SECONDARY DRUG PROBLEMS/ABSENTEEISM
TEACHERS – ALLEGED CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSE (11/11/08)
(No. B/1252) Mrs A. Navarre-Marie (First Member for GRNW and Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to alleged cases of sexual abuse by teachers on their pupils, he will state the number thereof, indicating the actions taken or proposed to be taken at the level of his Ministry.
(Vide reply to PQ No. B/1212)
MINORS - LIQUORS AND CIGARETTES – SALE (25/11/08)
(No. B/1277) Mrs S. Grenade (Second Member for GRNW and Port Louis West) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs whether, in regard to the sale of liquors and cigarettes to minors, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number of minors involved, over the past three years.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, the sale of liquors and cigarettes to minors is an offence under the following legislations -
(i) Regulations 2 and 4 of the Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations of 1999 makes provision for the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to minors, and
(ii) Section 16(1) (a) of the Child Protection Act which makes provision for the prohibition of sale of any liquor, rhum or compounded spirit to a child.
Furthermore, according to Section 15 of the Excise Act 1994, every licensee shall display in a conspicuous place at his factory or licensed premises an appropriate notice, bearing the words “No alcohol/cigarette will be sold to or is allowed to be sold to a person under the age of 18 years”.
I am informed, Mr Speaker, Sir, by the Commissioner of Police that during the past three years, 11 cases of “Selling liquor to minors” involving 13 minors; and 46 cases of “Selling cigarettes to minors” involving 46 minors have been established.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the sale of liquors and cigarettes to minors is illegal and my Government has taken a number of measures to ensure that the minimum legal purchase age is enforced and that licensees exercise responsibility.
In this respect, the Police are, through the “Brigade des Mineurs”, maintaining regular watch and vigilance near points of sale of cigarettes or liquor, more particularly at places which are well frequented by students and minors. In fact, regular surprise checks and crackdown operations are carried out throughout the island.
Additionally, the “Brigade des Mineurs” and the Police Family Protection Unit regularly carry out frequent awareness campaigns for instance talks, lectures, public exhibitions, etc at schools, colleges, youth clubs/centres and socio-cultural organisations as well as programmes in the mass media with a view to sensitising students, parents and the community at large on the need for the protection of minors and youngsters against the ill effects of cigarettes and liquors.
Mr Speaker, Sir, our youth of today is extremely susceptible to the hazards associated with liquor and cigarettes, and it is our duty to protect them from such harm. We believe that this social dilemma will be more effectively tackled by sensitisation rather than enforcement.
I am also informed that the Health and Anti Drug Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Culture & Human Resources provides advice and counselling to school administration and students regarding health promotion and drug prevention and organises school based activities related to –
• World Health Day;
• Worlds No Tobacco Day, and
• International Day against Drug Abuse and illicit trafficking.
Health issues are now being integrated in the school curriculum and training to teachers at Primary and Secondary levels include modules relating to Health, among which the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. 18
The Ministry of Education, Culture & Human Resources is also currently working on its action plan for the revitalizing of Health clubs which will receive the support and guidance of the Regional Health and Educational Council. A School Health Club National Action Plan is also being concurrently worked out.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in this concerted effort against substance abuse, I must commend the key role which is being played by the National Agency for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Substance Abuses (NATReSA). The Agency has set up unprecedented networking in different sectors namely at schools, in the family, in the workplace, among the youth and the community as a whole in the fight against substance abuse. NATReSA’s preventive initiative at the level of the youth in the various sectors, which I have just enumerated, consists of a module on the harmful effects of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs as well as Actions Plans at school level.
Mr Speaker, Sir, from a community point of view, it is imperative, that we can show an increasing intolerance against cigarettes and liquors, so as this phenomenon especially among the youth becomes socially unacceptable.
I would also like to inform the House that the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life has prepared the Draft Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations; and the Draft Public Health (Restrictions on Advertisement, Sponsorship, Sale and Prohibition of Consumption in Public Places of Alcohol Drinks) Regulations which are being finalised at the level of the Attorney-General’s Office, and which will further regulate and strengthen the issue of selling tobacco and alcoholic drinks to minors.
Mrs Grenade: I thank the hon. Prime Minister who said that there is a lot of sensitisation for the youths regarding cigarettes and liquors. But we all know that there is also a lot to do again because around schools and on bus stations there are always youths with a can of beer, alcohol and cigarettes. Does the hon. Prime Minister not think that there must be 19
surprise checks by the Police in shops also to prevent the sale of liquors and cigarettes to the youths?
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I remember there was a case when a Police Office who was in civil stopped two youths at a bus station who were swearing out and so on. Then people were saying that the Police had brutalised the youths. But, in fact, the case was that the Police was doing their work. I will pass that to the Commissioner of Police to maybe have more checks.
Mrs Grenade: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to make an appeal to the hon. Prime Minister. Does he not think that we must have plus de publicités contre l’alcool et la cigarette? Parce que quand on regarde à la télévision il y a plus de publicités pour les achats d’alcool et les cigarettes. Malgré que sur la boîte de cigarettes c’est inscrit que c’est mauvais pour la santé, la cigarette tue, je pense que c’est mieux d’avoir plus de publicités contre l’alcool et contre la cigarette.
The Prime Minister: Maybe I misunderstood the hon. Member. I thought the MBC is actually passing films against the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes. I don’t have time to look at television as you know, but I thought that they were doing this. I will take this up.
Mr Speaker: Order!
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Speaker, Sir, concerning the ill doers, may I know from the hon. Prime Minister whether it does not seem that it would be more proper to amend the law to suspend the license of all those ill doers who are selling cigarettes and alcoholic drinks illegally to minors?
The Prime Minister: This is what we are doing. This is what the Attorney-General’s office is working on together with the Ministry of Health.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: The hon. Prime Minister has just mentioned, and my colleague has strengthened this point, that la Brigade des Mineurs has a prominent role to play. Has the hon. Prime Minister been made aware that, very recently, the staff of la Brigade des Mineurs has been substantially 20 reduced and even the premises where they were operating have been removed from them?
The Prime Minister: I think there was a question, I am not too sure Mr Speaker, Sir, recently, and I gave an explanation. But as you know the Commissioner of Police is responsible for determining the use of the operations of the Police and which he controls. I can only give him guidelines for policy decisions. But I think I have given explanations. As far as I remember, there was a restructuring. I can again look at it and let the hon. Member know.
Mr Speaker: Time is over! Questions addressed to hon. Ministers!
MOBILE PHONES – OBSCENE MATTERS (28/04/09)
(No. B/346) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs whether, in regard to reported cases of video clips of a sexual nature on mobile phones, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number thereof, since 2006 to date, indicating if inquiries have been carried out thereinto, and the outcome thereof.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that, since 2006 to 23 April 2009, nine cases of obscene matters on mobile phone have been reported, and five cases have been established by the Police on their own initiative.
After police enquiry, 16 persons were arrested and have been released on bail or parole.
I am also informed that, out of the 14 cases -
• 11 cases are pending enquiry;
• one case has been classified, since the accused has not been able to be traced, and
• two cases have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice; and the latter has advised no further action in one case.
Mr Bodha: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Prime Minister in how many cases minors and students are involved?
The Prime Minister: I don’t have the details. They have not given me the ages, but they are mostly students.
PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS – VIOLENCE (28/04/09)
(No. B/365) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas and Floreal) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to acts of violence in primary and secondary schools, he will state the number of reported cases thereof, since January 2007 to date, indicating the remedial measures he proposes to take to avert same.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that from January 2007 to date, my Ministry has registered 200 cases of acts of violence at schools, 19 at primary level and 181 at secondary level. Cases of acts of violence in schools can be categorized mainly as follows –
(1) those among students which can be of daily occurrence mostly in boys schools but which are minor in nature;
(2) those between students on the one hand and teaching or nonteaching staff on the other which can occur from time to time but which remain isolated and rarely serious;
(3) aggressions involving PTA members, members of the staff and students which may or may not be serious; and finally,
(4) aggressions on either students or members of the staff by members of the public.
The hon. Member would agree that violence in schools is a worldwide phenomenon and our country is no exception. Such acts vary from verbal violence to physical violence and are in the first instance addressed by the Head of school concerned who carries out an investigation and imposes sanctions, as appropriate, which vary from a mere warning to rustication. Further, a special report on the student is kept at the level of the school and his/her behavior is monitored regularly to ensure that there is no recurrence of a similar unacceptable behaviour. The parents of the students concerned are informed in writing of the misbehavior of their wards and
action being taken.
The support of the Pastoral Care Committee of the school and the Educational Psychologists/Social Workers of my Ministry are also enlisted in such cases. Furthermore, the Police Family Protection Unit and “Brigade pour la protection de Mineurs” also provide support in dealing with students involved in cases of violence. These units also carry out, as a preventive measure, sensitization campaigns with children and parents on a regular basis.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with a view to stepping up measures to address violence and indiscipline, in schools, a Committee has been set up at the level of my Ministry and has had consultations with various stakeholders and made recommendations which are presently being finalized for implementation. These concern mainly -
(1) the drawing up of a Code of Conduct and Rules and Regulations for student behaviour;
(2) setting up Disciplinary Committees to be mandatory in all schools;
(3) greater emphasis to be put on co- and extra-curricular activities for the overall development of the child;
(4) empowering students to assume greater responsibilities for the development of positive behavior;
(5) greater involvement of parents, PTAs and NGOs;
(6) formulation of a School Charter of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” in collaboration with the students, and
(7) the setting up of Anti-Violence (Civic) clubs in schools.
My Ministry is committed, Mr Speaker, Sir, to implement the recommendations of the Report and to continue to explore new ways to achieve a zero-tolerance with regard to violence and indiscipline in schools. In this respect, problem schools have already been identified and the profiling of difficult students is being carried out. Such students are being provided with necessary psychological support.
Furthermore, a 30-minute daily activity period has been introduced since the beginning of this year, in the secondary school time-table during which students engage themselves in a series of co- and extra-curricular activities for their overall development. Schools have been encouraged to set up students clubs on various areas of interest so as to create a platform for students to interact among themselves and therefore promote and inculcate a self-development and self-enrichment culture among the student population. With a view to providing support to the schools towards this end, my Ministry is in the process of recruiting Project Coordinators for coordinating and organizing such activities in secondary schools.
I have recently, Mr Speaker, Sir, personally chaired two meetings with relevant stakeholders, including the Police Department, the Child Development Unit of the Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare and the Probation and After Care Service to discuss the problems of indiscipline and violence in schools and come up with measures to deal with the problems. Discussions are on-going between officials of my Ministry and the various stakeholders with a view to coming up with appropriate mechanisms firstly to address these issues and with an action plan for early implementation with priority given to schools where, according to a profiling exercise, acts of violence are frequent and secondly to strengthen preventive measures in view of moving towards achieving zero tolerance towards violence and indiscipline at school.
We rely, Mr Speaker, Sir, on the collaboration of educators, parents, students and the society at large to raise the standard of behavior and learning in our schools.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned a lot of measures, but I don't know whether they are actually implemented in schools or he intends to implement them. My question, Mr Speaker, Sir, is whether some students have been diagnosed with some particular disorders following the intervention of psychologists?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mrs Labelle: May I know from the hon. Minister what has been done with these students and the number of students who have been diagnosed with such disorders?
Dr. Bunwaree: Concerning the number, I may not give offhand, but if the hon. Member reads the answer properly- maybe she was being astray for some time - she will get all the reply in what I have mentioned.
Mrs Labelle: I am sorry, Mr Speaker, Sir. But I have not heard the hon. Minister mention one single disorder in his answer and if it is the case maybe he can repeat which disorder has been diagnosed?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have said there are cases which are being seen and good care is being taken of them. What care - I have already mentioned.
Mr Varma: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, could the hon. Minister inform the House, out of the acts of violence which he just mentioned, how many have resulted in Police action and subsequent prosecution?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, as far as possible Police action is avoided, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo!
Mr Jhugroo: Can the hon. Minister confirm to the House whether any student has been found in possession of a cutter or knife within the school premises?
Dr. Bunwaree: There are exceptional cases, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Lauthan: Mr Speaker, Sir, je voudrais retourner à la question concernant les cas de dépression. J’avais posé une question similaire il y a quinze jours et ce matin le Premier ministre a déposé les réponses. On a vu
que pour le teenage violence il y a eu, en l’espace de ces dernières années, 1618 cas et parmi 1399 cas commis individuellement par un enfant et 219 cas en groupe – gang violence – ce qui a résulté en 9 cas de mort d’homme.
Le ministre a raison de dire que c’est un world wide phenomenon and it is on the increase.
La question est très souvent liée à la question de dépression chez l’enfant.
Alors si on ne fait pas attention, on risque de référer l’enfant au système judiciaire alors qu’il a besoin d’un bon encadrement.
Dr. Bunwaree: We are talking here of violence at schools, that is, in school premises and just immediately in the vicinity of schools. But what the hon. Prime Minister was replying to was in the country at large. But this question of depression is, of course, something which is important, but I have said, there are some measures - and, in fact, to reply to hon. MrsLabelle at the same time - there are certain actions which have already been taken.
But there is lot of actions that are going to come, but I have said that we are meeting the stakeholders and working on an implementation plan.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Mrs Martin!
Mrs Martin : Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. The Minister just mentioned that there is report and there have been recommendations, I believe, which have been made in order to help improving the situation. Can we know from the hon. Minister what is the time frame which has been set up or if there is any time frame which has been set up in order to put in place those recommendations so that in the shortest period possible this situation improves?
Dr. Bunwaree: Of course! I will not be able to put a date, but I can say in the days to come. Mr Speaker Sir, because, in fact, as I mentioned, I have myselfpersonally chaired two meetings. After having obtained the report - I have my own input to put in it; in fact, one or two actions have already been taken. But we are going to see to it, because this is important and it is of paramount importance and I rely on all stakeholders including Members of the Assembly to help so that we can put order in this matter.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Bodha!
Mr Bodha: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he will agree that one of the major reasons is peer pressure from other students. May I ask the hon. Minister what are the specific measures taken to adjust this issue?
Dr. Bunwaree: There are many measures that are taken. I can't mention all of them but, in fact, we are looking into it in that angle also and disciplinary committees are taking this into consideration at the level of all schools.
Mrs Perrier: The Minister informs the House that these students are having psychological assistance. Can we know the number of psychologists working in these specific schools, and is he satisfied that there are sufficient
psychologists working there?
Dr. Bunwaree: I am sure I am not satisfied of the number of psychologists working there; there are about a dozen and some other social workers, NGOs also are asked to bring their competence wherever possible.
But the main issue concerning psychologists is that, at the level of the Ministry of Education, all our psychologists are educational psychologists, but I believe we need also clinical psychologist and for the time being we have these psychologists, but they are attached to the Ministry of Women's Affairs. We are trying to use their competence for the time being, but we are on the process of getting clinical psychologists to join the team of educational psychologists at the level of the Ministry itself to be able to do a better job.
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister in his reply stated that the problem at the schools have already been identified. Can we have a breakdown in terms of primary and secondary schools and regionwise?
Dr. Bunwaree: I can, in fact, inform the hon. Member that these schools have been identified, but I would not like to go and mention the name of the schools for obvious reasons. But I can give him the information that he requires whenever we meet.
Mr Speaker: hon. Mrs Labelle!
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister just mentioned that they avoid police case. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that not later than yesterday there was a case of violence in one school and the case was referred to the Police?
Dr. Bunwaree: Is it the case of a little girl that the hon. Member is mentioning? I don't know whether it is the same case, but there are cases which are referred and we look into them; in fact, in some cases even the Ombudsperson for children takes the matter and we worked together in close collaboration to see the best way of settling the problem.
Mrs Labelle: It was a case in a Secondary State School not later than yesterday. Last week it was a case of a boy being aggressed maybe sexually in a class of a school in the East, and yesterday there was another case of
aggression in a school in the Plaines Wilhems region. I was talking about this case, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Dr Bunwaree: All cases are reported to the Ministry.
Mr Leopold: Mr Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister, in these cases of violence, how far are parents involved in order to help solve same?
Dr Bunwaree: This is a very difficult question to reply to, Mr Speaker, Sir. In many cases parents come to help, but in some cases tension exists. The Police Department, the Child Development Unit of the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Ministry of Education are working hand in hand to use preventive measures and to educate wherever necessary, even the parents, so that they can understand the situation properly and help us to solve the problem.
Mrs Perrier: Mr Speaker, Sir, the Minister said that he will use the service of the psychologists at the Ministry of Women Affairs. He should know that they are already in insufficient number at the Ministry of Women Affairs. Can I suggest the Minister instead of using these psychologists to recruit new ones as it is a very important issue?
Dr. Bunwaree: As we know, it is a time-consuming procedure. In the meantime, they are trying to help us the best they can.
Mr Speaker: Next question hon. Sayed-Hossen!
SCHOOLS – ALCOHOL PR0BLEMS & SEXUAL VIOLENCE (16/06/09)
Mrs A. Navarre-Marie (First Member for GRNW and Port Louis West): M. le président, le problème qui sera évoqué concerne le ministre de l’éducation. Je voudrais interpeller la Chambre sur deux problèmes très graves,
deux fléaux qui sévissent actuellement parmi les jeunes, élèves et étudiants de nos institutions scolaires.
Le premier, M. le président, concerne le problème de l’alcool parmi nos jeunes étudiants. Je vais citer deux cas. Il y a eu d’abord le cas de ce jeune étudiant de dix-sept, d’un collège des Plaines Wilhems, qui avec un groupe de camarades à bord d’un autobus et qui s’est précipité hors de l’autobus lorsque celui-ci a fait un demi tour vers un poste de Police à la demande d’un piéton sur qui l’étudiant en question aurait lancé une canette vide. Il y a eu également le cas de ces étudiantes qui s’apprêtaient à se rendre à une excursion du collège et qui était déjà ivre et aurait même était violente à l’égard des professeurs qui leur demandaient de vider leur cartables. La direction avait dû faire appel dans ce cas précis à la SAMU. Il paraît, M. le président, que l’alcool est devenu un veritable fléau dans nos institutions scolaires. Il est donc impératif de prendre les measures nécessaires le plus vite possible.
Le deuxième problème, M. le président, concerne la violence sexuelle dans nos écoles et nos collèges connaissent actuellement une recrudescence. Des violences sexuelles sont filmés sur des téléphone cellulaires sont devenues Presque un jeu d’enfant dans nos écoles. Cela implique non seulement les étudiants, les adolescents, mais également des élèves des écoles pré-primaires.
Le dernier cas en date est celui d’une primaire des Plaines Wilhems cette semaine, où des élèves ont cette fois simulés un acte sexuel. Le ministre est au courant puisqu’il a intervenu ce matin à la radio. Mais la plupart des cas, M. le président, reste cachés, secrets. La direction de l’institution concernée convoque les parents en catimini, ceux-ci refusent de reconnaître que leurs enfants puissent être mêlés à des actes sexuels.
L’affaire est étouffée car il y va de la réputation de l’institution en question. Le résultat est que la pratique continue de plus belle sans qu’aucune action ne soit prise. Je ne suis pas en train de suggérer que les élèves soient punis, mais il faut prendre des mesures nécessaires, il faut aller à la source des problèmes et les résoudre. Le problème est sérieux, M. le président, la situation est urgente. Le problème se propage et devient une mode de vie dangereuse pour nos jeunes et la société.
The Minister of Education, Culture & Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Je remercie l’honorable membre pour son intervention. Je dois dire que c’est un problème qui intéresse tout le monde. Donc, il ne faudrait pas le voir de façon partisane. Le ministère est tout à fait conscient. Je peux ajouter à vos problèmes d’alcool et de délit sexuel qui ont été mentionnés par l’honorable membre.
De toutes les façons, au sein du ministère, nous avons mis sur pied une cellule avec les représentants du ministère, bien entendu, ceux qui sont impliqués, des psychologues du ministère aussi les psychologies du Child Development Unit avec la Brigade des Mineurs. Je dois dire qu’ils sont en train de faire un travail remarquable, mais seulement on vient de commencer. Ce qu’il faut retenir aussi c’est qu’il y a la possibilité maintenant, je le sens, de faire sortir des choses qui pouvaient rester cachées. Donc c’est peut être cela qui créé un petit peu ce qu’on est en train d’entendre mais il y avait beaucoup de problèmes déjà avant qui restaient cachés, étouffés. Il faut aussi penser au rôle des parents là-dessus, M. le président, ce qui est extrêmement important, parce qu’il ne faut pas que les parents sentent que l’enfant est envoyé à l’école, donc la responsabilité est pour l’école.
C’est une question où tout le monde doit s’asseoir ensemble. Donc, je remercie l’honorable membre et on va venir avec des propositions beaucoup plus concretes et valables. Je pense que c’est l’affaire de tous pour que ce problème soit résolu; que l’école soit un endroit où les enfants vont effectivement pour apprendre non seulement sur le plan académique, mais pour devenir les meilleurs citoyens du pays.
Merci, M. le président.
STUDENTS – CRIMINAL CASES (30/06/09)
(No. B/649) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs whether, in regard to criminal cases in which students have been involved, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number thereof, over the past two years, indicating –
(a) if inquiries have been carried out thereinto, and
(b) the number of cases which have been prosecuted.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that 126 criminal cases have been reported to the Police involving students as offenders for the period July to December 2007, 241 cases for 2008 and 181 cases for period January to 25 June of this year. In all these cases, the Police have conducted inquiries.
Out of the 548 abovementioned cases -
• 62 cases have already been prosecuted;
• 73 cases are pending before the Courts;
• 112 cases have been classified after an inquiry;
• in 30 cases, the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is awaited, and
• an inquiry is ongoing in 271 cases.
Mr Bodha: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Prime Minister will agree that this is disturbing because it is one case every day. May we know what happens, if after the enquiry the student is being found guilty? Have there been cases where the student has been expelled?
And my second question is, Mr Speaker, Sir, whether there is something which is being done at the level of the parents, the Police, the institution and psychologist, in fact, to address this issue at the level of the students in each and every institution?
The Prime Minister: There are different cases where parents have been called and even there is a case where the parent has asked for the transfer of a student and the needful has been done. Again with the parents, some of the students have received psychological assessments and also there has been a case where the student has been released on bail. There are cases where they have to present themselves to Police Station because it appears that they were involved in many cases.
Mr Bodha: May I ask the hon. Prime Minister what is the proportion of boys and girls as regards the offences?
The Prime Minister: I do not have a breakdown in terms of boys and girls Mr Speaker, Sir. Today, boys and girls behave in a very similar way.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Prime Minister whether any of the retailers of liquor have been booked?
Mr Dulloo: We are still on B/649?
Mr Speaker: Yes, B/649!
Mr Dulloo: May I ask the hon. Prime Minister, whether he has information with him as to the number of cases that were dealt with and disposed of by pretrial mediation?
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, there are 62 cases which have been prosecuted, 73 cases are pending from other courts, 112 cases have been put aside and in 30 cases we are waiting for the advice of the DPP;, an inquiry is going into 271 cases.
Mr Gunness: Can I know from the hon. Prime Minister whether he has any information with regard to these 126 cases? Whether any of these cases has any relation with alcohol consumption?
Mr Speaker: The next question is on alcohol consumption.
STUDENTS – ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION (30/06/09)
(No. B/650) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the hon. Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs whether, in regard to the cases in which students were found consuming alcohol, over the past two years, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number thereof, indicating if inquiries have been carried out thereinto and the measures taken to address the issue.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that during the period January 2007 to 25 June 2009, the Police has established five cases involving students found consuming alcohol and two cases involving students found under the influence of alcohol. All the seven cases are still under Police Inquiry.
As regards the measures taken to address the issue, Mr Speaker, Sir, we all know that the problem of alcohol among students is becoming a cause for concern for all of us, for the society at large and to tackle this long prevailing problem, among students, including minors, there is a need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders, including the parents. In this regard, the Police, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources, the Ministry of Health & Quality of Life and the Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development & Family Welfare have taken a series of measures which I will enumerate -
(a) first of all, the Brigade des Mineurs is carrying out regular patrols near points of sale of alcoholic drinks, particularly at places where students are most likely to be found;
(b) since January 2008, a new policing strategy is being implemented by the Brigade des Mineurs jointly with the Child Development Unit whereby crack down operations are being conducted throughout the island. 377 crack down operations have already been carried out;
(c) the Brigade des Mineurs is also carrying out awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, youth clubs, youth centres, socio‐cultural institutions on the need to protect the students from consuming alcohol and for them to know what are the dangers;
(d) through the Police Public Partnership meeting and the public is being encouraged to report and provide information on any suspected activities concerning the sale of alcohol to students or consumption by them;
(e) at the school level, students are being sensitized through Health Clubs on the harmful effects of alcohol and I should say disciplinary actions are taken against students who are found consuming alcohol within or in the vicinity of school premises. As I mentioned earlier, Mr Speaker, Sir, some of these students also receive psychological support and counseling after consultation with their parents; and
(f) the Ministry of Health & Quality of Life has promulgated the Public Health (Prohibition on Advertisement, Sponsorship and Restriction on Sale and Consumption in Public Places of Alcoholic Drinks) Regulations on 01 March 2009; this with a view to prohibiting advertisement and sponsorship, and to restricting the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in public places. The Ministry has also conducted a series of awareness campaigns targeting the students, the shop owners and the retailers on the provisions of the new Regulations.
Mr Bodha: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Prime Minister, whether the five cases which have been mentioned, include a case in the north where young girl students were involved and were found drunk before an outing? And what has been done in that particular case?
The Prime Minister: We are not trying to pinpoint, Mr Speaker, Sir, because we are talking of children who are at school. Sometimes when students are young, they do all sorts of things. So, we have not actually tried to see which case, but I am sure they are involved in that.
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Prime Minister whether he could elaborate on measures that are being taken by the concerned authorities to control the sale of alcoholic drinks, specifically in hypermarkets and supermarkets?
The Prime Minister: On supermarkets and hypermarkets, there is not much that we can do, except what we have mentioned here, Mr Speaker, Sir. People also have to be responsible and they are not allowed, for example, to sell to minors and if the parents buy, they have to be very careful. But we are taking all the measures that we have mentioned, including the ban and the advertising. As you know, we have now prevented people from drinking on the streets in the vicinity where sale is being done and this has been very positively welcomed by the public in general. We are also looking at whether we should not start clamping down on the number of points where they are actually selling liquors.
MINORS & STUDENTS – ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES – SALE (07/07/09)
(No. B/724) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne and Phoenix) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs whether, in regard to the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors and students, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number of cases of retailers who have been booked in relation thereto, since January 2007 to date.
The Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that, during the period January 2007 to 02 July 2009, the Police has booked nine retailers for the offence of “Selling Liquor to Minor”. Eight cases are already before the Court, one case is still under inquiry.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The hon. Prime Minister may be aware that this is the tip of the iceberg and that many cases are not reported since it deals with young children and minors.
May I ask the hon. Prime Minister whether he could speak to the Commissioner of Police so that the Brigade des Mineurs could see to it that shopkeepers are sanctioned? Because there must be many more cases, we are looking at the number of cases we are having in schools where children are consuming alcohol.
The Prime Minister: The problem is always the manpower or the womanpower, if I may say so. We cannot come to a situation where I will have to put one Policeman for every person in this country. There are already 1.3 m. nearly. But we will try our best on what possibility that we have.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo, do you have any question? No! The Table has been advised that PQs Nos. B/727, B/729, B/730 and B/737 have been withdrawn. Next question hon. Mrs. Hanoomanjee!
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS - VOLUNTARY HIV DETECTION TESTS (07/07/09)
(No. B/749) Mrs L.D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether he will state if Government will consider carrying out voluntary HIV detection tests in the educational institutions, with a view to determining the prevalence thereof amongst the students.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am advised that the prevalence of any disease cannot be determined through voluntary testing as voluntary participants are not considered as a representative sample of a target population. With regard to HIV and AIDS, it is still more difficult to use voluntary detection tests to determine its prevalence amongst any age group or any other sub population. This is so as on the one hand, the risk of transmission of the disease differs significantly from one group to another and, on the other hand, people with risky behaviours are usually unwilling to do the test for fear of stigma.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to HIV tests on a voluntary basis being carried out in educational institutions; my Ministry is taking up the matter with the Ministry of Education.
There is a need to fully sensitise the adult community in the first instance so that they are in a better position to understand the implications of such tests, the more so that parental consent is a prerequisite for many activities which are carried out for students. In fact, my Ministry has reinforced its education campaigns regarding HIV and AIDS in the community as well as in secondary, vocational and tertiary educational institutions.
I am also informed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources that actions geared towards prevention of AIDS among the student population have been taken and these include -
(a) HIV and AIDS related information in the new curriculum for primary and secondary levels;
(b) distribution of Health Information Education and Communication materials;
(c) sensitisation through school health clubs as well as other school-based interventions, and
(d) co and extra-curricular activities focusing on HIV and AIDS.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that there is a lot of discrepancy between the figures given by the health institutions and by NGOs working with people living with AIDS? That is why my question was whether he does not consider it to be advisable to have such tests carried out by Government bodies in order to ensure that any problem, any hidden figures can be revealed this week so as to take necessary actions.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we have two sets of figures. One is an estimate, that is, 1.8% of the adult population between 15 to 49 years that is equivalent to about 12,600 that are estimated to carry this disease and the number of reported cases, as at May 2009 - I must say, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is only the Ministry of Health that compiles these figures and the figure I have here is 3,888. So, I don’t see any discrepancy in any figure since I don’t know of any other authority that has the capability and information to be able to gather.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether he is not aware that NGOs do collect samples for tests of HIV and AIDS?
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as far as I am aware it is only our labs that do the tests for HIV and AIDS.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned sensitization campaigns in our education sector. May I ask him whether in line with this sensitization campaign, his Ministry will liaise with the Ministry of Education to accept the request of the students of University to have condom distributors on the campus?
Dr. Jeetah: Well, this is another matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I can certainly pass on the information to my colleague.
SCHOOLS – TEACHERS – AGGRESSION (20/10/09)
(No. B/970) Mrs S. Grenade (Second Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to cases of aggression against teachers within the school premises, he will state the number of reported cases thereof to his Ministry, since July 2007 to date, at the primary and secondary levels respectively, indicating the actions taken to prevent such aggressions.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that, as from July 2007 to date, there have been 28 reported cases of aggression against Educators within the school premises. Out of these 28 cases, 14 are at primary level and 14 are at secondary level. These include both verbal and physical aggressions involving mainly -
(i) students and Educators, especially at secondary level, and
(ii) parents and Educators, especially at primary level.
Mr Speaker, Sir, my Ministry views with much concern the issue of aggression against Educators and has taken the following measures to prevent same -
(i) access to school premises is controlled and Heads of schools have been advised to restrict access to unauthorised persons;
(ii) students involved in such cases are referred to the School Disciplinary Committee which decides on the sanction depending on the gravity of the case. Punishment for aggression may lead to rustication from secondary school for a specific period of time;
iii) the matter is also taken up by the Head of School in the morning assembly so as to send a strong deterrent signal to the student community. In some cases, students are referred to the Educational Psychologist for counselling;
(iv) for some extreme cases, schools enlist the collaboration of the “Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs” and “the Crime Prevention Unit” as well as the “Child Development Unit” for a closer monitoring and follow up.
Sensitisation programmes on indiscipline and violence are being sustained in the schools on a regular basis with the support of these institutions;
(v) in cases of aggression of teachers by parents, the matter is normally referred to the Police for enquiry. When such cases occur and it is felt that the security of the teacher is at stake, police presence is requested on the school premises and in the vicinity of the school, and
(vi) schools are being encouraged to organise extra-curricular and co-curricular activities so as to allow students to channel their energy and efforts to interesting activities and thus create a better school climate.
My Ministry is also working with the State Law Office. I am personalising regularly liaising with the Attorney General with regard to the Juvenile Offenders (Amendment) Bill and the Reform Institutions (Amendment) Bill where proposals will be made for amendments regarding undisciplined students.
Mr Speaker, Sir, We have to reckon with the fact that that this issue cannot be tackled by the school alone but requires the involvement and participation of all stakeholders including the PTA, the Students Council, teachers and the Pastoral Care Committee. During my recent meeting with representatives of Students’ Council of State Secondary Schools on 2 September 2009, I stressed the need for students to contribute towards the creation of a fully disciplined school environment and to the promotion of an educational system which will not only foster their intellectual development but also help them become good and law-abiding citizens.
With a view to achieving this objective, I am proposing to appoint a committee to work on the introduction at school level of a “carnet scolaire” for each student in respect of whom a record will be kept on his/her behaviour, conduct, achievement and performance which will be monitored. This proposal will, of course, be subject to discussions with various stakeholders of the education sector. I intend to introduce the system early next year.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, among the 28 cases which the hon. Minister has just mentioned, I bet there are many cases of aggressions of children/students against their teachers. This is a serious societal problem that we have. Does not the hon. Minister think that there is need to have an in-depth sociological study to know the real sources of the problem?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, insofar as schools are concerned, some work is being done already. We are constantly monitoring at the same time, doing an in-depth study with the help of our psychologists. I agree that we have to follow along the line that the hon. Member is saying.
Mr Gunness: In the case of the 14 aggressions in primary schools, I understand it is aggression by parents on teachers. Can I know from the hon. Minister since 2007, how many enquiries have been completed, how many have been sued in the court and what is the outcome, if any, if the hon. Minister knows?
Mr Gunness: In the case of the 14 aggressions in primary school, I understand it is aggression by parents on teachers. Can I know from the hon. Minister, since 2007, how many inquiries have been completed; how many have been sued in court and what is the outcome, if any which, the Minister knows? In how many schools there was a need for Police to be posted after the aggression?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is a question that will need a long answer, and I don’t have all the information. In fact, I will see to it that whatever information we receive can be given to the House.
Mr Mohamed: Mr Speaker, Sir, would the hon. Minister consider, in cases of violence of pupils upon teachers, an amendment to the law whereby parents are somehow held liable for the wrongdoing of their children thereby acting as more of a deterrent and continuing the good education and work being done, at home whereby - I say it again - parents are held liable somehow?
Dr. Bunwaree: I fully agree with the suggestion. Firstly, it is going to be taken up in the carnet scolaire of the child, and secondly, as I said, I am liaising regularly with the Attorney General to see how this can be taken on board.
Mr Bodha: May I ask the hon. Minister whether there are cases where there have been actually rustications of students for violence, that is, they have been removed from the school?
Dr. Bunwaree: I cannot answer offhand, but I don’t think there has been any so far. I try to see to it that this is not the case as far as possible.
Mr Jhugroo: Mr Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister whether in the 28 cases mentioned any aggressed teacher has been admitted to hospital for wounds and blows?
Dr. Bunwaree: There has been, but I can give further information if a proper question is put.
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I know from the hon. Minister how many of these cases he has mentioned are related to the consumption of alcohol?
Dr. Bunwaree: Direct relation has not been found in particular cases, but there could be the influence of alcohol in certain cases. Here again, if a proper question is put, we can look into the details and come to the House.
Mrs Martin: The hon. Minister mentioned the introduction of a carnet scolaire for students for conduct reporting. Can I know from the hon. Minister whether this carnet scolaire is intended to act as a deterrent, whether it is going to have any bearings upon the marks of the students? What is the reflection that has been behind the introduction of this carnet scolaire and when does exactly the Minister intend to initiate the discussions between the different stakeholders in order to put forward the carnet scolaire which he intends to put forward in January?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think it is something that is already taking place in many countries.
In fact, in Mauritius, in schools which are not ours, we have the use of carnets scolaire. Hon. Bodha, I think, made mention of a list of 35 parameters on which students are noted and I mentioned that it is going to keep some sort of record of the behaviour, the conduct, the achievement, the performance of the child. I think we have given enough explanation. What is going to happen is that this will follow the child from Standard I till he leaves school at HSC or School Certificate or whatever class the child decides to leave school. It is going to follow the child from the beginning to the end. Of course, as I said, if the child or the parent happens to do something which is not acceptable, this will appear in the carnet scolaire and then at the time when the leaving certificate will be given, it will be taken care.
CENTRAL FLACQ TRAFFIC CENTRE – STUDENTS – VIOLENCE CASES (29/06/10)
(No. 1B/144) Mr D. Khamajeet (Second Member for Flacq &Bon Accueil) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications whether, in regard to reported cases of violence committed on students at the Central Flacq Traffic Centre since the beginning of the year to-date, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to –
(a) the number, and
(b) the remedial actions that will be taken to avert the recurrence thereof.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that since the beginning of the year, seven cases of violence committed on students at the Central Flacq Traffic Centre have been reported to the Police. All these cases are under investigation.
I am advised that the following measures have already been taken by the Police to combat violence perpetrated on students at the Central Flacq Traffic Centre -
(i) policing at the traffic centre has been reviewed and reinforced so as to render Police more visible in the area. Special directives for policing at the traffic centres have been issued;
(ii) the Divisional Support Unit (DSU) supported by the Divisional Traffic Police (DTP), Emergency Response Services (ERS) and Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs are performing regular patrols and checks;
(iii) crackdown operations are organised jointly with the Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs and the National Children’s Council with a view to discouraging students from loitering around and become easy preys to violence;
(iv) Police patrols are being intensified at the Central Flacq Traffic Centre and also in the proximity of educational institutions as a preventive measure to combat violence against students, and
(v) a Safety and Security Week will be organised at the Central Flacq Youth Centre from 26 August to 05 September 2010 with a view to working closely with the community in the fight against crime and ensuring a safer environment.
Mr Speaker: Time is over. Questions addressed to hon. Ministers! Hon. Fakeemeah.
REGIS CHAPERON STATE SECONDARY SCHOOL - STUDENTS EXPULSION (24/05/11)
(No. B/383) Mr J. Seetaram (Second Member for Montagne Blanche & GRSE) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the recent expulsion of two students of the Regis Chaperon State Secondary School, he will state the reasons therefor.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I wish to reply to Parliamentary Questions B/383 and B/405 together as they relate to the same subject.
I must say, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for the primary sector, it is not the practice to expel any pupil from school.
As regards the secondary schools, in the private sector, the PSSA has been asked to gather the information sought and I am informed that it is being compiled and will be laid as soon as possible in the Library of the Assembly.
As for the state secondary, two students have been expelled from Dr. Regis Chaperon State Secondary School on 19 April 2011 on ground of very serious misconduct. Both students aged 17 and 18 respectively were repeaters of Lower VI.
My Ministry, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, has been informed that these two students have a long history of repeated and very serious acts of indiscipline and unruly conduct, not only at school but also outside school since 2007. They are reported to be of a violent disposition and their acts of misbehaviour include abusive language, smoking, shirking classes, fighting, aggression, damaging property by band, assault on students at school. They also have police record for a number of offences committed both at school and outside, for instance in school buses.
The two students were involved in damaging an NTC bus and were arrested by the Police; a provisional charge of “Damaging property by Band” was lodged against them before the Rose Hill District Court on Monday 6 September 2010.
It is also worthwhile pointing out, as per report received, the two students were again involved on 3rd September 2010 in a serious incident for assaulting an ex-student of Regis Chaperon SSS admitted to John Kennedy College. The case was referred to the police.
This incident triggered gang fight between students of Dr. Regis Chaperon State Secondary School and John Kennedy College on 3rd September 2010 and both students were reported to be gang leaders. Offences were charged against both students as per Police report.
The incidents continued in 2011 and culminated in another serious offence where, on 24 March 2011, both students entered a computer class with a group of students and in the presence of the teacher dragged another student outside to beat him. The teacher did his best to intervene with the help of another colleague. However the two students did not heed.
When the parent of the victimized student came to school, there was a scuffle between the parent and the two students in the presence of the Rector.
All these incidents involving acts of serious indiscipline had reached alarming
proportions and were beyond tolerable limits and the situation called for immediate action as other students were showing signs of emulating such behaviour.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I wish to highlight that these students had been warned on several occasions and been subjected to rustication and detention and as such been given ample opportunity to amend. Their parents too had been informed regularly and warned of the consequences in case their wards persist in their bad ways. Police officers also talked to them as well as to their parents.
In addition, I have been informed that the School and the Educational Zone have made every effort to rehabilitate these two students and the following actions were initiated in this regard -
(i) they were referred to Educational Psychologist of the Zone and Educational
Social Worker to provide counselling services and advice and their parents were also convened for parental counselling;
(ii) individual counselling on values, respect for others, responsibilities and positive behaviour were provided;
(iii) two Senior Police Officers sensitised a group of students including the 2 students concerned and talked to parents on delinquency and discipline. The two students attended the talks on two occasions;
(iv) the case of the two students were on a number of occasions referred to Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs whenever they were caught in serious offences.
The Brigade visited the school a number of times and spoke to the students in the presence of the Rector;
(v) the Rector of the school did personal counselling with the two students on various occasions and met with the parents, giving them feedback on a regular basis, and
(vi) a letter of warning was issued prior to expulsion.
In spite of all the above initiatives, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there was no progress, and the students continued to be involved in acts of serious indiscipline. Moreover, it was noted that the parents also were not showing the interest expected in what was being done in terms of counselling by a team, comprising an educational psychologist and an educational social worker.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in view of the serious acts of misbehaviour committed by both students and taking into account the opportunities provided to them to change, but given their obstinacy and persistence, the school had no choice but to recommend their expulsion for the sake of maintaining discipline and ensuring smooth running of the school and in order to prevent the situation at school to deteriorate further. Even the PTA of the school made a strong plea on 25 March 2011 for the immediate expulsion of the two students on the grounds that students of the school were in an atmosphere of fear and terror.
Taking into account the history of repeated misbehaviour and the seriousness of the last incident on 24 March 2011, both the School Disciplinary Committee and the Zone Directorate 4 strongly recommended the expulsion of two students.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we have to send a strong signal to parents and the country at large that such behaviour would not be tolerated. On the other hand, it is our duty to protect disciplined students and to create an environment which is conducive to teaching and learning at school, and to instil positive behaviour.
I wish to inform the House that, following the expulsion of the students, they have not been left dans le vide. The Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs was requested to provide back-up support in terms of monitoring and follow-up to the two students. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare was called upon to give psychological support and advice to them and to their families. The school has been requested to inform the President of the PTA of the exact circumstances leading to the expulsion.
At the level of my Ministry, we are in the process of setting up a cell with multidisciplinary team; comprising an educational psychologist, educational social worker, officers of the Career Guidance Service and pedagogues to provide dedicated assistance and career guidance to such students.
My Ministry, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, is closely monitoring the situation, in collaboration with relevant authorities, so that the best possible guidance can be given to the two students who have been expelled from school and to their families.
Mr Seetaram: I thank the hon. Minister for his answer. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will simply ask the hon. Minister whether he can consider to introduce or to provide particular criteria, which would give an indication as to when or how incidents or cases might lead to expulsion of students.
Dr. Bunwaree: As I have said, we have tried all that was humanely possible.
The students of this country must understand what the real meaning of school is. We are not going to tolerate such behaviour outre mesure.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, since the two questions have been combined, I hope you will allow me a few questions. Being given that we are all in agreement in this House with the hon. Minister that there is a need to protect the school community from student elements that can be very disruptive and a danger, will the hon. Minister confirm whether there are clear guidelines, a sort of protocol that is made available and circulated to all institutions in the
country, both State and private, laying down procedures, ensuring protection of the school community, but also that the students concerned are given the right to a fair hearing, appeal etc?
If that exists - I think not - will the hon. Minister lay a copy thereof on the Table of the Assembly? If not, will the hon. Minister see to it that, in a dialogue with the private sector, such a procedure is laid down for guidance in the future?
Dr. Bunwaree: I don’t think it does exist, as being mentioned by the hon. Member. It is a fact that guidelines are set to schools about discipline. In every secondary school essentially, there is a Disciplinary Committee. There is someone who heads that Committee and who looks after all these things. I must say that these two students themselves have come forward in public, and have expressed their regrets. Of course, as I also mentioned in my reply, we have not left them like that. They can no longer be accepted in the school - this is a decision that has been taken - but we are seeing what the best course of action is, because these two students are students of Lower Six, which means that they must have done more or less well at the School Certificate. So, we cannot leave them like that. But the strong message - I want it to be in the heads of parents and students - is that we are not going to tolerate such action.
Mr Obeegadoo: Precisely, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I think the hon. Minister has missed the point. From his long answer, it seems that the action which was taken was not only justified but long overdue. In fact, since the private sector right now has no guidance from the PSSA on this issue, as the hon. Minister is aware, my appeal to the hon. Minister is that some dialogue should take place with the private sector and common procedures clearly laid down for all
rectors, institutions, to act in a timely and effective manner to protect the school community.
Dr. Bunwaree: For the private sector, I do agree. There is a work which is being done.
In fact, part of the question concerns the private sector, and I have been given some information.
There have been some cases of expulsion since the beginning of this year; three or four. I believe this number may not reflect the exact situation, and so I am waiting for that. But, of course, the guidelines are supposed to be for the private sector as well. We are going to look into the matter and take that point into consideration.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister mentioned that these two students have a long history of repeated unruly conduct and violent disposition. May I ask the hon. Minister whether there is a record since when these students have started showing such behaviour and whether, at that particular point in time, any help was given to them?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, everything appears in my reply. I think I mentioned that it was in 2007. All the efforts that have been put into force since then speak for themselves. I can’t repeat the same thing. In fact, much has been done than what I have mentioned, but for the sake of the reply, I had to cut it short.
Everything has been done to try to récupérer ces enfants; unfortunately!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, now that students are becoming more and more undisciplined in many schools, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether the Ministry should not consider having permanent counselling services or psychological support in those schools that are more difficult than others.
Dr. Bunwaree: We are contemplating it to be on a permanent basis but, of course, we need more means to be able to that. It would be ideal. For the time being, we have been able to identify a certain number of colleges where the problem is more acute, and we are concentrating there. Of course, it has to be on a permanent basis.
Mr Dayal: May I know from the hon. Minister how many psychologists we have for these State secondary schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have a dozen of psychologists at the level of the Ministry.
Mr Dayal: Does the hon. Minister consider it sufficient…
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Member should come with a specific question on that issue of psychologist. I will allow two last questions; one from hon. Mrs Labelle and one from hon. Obeegadoo.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, true it is that the hon. Minister has mentioned several measures. He has also mentioned the support from educational psychologist and educational social worker. I have not heard the hon. Minister talking about clinical or behavioural psychologist. It is clear that these students were suffering from serious behavioural problems. Doesn’t the hon. Minister think that the educational psychologist and the social worker were appropriate references to send these students? The hon. Minister even talked about the help that was proposed to them afterwards like the Brigade des Mineurs and so on. I have not heard anything about clinical or behavioural psychologist.
Dr. Bunwaree: Clinical psychologists are not available at the level of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. That is a weakness. We have made the request and we hope to be able to get a few, but they do exist at the level of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare and, in fact, whenever we need them, we seek the help of the Ministry and of my colleague to step in, and this has always been the case. On a regular basis, whenever we need the help of clinical psychologists, we knock at the door of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, but I have made the point at the level of the Government and Ministry that we need to have clinical psychologists at the level of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources itself.
Mr Obeegadoo: I have a supplementary question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, that does not refer to psychological counselling, that does not refer to police repression, but refers to schooling and education. Being given that compulsory education up to the age of 16 means that the State has the duty to ensure that each and every child and young person is provided with schooling up to age 16, quite apart from this case because here the children, the young people may have been more than 16, I don’t know, but in a general manner, since with violence in schools there may now be the need increasingly to remove young persons from the school community before the age of 16, will the Minister consider, as in other countries where there is compulsory education, that alternative structures be created where such children and young people can be given the education and schooling up to age 16 plus in addition counselling as may be appropriate?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I fully agree with this. In these cases, the students were 17 and 18. I have mentioned it. In fact, that was the first criteria I considered when the file came to me. I would never have gone in the same direction if it were a child less than 16. I can assure the House about that in the present context of our country, but in this case, there were students aged 17 and 18. I fully agree with the hon. Member on the point that was raised.
SCHOOLS - STUDENTS - ABSENTEEISM - SMS SCHEME (24/05/11)
(No. B/384) Mr J. Seetaram (Second Member for Montagne Blanche & GRSE) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Scheme whereby parents are informed of the absence of their children at school through SMS, he will state if he will now consider extending same to all schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the SMS-based System commonly known as the e-Register System, is a collaborative venture between my Ministry and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, with a view to curbing unjustified absences and truancy as well as continued lateness of some students to schools. The system has been introduced since 9 February 2011 on a pilot basis in 21 secondary schools. i.e. 17 State and 4
private aided schools, and in spite of some intermittent technical problems, mainly due to the internet bandwidth capacity, the system is working rather smoothly.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in view of the successful implementation of the project in the pilot schools, a decision has already been taken since early March 2011 to roll out the system to the 138 remaining secondary schools.
At this point in time, I am informed that 90 out of the 138 remaining schools have already confirmed their participation in the project. These include –
(a) All the remaining 48 State Secondary Schools and the 9 Mahatma Gandhi
Secondary schools, and
(b) 33 out of a total of 85 private aided secondary schools.
The other 48 private aided secondary schools are still being sensitised to join the system and in this connection, the following crucial steps have already been initiated by my Ministry -
(a) sensitisation of the Rectors and the school staff on the importance of the
(b) seeking of parental written consent by the school with a view to securing their collaboration;
(c) training of the users, and
(d) data collection and entry into the system.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the rolling out of the system would also involve the upgrading of the technical capacity of the Government On-line Centre (GOC) as well as the transmission capacity of the SMS gateway hosted thereat. These technical issues are currently being looked at by my Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and once sorted out, the system would be implemented gradually over a period of
two months in the 90 schools which have, so far, agreed to join the project.
It is expected that some 40 schools, I am told, would be connected to the e-Register System by the end of June 2011 and the remaining 50 by July 2011.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, following a meeting held at my Ministry with the Rectors of the 21 pilot schools on Wednesday 18 May, 2011, it has been confirmed that the system has had a positive impact on the rate of absenteeism and lateness. My Ministry will therefore sustain efforts being made in a bid to combat the issue of absenteeism and lateness with the help of the e-Register System.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as a concluding remark, I would like to point out that the project has just taken off and in spite of technical problems, we have made considerable progress in implementing same, with also the consent of the majority of parents. Those who have, so far, not given their consent will continue to be sensitized. I am personally convinced that taking into
consideration the positive aspects of such a system, they will review their position.
Mr Seetaram: I thank the hon. Minister for his answer. As a matter of practice, if parents are made aware by SMS that, in fact, there has been absence or lateness by their respective children, can the hon. Minister or his Ministry consider finding a modus operandi for the parents to obtain release from their work to attend to the query?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is an immediate follow up. Once the parent is informed, we don’t just inform the parent and stay there. We try to contact the parent and see what can be done immediately. But to see whether the parents can get leave and so on, this will involve other institutions. I can assure the hon. Member in the House that everything is done to try to locate the child with the help of the parents.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, being given that this peculiarly Mauritian SMS system is about detection for the purposes of repression, what about prevention? Will the hon. Minister tell us whether he wishes to look at the root cause of the problem? Has the Minister commissioned a study of the phenomenon of absenteeism in schools to look into the causes as this is a phenomenon that affects more particularly State schools rather than private schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have conducted quite a few studies about that and we have already framed some sort of concept of what is happening but I feel we have to go deeper because there is the question of societal behaviours and coming up of new development of the country that has to be roped in and there is a unit that is working at the level of my Ministry. If the hon. Member has got any suggestion, it will be taken on board.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the rate of absenteeism goes up in an uncontrollable way during the third term. The fact that the scheme was brought in last year, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether the rate of absenteeism went down during the third term.
Dr. Bunwaree: We have started this year in the month of February. So, we’ll have to wait for the end of the year.
Mr Obeegadoo: I would like to put it to the Minister that there has been no independent study of absenteeism. If there is a problem of weak management in State Schools, an in-house study will not point in the right direction. Will the Minister therefore consider commissioning an independent study, possibly the University of Mauritius, to look at this problem and produce a report that the Minister will lay before the House.
Dr. Bunwaree: We can look into that but I think we have enough competence at the level of the Ministry to understand the problem. But we will take that also on Board.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question from hon. Mrs Labelle!
Mrs Labelle: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I think the hon. Minister mentioned that several studies have been carried out regarding the problem of absenteeism. May we know from the hon. Minister who conducted these studies? Maybe he has in mind some of the findings of the several studies he referred to!
Dr. Bunwaree: If the hon. Member puts a proper question, I will give a proper reply.
The Deputy Speaker: Yes. Since, it is the hon. Member’s question, I will allow him a last one.
Mr Seetaram: Will the hon. Minister consider finding a way to tackle issues where parents do not participate in the scheme of SMS?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is a very relevant question because a few questions have been put which are not relevant to the main question.
I think this is what we should do and I appeal to hon. Members of this House to help because this project is a very good one, everyone is happy about it, instead of trying to rope in all sorts of things. I am prepared to reply, but they should put proper questions. This is an interesting question and I must inform the hon. Member that already more than 82% of parents have given their collaboration to this project. But in some cases - we have to be careful also - we have noticed that there could be the possibility of students trying to sign the consent paper themselves. We have to look into all this and I appeal to hon. Members and, through them, to all the parents of this country, to take their responsibility in this matter.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS – EXPELLED STUDENTS (24/05/11)
(No. B/405) Mr S. Obeegadoo (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the primary and secondary schools, he will state if any student thereof has been expelled therefrom, since the beginning of the academic year and, if so, will he give the reasons therefor, in each case.
(Vide reply to PQ No. B/383)
SC & HSC STUDENTS - THIRD TERM – ABSENTEEISM (28/06/11)
(No. B/580) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate students, he will state the measures his Ministry proposes to take to address the issue of their absenteeism during the third term.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, absenteeism in Secondary Schools especially at SC and HSC levels is a cause for concern. It is common knowledge that absenteeism level of SC and HSC students during the third term is relatively higher as compared to the first and second terms.
Students generally tend to absent themselves from school supposedly for revision purposes and being given that much of the syllabus is already covered by the end of the second term.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I do not subscribe to this. It is not pedagogically sound for students to absent themselves since teaching and learning has to take place in accordance with the approved school calendar which is made up of three terms of specific duration and known to one and all.
I wish to point out that the practice of absenteeism has been prevalent for a number of years and it has been the subject of discussion and consultation at the level of my Ministry with different stakeholders. In the context of the ongoing educational reforms process, my Ministry is addressing the issue as a priority and is considering various options. In fact, the Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008 – 2020 for the secondary sub-sector, highlights the need to define processes and a modus operandi to reduce absenteeism and put in place a monitoring mechanism. Accordingly, consideration is being given to the following proposals -
(i) The possibility of amending the Education regulations to make it mandatory for students of SC and HSC level to have an attendance of above 80% in order to qualify to sit for these examinations.
(ii) All schools be requested to monitor rigorously the level of attendance and only candidates having an attendance of above 80% would qualify to sit for the internal end of year examinations.
(iii) Spreading the curriculum over 3 terms (or over 6 terms in the case of HSC) such that the syllabus is completed in the third term.
(iv) Introduction of an attractive and well planned school based revision programme running until the start of the examinations.
(v) Enlisting the support of parents and PTA’s to encourage better attendance.
(vi) A strict enforcement of legal provision governing minimum requirements to compete for Laureateships to act as a deterrent against absenteeism. The Education Regulations regarding scholarships provide that for a student to be eligible for the award of the SSR National Scholarship or the State of Mauritius Scholarship, he shall not have been absent from school for more than ten school days in either of the two school years immediately preceding the first day on which is held the State of Mauritius Scholarship Examination for which he sits, exclusive of absences which the Principal of his school is satisfied are due to illness, absence from Mauritius approved for any other reasonable cause.
(vii) Achievement in attendance of students of different classes to be celebrated and given credit by the school (e.g. during the assembly).
(viii) Student’s attendance to be reckoned and a percentage of marks to be given for regular attendance in internal examinations.
(ix) Record of regularity and punctuality to appear on the Leaving Certificate of the student or any testimonial issued to him/her.
I have also requested, Mr Speaker, Sir, the MES to have consultation with the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) about the changes that may be brought to the rules and regulations governing eligibility for school students to sit for the SC and HSC examinations such that they be tied with a minimum attendance level.
The situation regarding absenteeism is being monitored at the level of my Ministry and the PSSA. The support of the PTA’s, parents and the educational community is essential in this endeavour.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether the 80% minimum presence he is referring to, does include the absence notes that are so graciously given by parents?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes. This is another problem. In fact, I was going to highlight that for HSC students going for laureates. They have to be present a number of days except if the absences are acceptable to the Principal. But there are, I must say, some Principals who fall in the trap and they try to say: okay; they are understandable and so on. We are looking into that.
It’s a major factor, I must say, and that applies also to the other students and not laureates only.
Mrs Ribot: Last question, Mr Speaker, Sir. I would also like to ask the hon. Minister to look into a very common practice nowadays; people who are not always in the teaching profession, take their annual leave to deliver very expensive crash courses to students as revision.
Would the hon. Minister kindly look into that matter too?
Dr. Bunwaree: I don’t know whether the hon. Member is saying in the school premises, but this is a question that has to be looked into.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister - in his answer he has mentioned a number of measures that his Ministry will take - whether these will be effective as of this third term coming up or are we talking about the next year, now?
Dr. Bunwaree: No. All these are already being looked into, measures will be taken very soon but then, we need to talk to Cambridge, as I mentioned. A delegation is coming in the month of July. So, we’ll have to sit with them also, and see what are the things that we can do immediately, but as soon as possible.
Ms Deerpalsing: As a follow-up to this answer, Mr Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister; what then, is going to be the case for this third term coming up, as we know that most students don’t go to school and teachers also, don’t attend school at all for the third term? So, what is his Ministry proposing to do for this third term coming up?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have to sensitise the teachers, the students and the parents, also.
Apart from that, for the time being, we are in a difficult situation, as I mentioned, and we are working on that. We hope to find the best solution. But, I must say, when I look at the figures, for example, for the month of April and May - let’s take these two figures for State Secondary Schools - last year, in the month of May it was 41.5% which is well unacceptable but this year, it is 38.3%. Despite the fact that we have heard on the news that in two or three schools, there have been some major problems, the problem is not going beyond control. It is still within the limits of what we used to see for the past few years. I believe that when these measures will come into force, some will need amendments to regulations. We should be able to find a better solution to this problem.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, what happens is that when the students don’t come, the teachers come to schools and see that the classes are empty, they go back home and give tuitions all day long. Can the hon. Minister make sure that schools take the presence of teachers?
They should be in the schools.
Dr. Bunwaree: This will be taken care of. But, more importantly, the teachers themselves end the syllabus too early. In fact, this is what is happening this year in some cases, the syllabus of HSC has already ended and we are not at the end of the second term. The teachers do that probably on purpose and this will have to be monitored. The Monitoring Unit at the level of the Ministry has to do a very important job.
Mr Ganoo: The hon. Minister has given the list of measures to solve the problem. Has his Ministry given thought to the possibility of preponing the exams in the case of SC and HSC students, that is, holding the exams earlier on, but not necessarily cancelling the third term completely?
Dr. Bunwaree: Thought has been given to that, but I don’t think it will solve the problem, because apart from academic, we are moving fast on extracurricular activities and we are even thinking of sending the students for stage, comme on dit, either work placement or social interventions.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Labelle and then hon. Obeegadoo.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, among the measures, the hon. Minister has mentioned that there is the intensive revision programme. True it is, all the measures mentioned can’t be implemented right now. But regarding the intensive revision programme, will the hon. Minister consider having this measure for this present year?
Dr. Bunwaree: Of course, if we have mentioned it, it has to be taken on board as soon as possible. In some cases, in some pilot schools, they are starting already, but it has to be generalised in the system.
Mr Obeegadoo: Does hon. Minister agree that the pattern shows that there are considerable variations from one school to another in terms of absenteeism and if so, has he looked into the causes thereof?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, there are links to many other aspects, for example, teachers who are more prone towards private tuitions, students who are doing extremely well. There so many other factors. They are being looked into.
Mr Obeegadoo: In that case, will he consider school leadership and school management, which is noticeably lacking from the list of measures envisage?
Dr. Bunwaree: No, I don’t agree with what is being said by the hon. Member.
STATE SECONDARY SCHOOLS - MARILYN MANSON CULTURE (28/06/11)
(No. B/589) Mr S. Dayal, (Third Member for Quartier Militaire & Moka) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the State Secondary Schools, he will state if a survey has been carried out in relation to the spread of the Marilyn Manson Culture thereat and, if so, indicate the outcome thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, at the very outset, I wish to highlight that there is a difference between what is referred to as Marylin Manson subculture and self-inflicted injuries by some students in certain specific circumstances. It is common knowledge that the Manson subculture is characterised by a number of features, including self-mutilation, selfinflicted cuts.
As stated in reply to Parliamentary Question B/824 on 08 July 2008 by the then Minister of Education and Human Resources, action had been initiated by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources for a survey to be carried out at the level of the four Zonal Directorates and the PSSA in order to assess the spread of the Manson Culture in our schools.
The survey, which covered I must say two or three months in that period, had revealed that there were two cases of self-inflicted mild injuries in one State Secondary School, and these cases were reported to the Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs. However, they were not evident cases of adherence to the Manson subculture. Parents of the students were informed, and those students were referred to the Educational Psychologist. There were also a few suspected cases of minor self-inflicted injuries in other schools which were followed up.
It is to be noted that there was no evidence of adherence to the Manson subculture among students in general. Nonetheless, my Ministry has been repeatedly drawing the attention of Heads of schools to the need to be vigilant and to report such cases forthwith. They were also advised to take preventive action against this phenomenon, and to curb the spread of such a culture in schools.
Special attention is being given by the National Education Counselling Services to reinforce sensitisation programmes, and guard students of the adverse effects.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in addition, I wish to inform the House that, with regard to preventive action against this phenomenon, I have had consultations and discussions with Mr S. Lauthan, social worker who, as we all know, is well versed and experienced in the matter. The latter had voluntarily offered his services, as and when required, with a view to assisting in the matter and this in the interest of the students’ community.
I shall be elaborating on the measures initiated in my forthcoming reply to Parliamentary Question B/599.
ROOTS OF EMPATHY PROGRAMME - CANADIAN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (05/07/11)
(No. B/633) Ms K. R. Deerpalsing (Third Member for Belle Rose & Quatre Bornes) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Roots of Empathy programme, he will state if his Ministry has had any contact with the Canadian Educational Institutions.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, one of the measures announced in the Government Programme 2010-2015 relates to the need to enlist community participation in dealing with cases of students with behavioural problems. Within the broader context of this measure, mention is made in the Government programme for internationally tested programmes like “Roots of
Empathy” to be introduced.
The ‘Roots of Empathy’ is an innovative Canadian Parenting Programme which provides for infants and parents to visit classrooms attended by students aged 4 –14 years. It aims at reducing students’ level of violence and aggression and promotes pro-social behaviour by raising the level of their empathy.
My Ministry had asked with the Mauritius Institute of Education to look into the ways and means in which the “Roots of Empathy” Programme could be incorporated in the Education System in Mauritius taking into account the objectives of the National Curriculum Framework where issues of values and citizenship are given prime importance. MIE has started establishing contacts with appropriate International agencies and organisations, including the Canadian organisation responsible for the “Roots of Empathy” Programme.
The implementation of such a programme will require both adaptations to the local context as well as relevant training of trainers so that MIE could subsequently establish a local network in line with its objective to initiate an early start in building capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting.
I must stress, Mr Speaker, Sir, that we are having recourse to a series of other measures so as to improve the behaviour of our children at school. The “Roots of Empathy” is one among many programmes from which we inspire ourselves in our endeavour to deal with behavioural problems of students and thereby inculcate the universal human values like honesty, sharing and compassion.
I am also in favour of promoting inter-culturalism at school level to reflect on respect and acceptance of the beliefs and cultures. In this regard, MIE has launched a programme entitled “Tous parents tous différents” to promote intercultural understanding among pupils of primary schools and this included painting, drama, songs and slam. A competition has also been organised to promote intercultural understanding among school children.
Moreover, I am keen on young students involving themselves in social and voluntary work that tends to have a sobering effect on the hyperactivity among the young.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to reassure the hon. Member that my Ministry will inspire itself with internationally tested programmes, based on best practices worldwide and including the ‘Roots of Empathy’ programme to instil an inclusive/sharing/helping behaviour that will promote the holistic development of our children and help them to become responsible citizens with universal educational and human values.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that the Canadian Roots of Empathy Programme is globally acclaimed to give results in very short time - so there is no need to reinvent the wheel- and whether the hon. Minister would take it at the level of his Ministry would take it at the level of his Ministry and not leave it to the MIE to have these contacts?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is at the level of the Ministry, but MIE has been given certain specific activities and work to do. Of course, we know the programme very well. In fact, it has left Canada and it has gone through some other countries, but we have to take also in consideration the background of children which are not necessarily the same in the various country.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, this Roots of Empathy programme, actually, is implemented in Canada in which students from various backgrounds are there. Canada is not a homogeneous society. There are multi-cultural and diversity programmes. Is the hon. Minister aware that the Roots of Empathy programme going beyond teaching empathy has been proven to have positive impact on the cognitive abilities of children as well?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, many assessments have been already carried out on this programme. It started in 1996, but I must say, even in Canada, my information is that all the States have not put into practice. We have to take into consideration some other aspects. I must inform the hon. Member that the programme is well known and internationally known. There are other countries with very important programmes giving many better results also which we have to take into consideration and this is not known worldwide.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether his Ministry has a time frame onto which this programme could be at least try on a pilot basis in Mauritius?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, we are doing so many things in schools going in this line, but we don’t have a specific time frame. We have to allow some of the ground work to give positive results for us to integrate in all the other programmes we want to practice.
At 1.00 p.m the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.33 p.m. with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
SIMADREE VEERASAMY STATE SECONDARY SCHOOL – INCIDENT – 09 MAY 2012 (22/05/12)
(No. B/125) Mrs P. K. Bholah (First Member for Piton & Rivière du Rempart) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the incident which occurred at the Simadree Veerasamy State Secondary School, at Rivière du Rempart, on or about 9 May 2012, whereby a student was injured, he will state if an inquiry has been carried out into the circumstances thereof and if so, the outcome thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, following information received to the effect that an incident, involving a student in Form IV Miss R. M., aged 14 years occurred at the Simadree Veerasamy State Secondary School on Wednesday 09 May 2012, my Ministry immediately requested that an inquiry be carried out to look into the circumstances which led to that tragic accident involving a student who was reported to have jumped from the first floor of the
laboratory block of the school and got injured.
The Directorate Zone 1 carried out an inquiry on the same day and the matter was also reported to the Police which called at the school promptly. The Rector and the school personnel have given appropriate statements to the Police. The Police also took the statement from the student on her version. The outcome of the Police inquiry is being awaited.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in view of the sensitive nature of this case, involving a minor student who is under treatment and is mentally disturbed, it would not be in the interest of any party at this stage, to provide further details on this particular aspect of this case.
However, I wish to point out that the management of the school, upon occurrence of that incident on Wednesday 09 May 2012, immediately made arrangement for the student to be conveyed to the SSRN Hospital for treatment.
According to information obtained from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, the student had multiple fractures.
On the same day, the Zonal Directorate for Zone 1 arranged for two educational psychologists and one educational social worker of the National Education Counselling Service of the Ministry to be sent to the school. They had working sessions with the Zonal Administrator, the Deputy Rector and the Usher.
Sensitisation and talks were held with the three Form IV classes with a view to reassuring the other students. Back up support had also been provided to students in need of counselling.
As a preventive measure, particular attention is also being given to those students who were close friends of the injured student. Officers of the National Education Counselling Service are visiting the school regularly to provide support to the students.
I would like to inform the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as per report received from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, that the student has shown good post-operative recovery and has stable vital signs. She is being regularly seen by a general surgeon and a psychiatrist.
Medical and supportive care as well as psychotherapy are being provided to her
Mrs Bholah: Given that so many incidents are taking place in our schools, including violence, does not the hon. Minister think it a priority to have in each school a Health and Safety Officer posted on a permanent basis?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is another question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. If it is put properly, I will certainly reply. But I can assure the hon. Member that priority is already being given to security in schools, but there are so many problems annexed that we have to take care of, there are many stakeholders also involved. In fact, we are reinforcing what is already existent in our
schools to see to it that we get better results.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether he is envisaging to have a table ronde with all stakeholders to address the issue of attempt at suicide among the youth today?
Dr. Bunwaree: This can be envisaged. It is not being envisaged immediately because there is so much work being done, but at some point in time it could be a good proposal.
Mr Jhugroo: I know that it is a very sensitive issue. Can I ask the hon. Minister whether any teacher on that particular date accused that student of being a thief and if so, what measures have been taken against that teacher?
Dr. Bunwaree: As I said, and the hon. Member has guessed, in fact, there are so many things that have been said. There are many allegations. I think that because of this sensitive nature, that lady is traumatised and I would wish not to enter into these details here, but if the hon. Member or Members want to see me personally, especially hon. Mrs Bholah who is a Member of the Constituency, I am prepared to give her all the information.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, my colleague, hon. Mrs Bholah, has mentioned the question of security, but I think that it is more a question of psychological support to students than security, though security also is important. Can the hon. Minister say whether he proposes to reinforce psychological support in schools by increasing the number of psychologists employed at the Ministry?
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, I partially already replied to this question just now. We are trying to do our best. We are enrolling a few more psychologists in the course of this Budget. But I must say and reassure the House that a team of professionals are attending in this particular case that student. We have educational psychologists, educational social worker, the National
Education Counseling Service, a psychiatrist who is taking care of her at the level of the hospital, a psychologist from the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, the Brigade des Mineurs and, of course, the management of the school itself.
Mrs Radegonde: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I heard the hon. Minister stating lots of curative measures: psychologists being sent to the school, social worker and preventive measure offering support to the friends of that student. In view of the seriousness of the problem affecting many schools, I can say, may I ask the hon. Minister if it is proposed to implement a prevention strategy policy to avoid recurrences?
Dr. Bunwaree: We do have a strategy which we are looking into, in fact, in view of reinforcing and we are liaising with the various Ministries involved and stakeholders to go in line with what the hon. Member is saying.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question, hon. Mrs Ribot!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister if, instead of having psychologists in schools only when the need arises, is it not high time to consider having full time trained counsellors attached to each and every school?
Dr. Bunwaree: We are coming also with the question of counselors in schools.
The question is being discussed with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. I cannot offhand say when it is going to happen, but this is an idea that has already been taken into consideration at the level of the Ministry.
The Deputy Speaker: Next question!
SECONDARY SCHOOLS – THIRD TERM – ABSENTEEISM (29/05/12)
(No. B/184) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to absenteeism at secondary school level, he will state the -
(a) rate thereof during the third term of 2010 and 2011 respectively ;
(b) number of short messages that have been sent to the parents of the students thereof during the third term of 2011, and
(c) other measures his Ministry proposes to take to address the issue of absenteeism.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a) of the question, I am informed that the rate of absenteeism for the third term for State Secondary schools was -
• In 2010: 28.0 %
• In 2011: 18.3 %
As it can be seen, the rate of absenteeism has witnessed a significant decrease of 9.7% in 2011 as compared to 2010 during the third term.
Regarding the rate of absenteeism in private secondary schools, the list is being compiled and will be tabled shortly.
As regards part (b) of the question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that a total of 153,780 SMSs were sent to parents of students during the third term of 2011 and this is in respect of students in State Secondary Schools and 11 private schools under the e-Register System.
Concerning part (c) of the question, as stated in my reply to PQ B/580 on 28 June 2011, absenteeism in secondary schools, especially at School Certificate and Higher School Certificate levels, is a cause for concern, inasmuch as it is not pedagogically sound for students to absent themselves since teaching and learning is a continued process over the three terms of the approved school calendar.
I also stated that the issue has been the subject of discussions and consultations with stakeholders and various options are being considered. In this regard, we have been working towards a structured mechanism to reduce absenteeism and promote a culture of regularity at schools. It is worthwhile pointing out that absenteeism figures for 2011, as I have mentioned, have already shown a significant decrease.
Allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, to highlight a few measures being taken at the level of my Ministry to combat absenteeism -
(a) schools have been requested to closely monitor attendance with a view to bringing remedial and corrective actions;
(b) the SMS-based system has been rolled out in all State Secondary schools and is being extended to all private secondary schools;
(c) action is being initiated for rectors to reflect the attendance level of students on their Student Leaving Certificates;
(d) we are also envisaging the introduction of a reward scheme to encourage high attendance rates;
(e) policy guidelines have been given for spreading the curriculum over three terms and having a well planned school-based revision programmes until the start of the examinations will be implemented, and
(f) in addition, we are seeking consensus with relevant stakeholders to postponing the mock examinations to the beginning of the third term instead of at the end of the second term. We are discussing the possibility of reckoning students’ attendance and assigning a percentage of marks for regular attendance in internal examinations.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I wish to add that further discussions were held with the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate (MES) and the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) regarding a proposal for making it mandatory for students of School Certificate and Higher School Certificate to have a minimum level of attendance in order to qualify to sit for these examinations. There are implications regarding this proposal which are still being studied -
(a) for instance attendance levels of students will have to be determined over the three terms which is spread over the ten months. As we are aware fees are paid in April/May and such fees are not refundable. This may result in non-refund of the examination fee which is partly funded by Government in respect of needy families.
I am, however, open to any proposal on this issue. Members of the House are also welcomed to submit their views and proposals, and
(b) it is also to be noted that following amendments made to the Education Act, to provide for control of additional tuition, action is being initiated for the finalization of Regulations which will enable registration of educators of Secondary Schools wishing to provide such tuition. Such additional tuition, when and where it is allowed, will not be tolerated during school hours. This would allow a better control.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as I have mentioned above, we are determined to combat the problem of absenteeism. However, this requires the full support of all stakeholders, including Rectors, Educators, Parents and PTAs. The decreasing trend in absenteeism observed over the recent months is indeed a sign of encouragement.
In order to improve attendance level further, my Ministry is deploying every possible effort to promote a culture of regularity and attendance in all schools while taking on board the above measures enunciated.
The Deputy Speaker: The reply of the hon. Minister being so elaborate and
comprehensive, I am going to allow only two supplementary questions, one from hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun and …
I will come back to you…
I will come back to you there.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun!
Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun please go ahead with your question, you wanted to ask a question.
I will go back to her.
I am allowing hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun to ask her question.
The relevancy and the number of questions depend upon me! If I am satisfied that the question has been amply…
…debated, I decide upon the number of questions!
Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister …
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun please go ahead!
Please go ahead!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether any survey has been carried out to…
May I ask the hon. Minister whether any survey has been carried out…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo, please remain quiet!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: …to determine why students tend to absent themselves…
The Deputy Speaker: Remain quiet please!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: … within the third term?
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Member, repeat your question please!
There is no complot.
The question, Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun!
Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir,…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun, please go ahead with your question!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether any survey has been carried out to determine why students tend to absent themselves during the third term in schools and colleges of the country.
Dr. Bunwaree: Of course, not only one, but a few surveys have been conducted. We know the reasons, but we are finding the solutions.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Ribot!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know if the Minister is aware that private schools have no usher and therefore are short of personnel and as such, they cannot afford to send SMS to parents of absentees. I would like to know what steps are going to be taken to address the issue?
Dr. Bunwaree: They cannot afford! I cannot understand this. I will look into the matter.
In fact, this should be something that is taken care of by the management with the help of the Ministry and the PSSA.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am not quite satisfied with the answer of the hon. Minister that Rectors – they cannot afford as they do not have the personnel. How can they join that scheme? Or, is it a scheme reserved only for State schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: My information is that all the private secondary schools are going to be taken care of this year. Last year we had only a few, around ten or eleven and this year it will be all of them. I will try to look if they have any difficulties.
The Deputy Speaker: Next question hon. Baloomoody!
SUICIDE – CHILDREN/TEENAGERS (05/06/12)
(No. B/228) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the
Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to the children and teenagers who attempt suicide, she will state the policy of her Ministry, if any, in relation thereto, indicating if it is proposing to carry out a study in connection therewith.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that the mandate of my Ministry is to provide psycho-social support to all children victims of violence.
If, within the course of intervention by the multi-disciplinary team at the level of the Family Support Bureau, it is observed that the minor has or displays suicidal tendencies, the case is referred to the Life Plus Unit (formerly known as Suicide Prevention Unit) for appropriate intervention at the level of the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions.
The case of attempt at suicide is also referred for psychiatric treatment to the Min
istry of Health & Quality of Life. The minor is then followed by the mental health professionals of that Ministry.
Therefore, the proposal to carry out a study in connection therewith does not rest with my Ministry.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the cases are referred to the Ministry for Gender and Family and Welfare of Children. There is an increasing trend of attempt of suicide and we have received the information from the hon. Minister herself. And I am a bit surprised that the hon. Minister does not seem that much concerned about attempt of suicide by teenagers. Among the cases reported to her Ministry are cases registered at the CDU and, as far as I know, CDU is under her Ministry and she does not seem to be a bit concerned. So, I am just wondering. If the cases are being referred to CDU and if it is not her concern, should it not be more proper then to direct this person at the first instance to the Ministry concerned instead of them going to the Ministry where there is nothing done? So, what is the policy of the Ministry?
Mrs Martin: I have just explained, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Unfortunately, the hon. Member did not pay attention to my answer. I have to say Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir…
I have to say, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir,…
The Deputy Speaker: Don't make any unpleasant remark hon. Jhugroo.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have to …
The Deputy Speaker: Everything has been going on smoothly. Since morning why do you make unpleasant remarks? Please refrain from making harsh remarks you to.
Mrs Martin: The hon. Member was saying…..
The Deputy Speaker: The mood was very rightly set in the morning. Please, give your answer. Order please!
Mrs Martin: The hon. Member was making as if children and teenagers who attempt at suicide are no concern of my Ministry. This is not true, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. What I said was that we treat children with all cases of violence and if suicidal tendencies are noted, they are immediately referred to the Life Plus Unit of the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions and in case of attempt at suicide, I repeat, it is also referred for psychiatric treatment to the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. Therefore, we do refer those cases, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Dr. S. Boolell: Can I ask the hon. Minister whether she has psychologists in her Ministry who visit these children after school hours and during weekends when the children are out of school and are available for support and treatment?
Mrs Martin: In cases of suicide, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as I have said, the Ministry of Social Security has a unit which takes care of these cases and I am also informed that there are psychologists who work at the level of schools as well.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I should say I am a bit surprised by the reply of the Minister because the question is related to the policy of her Ministry and the reply she gave was not the policy of her Ministry. The reply she gave is related to the mechanism which has been put in place whereby a child is referred here or there or to a particular Ministry.
This is not the policy. With the increased tendency to attempt to suicide regarding teenagers, I believe this is a deep societal problem which requires an in-depth study. Can the Minister say whether as Minister responsible for child protection, she will not go ahead and - because she said the question does not arise – doesn’t she see the need for a study in that direction?
Mrs Martin: Again, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will be treated as arrogant if I say that they did not listen to the answer, but they did not listen to the answer. I never said…
The Deputy Speaker: Let the Minister reply, please.
Mrs Martin: I never said that the proposal to carry out a study is not important to my Ministry. I said that the proposal to carry out a study in connection with the question does not rest with my Ministry. There have been studies already carried out at the level of different other Ministries, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Mr Bérenger: Can I know from the hon. Minister, her Ministry is responsible for Child Development and Family Welfare. Now, the whole country has been very disturbed by the number of attempt suicides by young people, teenagers. Her Ministry is responsible for Child Development and Family Welfare. Can I know whether she has any figure for the number of such attempts at suicide and suicide for 2011 and 2012 today?
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I only have the cases of children with suicidal tendencies, attempts at suicide reported at the CDU for 2012. The total is some 20 children, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, plus five cases of suicide per se.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, my concern is: we have a Ministry for Child Development and Family Welfare. Am I correct in stating that the country expects a Ministry for Child Development and Family Welfare to protect our children and to give the necessary support to families who are experiencing such dramatic situations? Since the beginning of the year, we have got five suicides among our youth and it is being said, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, when you have one suicide, you have, at least, ten attempts of suicide. Is the hon. Minister aware of that and what is she doing, as a person responsible for child development and welfare of the family? More so is the Minister aware when a close relative has committed suicide, it increases the vulnerability of the other siblings in the house. What is the Ministry doing for all these issues? This is my concern Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Mrs Martin: Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. The question relates to children and teenagers who attempt suicide, but I will give the information with regard to families as well, what we do. Like I’ve said, we refer the cases to the different Ministries concerned, but in cases of violence with hints of suicidal tendencies, when these are referred to my Ministry, there is an initial assessment which is done at the level of the Family Welfare and Protection Office following which the case is referred to psychologists also for intervention and then, an interview is conducted with the minor’s parents to analyse the factors leading to such behaviour. We carry out interviews with the minor for a proper mental status examination and an overall psychological evaluation as well and once the underlying causal factors are established, psychotherapeutic treatment is initiated and counselling is done to the family of
the minor regarding support and approach to be adopted vis-à-vis the minor.
Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as you see, we are also concerned and we take care as well of the families who are concerned with that problem.
Mr Bérenger: Obviously there is this serious issue of attempt of suicide of young people and teenagers. It is becoming a very serious issue. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, clearly it involves not only the Ministry responsible for Child Development and Family Welfare, but also the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Social Security and obviously the Commissioner of Police. Can I appeal to the Ag. Prime Minister who is a pédiatre that he should take up this issue with the Prime Minister and set up a committee where those Ministries or Ministers will be involved and thrashed things out – the Ministries responsible for Child Development and Family Welfare, Health Social Security and the Commissioner of Police.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I answer this question.
Mr Bérenger: You are not the acting Prime Minister.
Mrs Martin: I know that the Leader of the Opposition asked this question to the hon. Ag. Prime Minister, but I must inform him that I have already spoken to the hon. Minister of Education, to hon. Minister of Social Security and to the hon. Minister of Health as well.
They are all agreeable to see in what way we can sit together so that big minds just have the same ideas.
The Deputy Speaker: All is better now. Hon. Jhugroo no discourteous remarks please!
Mr Jhugroo: We just heard there have been 20 attempts of suicide. Can the hon. Minister confirm whether this number has increased since she took office?
Mrs Martin: I won’t be able to say, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I don’t have the information.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Obeegadoo, last question!
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in this area, the NGOs and, in particular, Befrienders undertake a very important pre-emptive work. I would like to know if there is any collaboration between her Ministry and Befrienders concerning children, young people in such a situation and, if so, what is the nature of such collaboration?
Mrs Martin: Unfortunately, I do not have that information, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
The Deputy Speaker: The Table has been advised that PQ B/203 will now be replied by the Attorney-General. PQ Nos. B/203, B/229, B/230, B/231, B/232, B/234, B/235, B/237, B/238, B/239, B/241 and B/242 have been withdrawn.
CHILD PROSTITUTION – STUDY (26/06/12)
(No. B/374) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to child prostitution, she will state if any study has been carried out to assess the extent thereof, and, if so, indicate the -
(a) findings thereof, and
(b) measures that will be taken in relation thereto.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Minister! Hon. Minister! No. Order, please! Hon. Dr. Sorefan, let the hon. Minister reply please. Cool down.
Dr. Bunwaree: I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Minister has withdrawn. Yes, please go ahead with the question.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that a first study on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Mauritius and Rodrigues was carried out…
The Deputy Speaker: It’s done now. The hon. Minister has withdrawn. Let us listen to the reply of the Minister.
Mrs Martin: …with the assistance of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organisation in an attempt…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Aimée, please keep quiet!
Mrs Martin: … to assess the magnitude of the problem, and to identify the leading causes of CSEC in Mauritius. A second study was thereafter carried out in 2001 by the University of Mauritius, with the assistance of the UNICEF, and published in 2002.
As regards to part (a) of the question, I am informed that the main findings of these studies indicated that there may be as many as 2,600 children involved in prostitution. These children were early school dropouts, who mostly came from broken families, with a monthly income of less than Rs5,000. Over 25% of these children were reported to have used drugs.
CSEC took place mostly at nightclubs and hotels with the majority of local clients. Taxi drivers and hotel employees were reported to be involved.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with respect to part (b), a series of measures have been taken to prevent and progressively eliminate CSEC, and also to protect CSEC victims and ensure their recovery and integration in society. The full support and collaboration of all stakeholders, ranging from Government organisations, parastatal bodies to NGOs have been enlisted in an integrated and holistic approach, and has been adopted based on the following four components, namely coordination and cooperation, prevention, protection, recovery and reintegration.
As regards coordination and cooperation, a National Child Protection Committee, now known as the Working Together Committee, comprising of various key partners provides the basis for a network of cooperation for inter-agency work for protection of children.
Prevention. Information, education and communication campaigns are ongoing to educate both parents and children on the problems and issues relevant to commercial sexual exploitation, namely through schoolchild protection clubs and l’école des parents. Sensitisation campaigns are also pursued on a regular basis, through talks delivered at schools and to the community at large on the need to protect children from harm and abuse.
As concerns protection, professionals such as family welfare and protection officers, police officers, probation officers working with children have been trained with a view to providing better services to victims of CSEC. NGOs and community-based associations are becoming more involved in tackling CSEC. With this greater involvement, there has been a better understanding of the issues related to CSEC.
Recovery and reintegration. A drop-in centre is operational in Bell Village, and a new residential care drop-in centre for the development and protection of children from any form of sexual abuse and exploitation has been constructed…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Aimée!
Mrs Martin: …at the Grand Rivière North West. The building, with a capacity to accommodate 32 children aged between 9 to 18 years, is expected to be operational before the end of this year.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am very surprised to hear that the last study was carried out in 2003, and hearing the hon. Minister, it is as if I am reading the answer to the PQ of the hon. Prime Minister in July 2008. I wanted to ask the hon. Minister whether she doesn't think that it is more than high time that a study be carried out now on child prostitution.
Mrs Martin: I must inform the hon. Member that there has been an evaluation report following the studies that have been published in 2002. But I do agree with the hon. Member that it is time for us to do another study, so that we can really assess the current situation.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the United States Department of State in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 stated that there is, allow me to quote, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir - “The government’s efforts to coordinate among all relevant ministries, however, remained lacking, leading to inconsistent provision of protective and investigative services to trafficking victims.”
The report is talking, of course, about children and so on. May I ask the hon. Minister whether she has taken cognizance of this report, and whether there is any particular action which has been initiated following this report?
Mrs Martin: Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have taken cognizance of this report, which also says that, and I quote - “The government sustained its protection of child trafficking victims during the reporting period(…)” and dedicated significant financial resources to expanding existing assistance options.
They also further added that - “The Minors Brigade systematically refers all cases of identified children in prostitution to the CDU for victim assistance”.
But I do agree also with the hon. Member that there is necessity to coordinate all the different aspects, and we are actually doing so at the level of the Working Together Committee, where we will be signing shortly a different memorandum of understanding between the different stakeholders and the Ministry in order to enable a better coordination.
Mr Bérenger: To clarify a point, Mr Deputy Speaker. If I heard the hon. Minister correctly, she said that there are 2,600 children unfortunately involved in child prostitution. At the same time, she said that the last survey report dates back to 2002-2003. Is that figure of 2,600 from the 2002-2003 report or is it an update, therefore, an estimate, as of to date, of what was found then?
Mrs Martin: The hon. Leader of the Opposition would recall that he also asked a PNQ about this to the hon. Prime Minister. Actually, the number that is mentioned here is based on the 2002 report.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in the 2002 report, it was pointed out that 62% of children exploited sexually have someone engaged in prostitution in their close environment. I would like to know from the hon. Minister what is the policy of her Ministry to protect such children.
Mrs Martin: Actually, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, whenever a case is reported to us or whenever the Brigade des Mineurs goes on intervention and finds the case, we immediately take charge of the child, and take every action necessary in order to protect the child.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I heard the hon. Minister saying that assistance is given to children who have been identified to be engaged in prostitution, and that the cases are reported to the CDU and assistance is given to those children. May I ask the hon. Minister what type of assistance is given to the children, and what are the supports that are provided to these children?
Mrs Martin: There are various forms of assistance, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, one of which is the placement of the child in a shelter and trying to reintegrate the child through different psychological support, as well to try and see in what way the child can reintegrate the society safely.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned that the report has talked about the Minor Brigade. One of the recommendations in this report was to increase the funding and support to the Minors Brigade because it was not enough. I would like to know whether this has been done. Also, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister mentioned that most of the victims of prostitution among the young persons are the CPE failures. Is the Minister aware that the report also mentioned secondary school age girls and to a lesser younger girls?
Has the Minister initiated any particular action regarding secondary school age girls who are engaged in prostitution and so on?
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there are several recommendations that had been made following the 2002 report. We have been actually going on implementing some of the recommendations among which is tackling the subject of absenteeism at school which the hon. Minister of Education is doing a wonderful job of, and this prevents the children from being exposed to the dangers of not going to school and, therefore, being exposed to all sorts of social ills.
Mr Bérenger: Being given that the figure of 2,600 dates back to 2002, therefore it must have been most probably increased unfortunately, can I ask whether there have been enquiries to find out in how many cases the parents are encouraging those children to go into prostitution? Is it a large majority of cases, about half of the cases, a few cases only? What is the role of the parents in encouraging those children to go into prostitution?
Mrs Martin: I think I have this information. If the Leader of the Opposition would bear with me just a few minutes, I will find it. Well, there have been several recommendations, as you know. One of the recommendations stated that obviously the children, who were within families where there have been cases of prostitution, are also more exposed to being involved in the prostitution business itself. I cannot find the figure right now, but, from memory, I can say there are about 60% of children whose parents are involved in prostitution, who are more in danger to enter prostitution as well.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Minister just said that these children who have engaged in prostitution are placed in shelters for some time. Can the hon. Minister say whether these shelters are fully equipped to take care of children who have gone through these traumatic experiences and, say, for a period of three years, what is the percentage of children who have been able to reintegrate successfully in society?
Mrs Martin: From the figures that I have for 2011, I believe there were eight children who had been reported to have engaged into child prostitution who have been taken on board by the Ministry and have reintegrated their families.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I heard the hon. Minister mentioning psychological support. Since we are still talking about the 2002 report, that report also recommended that those children, engaged in prostitution, should be given some kind of medical and nutritional support. I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether this forms part of her policy and, at the same time, I will ask her if she can ask the hon. Minister of Education - maybe she is going to be luckier than us - that once and for all, sexual education be produced in our schools.
Mrs Martin: I believe that sexual education is already taught in schools, but then maybe there needs to be a little bit more of it.
As regards the taking in charge of the nutritional facilities for children, whenever the need arises, there is a whole chain of support that is given to the child and I would assume that this is so.
Mrs Navarre-Marie: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, one of the measures proposed in the plan of action following the study on commercial sexual exploitation of children is the setting up of a Drop-in-Centre because these children are to be put in a Drop-in-Centre instead of the traditional shelter. I would like to know whether the Minister could inform the House about the number of victims, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) victims, who have reported to the Drop-in-Centre since the centre has been set up.
Mrs Martin: I would not have the figure since the centre has been set up, but I do have it for 2011 and 2012. The total cases reported for 2011 is 10; the total cases throughout the island for 2012 is four. For 2012, none of them has been reported from the Bell Village Drop-in-Centre.
As regards the Residential Drop-in-Centre, I must inform the House that the handing over was effected on the 04 June 2012 and tender for management of the shelter was launched on 03May 2012.
Mr Jugnauth: The hon. Minister has said that the recommendations that have been made have been implemented in the meantime. May I know if there has been an assessment of how effective those measures have been so far?
Mrs Martin: I agree with hon. Mrs Ribot that there is a need to have a study carried out after five years of implementation of those measures that we have actually put in place, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether, when a child is found out to be engaged in sexual exploitation, there is any kind of psychological support for the other children of the same family?
Mrs Martin: Actually, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, whenever such a case happens, the whole family is taken into account and we also see in what way we can improve the situation not only of the child, but of the family because it is imperative and it would be preferable for the child to be able to return to his own family unit.
SCHOOLS - DRUG OFFENCES (10/07/12)
(No. B/471) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues whether, in regard to drugs, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number of reported cases of offences in relation thereto having been committed in the schools, since 2010 to date, indicating in each case, if an inquiry has been carried out thereinto and, if so, the outcome thereof.
Reply: I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that since January 2010 to 06 July 2012, four cases of possession of gandia were reported in a secondary school. In one case, the accused has been sentenced to pay a fine of Rs2,000; in two cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions has advised no further action and in the fourth case, Police is continuing its investigation, the offence having been committed in March this year.
CYBER CRIMES – MEASURES (10/07/12)
(No. B/506) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Information and Communication Technology whether, in regard to internet, he will state the concrete measures that have been/or are being taken by his Ministry to -
(a) create awareness on the safety aspects of the use thereof at -
(ii) for parents, and
(iii) for the youngsters, and
(b) combat cyber crimes.
Reply: My Ministry is very much concerned with the safety of children on the Internet and is working in close collaboration with the National Computer Board and the ICT Authority to sensitise school children and parents regarding the risks associated with the use of Internet and the precautionary measures to be taken to avoid children being victims of predators and cyber criminals.
I am enumerating some of the measures that have been taken so far by the National Computer Board -
• Formulation of a Child Safety Online Action Plan.
• Implementation of a sensitisation campaign to raise awareness on “Internet
Safety and Security” in primary and secondary schools targeting both teachers and students and in cyber caravans targeting parents. I was personally present at the awareness sessions on Child Online Safety held, this year, at Queen Elizabeth College, Gaëtan Raynal SSS, Frank Richard SSS and M. Sangeelee SSS.
• Dissemination of information through video clips on different aspects of the subject matter, e.g. a clip on “Zanfan bizin Proteksion Kont Cyber Explwatation” was prepared in collaboration with the Mauritius College of the Air and broadcast on MBC.
• Circulation of brochures on Internet Safety and Fact Sheets on ‘Cyberbullying’ and social networking in schools and community centres.
• Organisation of a workshop on the Safer Internet Day at the Mahatma Gandhi
Institute for ICT Teachers and Rectors of both private and state secondary schools to promote safer and responsible use of online technologies and mobile phones.
• Launching of a “Cybersmart Guide for Parents”.
• Radio programmes on “Cyberbullying” and “Grooming” targeting both youngsters and parents.
• Creation of a dedicated portal on “Cyber Security” providing advice on various security issues such as malicious software, protection of personal information, parental control, etc.
The ICT Authority has disseminated an Information Guide on the diligent use of the Internet in, inter alia, primary and secondary schools, the University of Mauritius and the University of Technology, Mauritius, the National Library, and the Municipal and District Councils. The Authority has also implemented a Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) filtering system to filter access to child sexual abuse websites for Internet users in Mauritius.
As regards part (b) of the question, a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-MU) has been set up at the National Computer Board to combat cyber attacks and crimes. It provides services such as -
• Information Security Incident Handling and Management for the general public.
• Issuing security alerts including vulnerability notes and virus alerts on a daily basis.
• Technical Assistance to computer security incidents such as spamming, phishing etc.
Moreover, the CERT-MU raises awareness on Information Security and publishes Information Security Guidelines. CERT-MU also organises training, in collaboration with international organisations, to create a pool of qualified Information Security Professionals.
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.
PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS - ACTS OF VIOLENCE (09/04/13)
(No. B/73) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to acts of violence in public primary and secondary schools, he will state if a survey in relation thereto has been carried out by his Ministry, over the past five years, and if so, give details thereof and if not, why not.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Ministry has already established a mechanism for reporting of acts of indiscipline and violence for follow-up and monitoring. Statistical information regarding acts of violence and incidents involving among others, physical aggression/assault, fight among students, bullying, verbal abuse, corporal punishment, damages to Government property is recorded at the school and zonal directorate levels for remedial and
follow up purposes.
Information regarding all such cases over the past five years in the public primary and secondary schools in the four zones is being compiled.
However, actions have been initiated in respect of these cases in line with the school Management Manual and rules and regulations governing discipline.
Moreover, cases of criminal offences are referred to the Police while those requiring counselling and psychological back-up are referred to the National Education and Counselling Service. Other cases are also referred to the Child Development Unit or Brigade pour la protection des Mineurs.
My Ministry has already a networking arrangement with the Police Authorities, Probation and After Care Service, Trade Unions, Heads of Schools, PTAs, Students Council, etc.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in addition, a number of concrete measures have been taken to curb indiscipline and violence in schools. These include -
(i) installation of CCTV Cameras to enable proper monitoring and reinforcement of security in schools throughout the day. Our objective is to cover all schools by July 2013 - very soon. To date, 21 schools have already been covered;
(ii) Police patrolling to enhance surveillance and vigilance in the vicinity of schools. The Police Department has been provided with a list of high risk schools;
(iii) SMS service to parents (E-Register) with a view to curtailing unexcused absences and truancy among students;
(iv) Disciplined School Environment to instil positive and disciplined behaviour among students, sensitisation campaigns are carried out by Heads of schools with the participation of the school community at large (PTAs, Student Council and Educators);
(v) setting up of a Student Care and Counselling Desk to provide necessary support to students facing emotional, family, stress-related and other psychological problems with a view to promoting positive behaviour through listening and supporting students;
(vi) Pastoral Care Committee to deal with problems that secondary students might encounter at school or at home, and
(vii) Disciplinary Committees to take sanctions against students who are involved in case of violence, which may also lead to their rustication from schools for a period of time.
Mr Speaker, Sir, to further reinforce security on school premises, my Ministry will soon be recruiting private security guards to service high risk schools during the day. Tendering procedures have been initiated for implementation on a pilot basis in some 13 schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the issue of violence at schools is a complex one. However, I am confident that with the support and contribution of each and everyone and, in particular, the engagement of parents, the problem of violence will surely be more effectively addressed.
Ms Anquetil: Mr Speaker, Sir, being given that school violence is a serious problem, can the hon. Minister inform the House whether his Ministry will come forward with regulations for safety measures in all public and secondary schools? Par exemple, un School Safety Response hotline pour permettre aux élèves, victimes de violence, de dénoncer?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes. This is an interesting suggestion already being considered at the Ministry. As I said, a desk has already been set up in each of the secondary schools for all these matters to be taken up.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned a list of measures, and I am sure he knows that this is not working.
I know all the measures that he has mentioned. This is why I will ask the hon. Minister whether he has taken cognizance of the report published by the National Economic Social Council - it is the Commission on social affairs of the NESC - and the recommendations made? Allow me, Mr Speaker, Sir, to support by only one example. He has mentioned the Student Council. Is he aware that the Student Council, in most schools, is not active as mentioned in this report? What measures, for example, will he take to reactivate, to promote the Student Council to help in the issue of violence in our schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: Insofar as the Student Council is concerned, in some schools it is working very well and in others it is not working well. This, I do agree, but we are reviewing. I am personally looking at the question of Student Council in the colleges.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Speaker, Sir, is the hon. Minister aware that the Roots of Empathy Program in Canada has been globally renowned to dramatically reduce dramatically school violence as a programme, proven to work, and is he then proposing to learn from that programme? If my memory serves me right, the Roots of Empathy Programme was in the last Government Programme? Can the hon. Minister inform the House whether his Ministry will go
for a type of Roots of Empathy Programme as is proven to work in Canada?
Dr. Bunwaree: But you see in the programme it works, it is still, but what I have mentioned, I have lots of projects that are ongoing and some have just started. This is why, probably, the hon. Members of the Opposition are not aware and, in fact, they are not giving results immediately. We have to wait a bit. But, when all these are in place, then the roots of empathy programme will have its raison d’être plus que jamais.
Mr Bodha: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. We know that bullying can have very severe consequences, but in view of the fact that the hon. Minister mentioned that on a pilot scheme we are going to have the security guards in high risk schools - I think the number was 13 - may I ask the hon. Minister how many schools fall under the category of high risk schools throughout the
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, we have a number of schools and, as and when another school enters the list, one gets out of it. So, we have chosen these 13 schools because we have seen important problems in those schools. In other schools, they are manageable. This is why we have chosen these 13 schools on a pilot basis, but the idea is to extend the programme after that.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Mrs Ribot!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that the NESC report pointed out the lack of psychologists and social workers employed by the Ministry and pointed out that the Ministry was currently in the process of recruiting more psychologists and educational social workers? I would like also to ask him where matters stand
as far as that recruitment is concerned.
Dr. Bunwaree: The question was put last year. The number was 12 and now it is 18. We have done an important work, but it is a question of finance also. I would like to have more.
Mr Speaker: Last question, hon. Mrs Labelle!
Mrs Labelle: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, Sir. Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has been very explicit regarding disciplinary measures. May I ask him what about disciplinary approaches and will the hon. Minister consider that educators be better equipped, because this is a very accepted view that our educators is not equipped? So, will the hon. Minister consider equipping our educators and maybe we can consider e-learning because we have a lot of teachers to be trained? Will he consider e-learning so that we can equip our educators for disciplinary approaches?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, I am quite aware of that. E-learning has just started and it is going to take more and more importance in the weeks and months to come.
Mr Speaker: I will allow the author a further question.
Ms Anquetil: Merci, M. le président. Est-ce que le ministre aurait à sa portée les chiffres concernant le nombre d’élèves suspendus ou expulsés des écoles?
Dr. Bunwaree: Expulsé des écoles. As far as I remember, depuis que je suis ministre, il y a un seul et ça a été fait un an ou un an et demi de cela. Pour le reste j’ai dit que we are compiling the figures and we will let you be aware of it.
Mr Speaker: Next question hon. Mrs Ribot.
PRIMARY & SECONDARY STUDENTS – STUDENTS - CARNET DE SANTÉ (28/05/13)
(No. B/393) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas and Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the proposed extension of the carnet de santé to the students of the primary and secondary schools, he will state where matters stand.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr, Speaker, Sir, presently, pupils of the primary schools have a carnet de santé issued by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life which is used to record medical information pertinent to them such as vision screening, medical check-ups, vaccinations. At the secondary level, as per the Secondary Health Programme, the students are provided with a school health card which is used when the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life carries out screening
exercises at the levels of Form III and Lower IV.
It has been announced in the Government Programme 2012-2015 that, in the context of the introduction of the Student Health and Wellness Programme to promote health literacy, the ‘Child Health Passport’ will be updated with regular basic medical checkups for all children attending public funded schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to the extension of the Health Card, I am informed that the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life has set up a technical committee to prepare the ‘Child Health Passport’ which will be used from birth to school leaving age. Same will be pre-tested and used on a pilot basis in the first instance. Regular updates of this document will be encouraged in order to identify early enough any basic health issue. This will enable the shifting
to a more preventive health culture within families right from the start.
My Ministry will make the most of this Child Health Passport and bring in some adjustment or additions if the situation so requires. Moreover, some of the information available in the Child Health Passport will also be integrated in the Dossier Scolaire which my Ministry proposes to introduce as from next year. However, care will be taken not to include information of a confidential nature since this Dossier Scolaire will accompany the pupil throughout their
school life and will thus be accessible to different staff.
Furthermore, in the context of the implementation of the student information system formerly initiated as the student tracking mechanism, an add-on section on student health recording is currently available for implementation in primary and secondary schools as from this year. This will allow the capture of all information available on the individual health cards of pupils and students which will then provide quick queries and reports on their health status.
I also wish to add, Mr Speaker, Sir, that following the recent Errors, Omissions and Anomalies Committee report, a dedicated Directorate which will be responsible for the coordination and implementation of health promotion programmes and health related issues in both primary and secondary sectors will be set up at the level of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. It will be headed by a Director and supported by Health and Welfare along
with other support staff. This will give a new impetus to the health and wellness programme.
Ms Anquetil: Est-ce que le ministre pourrait indiquer à la Chambre où seront conserves ces carnets de santé, qui sont ceux qui en auront accès et qui sont ceux qui procèderont à son actualisation ?
Mr Speaker: Three questions in one!
Dr. Bunwaree: En une seule réponse ! J’ai bien expliqué qu’il y deux choses.
Il y a le carnet de santé qui est distribué par le ministère de la Santé et puis il y a le carnet scolaire qui va commencer l’année prochaine - une nouveauté, qui n’existait pas jusqu’aujourd’hui. Ce carnet scolaire sera la responsabilité et la propriété de l’école dès que l’enfant rentre en primaire jusqu’à ce que l’enfant sorte en fin de secondaire.
A la fin du secondaire, le carnet scolaire sera remis à la famille. Donc, ce sera la propriété de l’école et cela va être informatisé le plus rapidement possible. Donc, ceux qui vont avoir accès seront les éducateurs en général, et la direction de l’école. Le problème de carnet de santé est pour l’instant la propriété de la famille.
Donc, c’est un carnet qui est distribué aux élèves à l’occasion des check-ups qu’on organise et puis cela reste sous la responsabilité de la famille.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether students of both public and private schools are going to be concerned by the carnet de santé?
Dr. Bunwaree: The carnet de santé is for public schools only, but I am trying to see in what way that can be extended to others.
SC & HSC – STUDENTS – ABSENTEEISM (15/04/14)
(No. B/189) Mr C. Fakeemeeah (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port Louis East) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate, he will state if it has been established that there is a high rate of absenteeism amongst the students who will sit therefor, since the beginning of the first school term this year and, if so, indicate the measures he proposes to take in relation thereto, if any.
Reply: I am informed that for State Secondary schools, the rate of absenteeism for students attending Form V during the first term is 14.8% and for Form VI it is 24.4%. This rate compares quite favorably with those of previous years, as follows -
Form V (Term I)
Form VI (Term I)
As regards Private Secondary Schools, I am informed by the PSSA that the rate of absenteeism is being compiled.
Absenteeism is a cause of great concern for my Ministry. This issue has been one of the topical subjects which has been widely discussed at the “assises de l’education” held in October last year where stakeholders have voiced their concern regarding its incidence, especially, at the level of secondary schools.
Following these discussions, a Working Group comprising representatives of my Ministry and trade unions within the secondary sub-sector, has been set up to make recommendations on measures to be taken with a view to curbing student absenteeism.
Several proposals have been made for implementation in the short and medium term, namely -
(a) to amend the relevant legislations, under the Education Act, Education Regulations and PSSA Regulations with a view to controlling absences of students, particularly at HSC level;
(b) to include requirement of minimum attendance of students in the criteria for promotion to the next class;
(c) to define a clear policy for authorized and non-authorized absences of students from schools;
(d) to request every school to have a well-defined School Attendance policy, which lays out the responsibilities for the school staff, the parents and students;
(e) to include Improvement of attendance rate at school level as a key area in the School Improvement Plan;
(f) to review the term date in the School Calendar, and
(g) to regulate additional tuition at secondary level, with particular regard to the tuition hours.
Notwithstanding the above proposals made by the Working Group, as I already informed the House in a reply to an earlier PQ, my Ministry has already taken several measures to combat absenteeism in secondary schools, namely -
(a) an SMS-based system, to control truancy, is in place and successfully functioning in all State Secondary Schools. Private Secondary Schools are being encouraged to introduce same and I am pleased to inform that a number of private secondary schools have recently joined the SMS-based system of reporting absenteeism;
(b) close monitoring of attendance at school level and schools have been requested to take corrective action where appropriate;
(c) schools have been issued with policy guidelines for planning the work in such a way that the curriculum spreads over three terms;
(d) rectors have been requested to reflect the attendance level of students on their Student Leaving Certificate;
(e) the Quality Assurance and Inspectorate Unit of my Ministry which has been reinforced will also monitor the situation with a view to improving same;
(f) Government has introduced an allowance of Rs750 per child per month to those children coming from families earning less than Rs 6,200 per month and who are registered on the Social Register of Mauritius. This allowance is being paid to families who send their children regularly to school and with an attendance rate of 90 percent or more over two consecutive months;
(g) the policy for free transport to students has contributed to improving attendance at schools, and
(h) as regards Private secondary schools, with a view to curtailing absenteeism of students, a new component has been introduced in the Comprehensive Grant Formula, namely a Performance Grant which is, inter-alia, related to student attendance. According to the formula, the higher the rate of attendance for Form V and Form VI Upper students, the higher will be the grants payable to the school.
I wish to add that in order to render the School more attractive, my Ministry has put in place a plethora of activities which enhances the student engagement and commitment to attend school. Thus, students are very keen to participate in different activities organized at School and Zonal level, such as, the Model United Nations (MUN) Conference, Green School projects like Rainwater harvesting, composting, tree planting, waste segregation at the level of MID clubs set up in all schools. Regular topics of interest are addressed during the Activity period such as healthy lifestyle, civic education, promotion of arts and literacy among others. The introduction of tactile tablets at the level of Form V – and very soon to Form IV students – has revolutionized the teaching-learning process in schools. The motivational environment created will be enhanced
I must stress on the fact for students competing for Scholarship at HSC level, there are regulations with regard to the requirements for attendance. Head of schools, when making entries of students competing for scholarship, take responsibility in this matter.
However, once entries for examinations have been made and paid for, it may be difficult and indeed illegal to debar any candidate from taking the examination. The MES does not have such authority.
Finally, it is considered that Parents along with Rectors, Educators and PTAs should all contribute towards inculcating a culture of regularity and attendance in our children which will serve them throughout their life.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS – VIOLENCE MEASURES (22/07/14)
(No. IB/42) Mr P. Jhugroo (First Member for Mahebourg & Plaine Magnien) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the primary and secondary schools, he will state the –
(a) number of reported cases of violence thereat, since January 2014 to date, indicating in each case, the actions taken in relation thereto and
(b) measures that will be taken to deal with the problem of violence thereat.
SCHOOLS – DRUG SCOURGE (04/04/17)
(No. B/131) Mr Osman Mahomed (Third 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 drug problem in schools, she will state the actions that have been initiated in respect thereof, if any, following the hearing of her Ministry before the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking.
SCHOOLS – DRUG ADDICTION - SENSITISATION PROGRAMMES (25/04/17)
(No. B/327) Mr Osman Mahomed (Third 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 drug problem in schools, she will state the actions that have been initiated in respect thereof, if any, following the hearing of her Ministry before the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking.
Reply: The Education Sector was heard before the Commission of Enquiry on drug trafficking around the period July 2016. The report is still awaited.
Notwithstanding the sitting of the Commission, there is a mechanism set up by my Ministry with regard to anti-drug actions at school level which has been established following wide consultations with Heads of schools. A strict protocol has been devised for all to follow in cases of suspected drug abuse.
In line with our objective to maintain a safe and supportive environment for the
school community, all necessary efforts are being deployed to enhance preventive drug education programmes and inculcate values as well as a positive behaviour in young students.
In fact, I had stated earlier that a zero tolerance policy has been adopted and strict control measures at all levels have been put in place.
Several measures have been implemented to combat drug abuse in schools.
These include, among others;
(a) enlisting the participation of parents/PTAs, NGOs, Police and other relevant
stakeholders in preventive actions;
(b) regular patrolling by Police in the vicinity of risk prone areas and reinforced
(c) provision of CCTV cameras in secondary schools and some primary schools;
(d) talks and informative sessions on themes related to drug prevention; and
(e) ensuring surveillance and control at school level especially within the school premises, including laboratories and in the immediate vicinity of the school.
Students are even encouraged to reveal any relevant information which could be useful for schools to take preventive action.
In addition, the curriculum for Grades I to 9 has been reviewed to now place a
greater emphasis on life skills and values.
My Ministry and the Zonal Directorates have been working in close collaboration with ADSU for the conduct of sensitisation programmes in schools as well as sharing of intelligence. In this context, a dedicated meeting was held at the Ministry with the Deputy Commissioner of Police responsible for the ADSU to discuss the handling of drug related cases occurring at schools. A protocol has been established between ADSU and the Zone
Directors regarding the prevention and detection of drug cases among the student population in or outside school/college premises.
I further wish to highlight that Senior officers of my Ministry have had a working session with a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 07 April 2017 in the context of the Education for Justice Initiative commonly known as E4J initiative. This is an innovative and comprehensive educational approach designed to support the integration of Crime prevention and other rule
of law aspects into all levels of education, from primary to tertiary with a view to building long term approaches to countering crime and violence.
It is also considered appropriate to have an intense anti-drug campaign focussing on drug prevention and substance abuse, inviting not only the participation of students but also that of all stakeholders including the PTA, Educators and Head of Schools. This campaign would be relentlessly pursued and sustained.
My Ministry is working in close collaboration with ADSU, the police and the
Ministry of Health and Quality of Life for the eradication and prevention of the drug problem in Mauritius. My Ministry is also a member of the National Drug Observatory which has been set up with the objective of monitoring and assessing the drug situation and devising appropriate strategies to deal effectively with the problem of drug abuse.
I repeat what said earlier. My Ministry stand is to have a zero tolerance policy on drugs in schools.
PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS - BULLYING CASES (11/07/17)
(No. B/563) 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 bullying in schools, she will state the number of reported cases thereof in primary and secondary schools, indicating the actions taken by her Ministry to prevent the recurrence thereof.
Reply: I have been informed that since January 2017 some 9 cases of bullying involving teasing, threat, intimidation and cyber bullying among others have been reported by primary schools. As for the Secondary Sector, the number of reported cases stands out to be 23 for the same period.
It must be highlighted that bullying refers to a form of unwanted negative, verbal, psychological or physical behaviour conducted by an individual or group against another person repeatedly over a period of time or in an isolated incident.
As soon as a case is reported, it is referred to the Educational Psychologists who immediately intervene for counselling. The Heads of Schools and Educators are advised to closely monitor the students involved and to be vigilant. Parents are alerted and the victim is provided support. The perpetrator is also provided counselling services and put under surveillance. Heads of Schools call their parents to inform them of any disciplinary action to be
taken against their wards in the event of repeated offences.
My Ministry is adopting a zero tolerance policy on that issue and cases of bullying are being dealt with severity. The Ministry is committed to creating a safe environment conducive to teaching and learning.
As a preventive measure, sensitisation is carried out during school assemblies and also by Form Teachers. Students are encouraged to report all cases of bullying noted. Sensitisation is also carried out regarding misuse of technology so that the students understand the consequences to which they would expose themselves in case of cyber-bullying. In fact, any suspected case of bullying, no matter how trivial, is deeply investigated upon at the level of the school and followup actions are taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents.
It is the practice for schools to investigate reported or suspected bullying incidents and a two-fold strategy is normally used consisting of supporting the bullied student and endeavouring to assist the perpetrators to change their attitudes.