persons as they were above the retirement age.
As from October 2016, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research decided to award contracts for the cleaning of school yards on a month-to-month basis to private contractors. The contractors employed the cleaners on a part-time basis.
The officers of my Ministry inspected 177 workplaces and interviewed 220 out of the 333 workers employed by the private contractors in 2017.
The inspections revealed that 52 cleaners work on straight hours, that is, part time and 168 on split hours. Out of the 168 workers, 129 do not remain at their workplace when they are not provided with work. The remaining 39 workers stayed on site. 37 did so on their own will and 2 at the request of their employers.
The inspections also revealed that the working time of part time cleaners range from 2 to 4 hours a day and that they were paid not less than the hourly rate prescribed in the Cleaning Enterprises Remuneration Order. It was, however, observed that some employers did not comply with some provisions of the Remuneration Order in respect of issue of payslip and protective equipment.
In that regard, my Ministry has instituted 10 criminal proceedings against two companies, namely: the Professional Cleaners Group Ltd and New Cleaning Services. These companies have been convicted and sentenced by the Court. Criminal actions for failing to comply with a provision of the Cleaning Enterprises (Remuneration Order) Regulations 2013 have also been entered against three companies, namely: Mauriclean Ltd, Clean It Up Cleaning Services Ltd and New Cleaning Service Ltd. I am informed that these cases have been scheduled to be heard by the Industrial Court in November 2017.
The CTSP has made representations to the effect that cleaners in service with private contractors be employed on a permanent basis by the Ministry of Education or any other parastatal organisation.
Madam Speaker, the demand of the union cannot be entertained as Government should not be seen as the employer of last resort following any industrial dispute in the private sector. It is most unfortunate that private enterprises lay off workers for a variety of reasons, including expiry of contracts.
Our Labour legislation amply provides for avenues to resolve such issues.
We have much respect for these workers and wish to do everything within the legal framework to assist them.
SCHOOLS – DIGITAL TABLETS & EDUCATION SOFTWARE – CONTRACT (07/11/17)
(No. B/703) Mr R. Uteem (First Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis
Central) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the contract for the supply of digital tablets and education software for grade 1 and 2 students, she will state the –
(a) contract value thereof, indicating the amount claimed and paid as at to date, and
(b) scheduled delivery date thereof.
Reply: In the context of the Government to Government Agreement reached between the Government of Mauritius and that of India, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Education and EDCIL, a Government of India Enterprise, on 10 March 2017. The total cost of the project for phases I and II amounts to 22.4 M USD (Rs784 m.) and is funded through a grant of 14 M USD (Rs500 m.) from the Indian Government and a matching grant of 8.4 M USD (Rs294 m.) from the Mauritian Government.
A provision of Rs250 m. was made in Budget 2016-17 for the first phase of the project comprising purchase of 26,800 tablets, projectors, rack chargers and projector screens for Grade 1 and 2 students. Officials of my Ministry have been working closely with the Indian Government, through EDCIL India for the last three months.
The cost for phase I of the project, including warranty period and two years maintenance cost amounts to 11.6 M USD. As per the terms of payments stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding, a first installment of 15% of hardware cost to the tune of 1.5 M USD has been paid to EDCIL on issuance of tender documents. A second installment of 2.5 M USD has been paid upon award of contract to the successful bidder. A third payment of 15 % amounting to 0.9 M USD is currently being processed.
With regard to part (b) of the question, tablet, PCs and related accessories along with projectors and rack charges will be shipped in several lots between the 09 and 23 November 2017. The commissioning exercise is scheduled simultaneously over the same period and the project is planned to start at the beginning of the next academic year in January 2018.