SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS / OTHERS
SSS – SCHOOL HOURS - EXTENSION (11/11/08)
(No. B/1233 ) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne and Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the students of the State Secondary Schools, he will state if, as from January 2009, they will be required to remain in schools till 3.00 p.m.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the reply to the question is yes. 82 In line with the recommendations of the Pay Research Bureau to the effect that Educators (Secondary) should be required to teach during periods 30 in a week, and work up to 15.00 hours, my Ministry is making arrangements for school hours in the State sector to be extended from 14.30 hours to 15.00 hours on resumption of studies in January 2009, both for educators and students.
Accordingly, all State schools will start at 8.00 a.m and will end at 15.00 hours i.e 7 hours of work daily. The existing number of eight teaching periods of 40 minutes duration will be maintained and will be complemented with one additional period of 35 minutes, save and except for eight selected State Secondary Schools which will implement the “broadening the curriculum” project on a pilot basis in January 2009.
The extension of the school day for students to stay till 3.00 p.m. would, Mr Speaker, Sir, enable us to fulfill the real mission for which schools have been created. A holistic education as against mere instruction has to be provided across the different levels. Our learners must imbibe a set of values, develop their aesthetic sense and be exposed to civic education for sound citizenship such that they become responsible and respectable adults of tomorrow. Some of the additional time provided to schools will hence be utilized so as to effectively inculcate these fundamental human values into our children and thus contribute in a significant manner to enrich their learning experiences.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker, Sir, we do appreciate the fact that the Ministry has gone on this line. May I ask the hon. Minister whether the same situation will prevail in the private sector?
Dr. Bunwaree: We are trying to uniformise as far as possible. Of course, but many of the private schools have got one Manager for one school, apart from BEC. We are still trying to give some flexibility to the private schools for them to toe the line. The main principle is that schools should work seven hours daily and the number of minutes that have been allocated to teachers for one week according to PRB, that is, 1200 minutes, will have to be respected.
Mr Varma: Could the hon. Minister inform the House what will be done by his Ministry to monitor the objectives that have been spelt out by him in Parliament?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is not a problem, in fact. We have a good monitoring unit at the Ministry. 83
Mrs Labelle: In line with the question which has just been put, may I ask the hon. Minister whether there are particular activities which have been scheduled to reach the objectives mentioned?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, a set of activities will be spelt out very soon. In fact, we have asked the managers and representatives of the teachers to submit a report because they have the experience, they must be knowing what is the best way to go in line with what I have just mentioned here.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister if we are going to abide by the seven hours of work on a daily basis whether the students will be required to stay beyond 15.00 hours up to 15.30 hours in certain colleges?
Dr. Bunwaree: Not in State secondary schools.
Mr Gunness: While working out this timetable for students and teachers, may we know from the hon. Minister whether the transport problem was taken into consideration? It seems that bus operators are a bit worried as students will be leaving at 15.00 hours and transport problem may arise.
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, the problem was raised and I have contacted my colleague who is responsible for bus transport. There should be no problem.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS – TIMETABLE (31/03/09)
(No. B/33) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the secondary schools, he will state if a general timetable has been communicated thereto and, if so –
(a) since when, and
(b) table copy thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, it has never been the practice for my Ministry to issue or communicate imetables to schools. In fact, each school has to work out its own timetable subject to the guidelines and parameters set by my Ministry. In this respect, my Ministry has already communicated broad guidelines to the State Secondary Schools. I am informed that the PSSA has done the same for the grant-aided private secondary schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the question makes mention of a general timetable. I don’t know what is meant by this. I am prepared to table the guidelines that have been set.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, I was referring to a master timetable where the main subjects are included, and I wanted to ask the hon. Minister whether the proposed extra-curricular activities have been included in this master timetable sent to schools. The hon. Minister has also mentioned that the PSSA has sent the guidelines, and I would like to know when.
Dr. Bunwaree: The guidelines were sent on 02 March, Mr Speaker, Sir, and I am going to table them. In fact, the activities period which takes care of the extra-curricular activities are mentioned in there.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I know from the hon. Minister whether it is the general practice for the PSSA to send these guidelines at the beginning of March?
Dr. Bunwaree: We had a special problem this year because of the activities period that was introduced in January, and the extended school hours till 3 o’clock afternoon that had to be brought back to 2.30 hours while we maintained the activities period.
Mr Gunness: Mr Speaker, Sir, at a point in time, the PSSA was planning to ask schools to have staff meetings on a fortnight basis at two o’clock on a uniform basis. Can I know whether this is still on or whether the PSSA has already back-pedalled on that?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the guidelines that have been sent, in fact, mentioned that it has to take place once every fortnight. But, there is flexibility for the schools to organise, to choose the days, and so on.
SSS - EDUCATORS – TRANSFER (20/10/09)
(No. B/1004) Mrs D. Perrier (Fourth Member for Savanne and Black River) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the transfer of teachers, he will state if it is a policy to transfer teachers teaching classes such as Form IV and Form V, two months prior to the holding of the examinations and, if so, the reasons therefor, and if not, if he is aware that such transfers have been effected recently, indicating the reasons therefor.
Reply: It is not the policy of my Ministry to transfer Educators teaching in Form IV and Form V or in any other Form, during the third Term. However, when the situation warrants it, a few transfers are effected.
Following a recent recruitment exercise conducted by the Public Service Commission, a few ad hoc transfers have been made for administrative convenience.
(PQ No. B/1005- see after PQ No. B/965)
DUTY FREE CAR FACILITIES – EDUCATORS - PUBLIC SECTOR (24/11/09)
(No. B/1209) Mrs L.D Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the duty free car facilities granted to the educators of the public sector, he will state if the latter have been informed that, contrary to the agreement that they had signed, they will not be entitled to duty free car facilities for a period of seven years, as opposed to the period of six months, as indicated in the initial agreement.
The Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms (Dr. B. Hookoom): Mr Speaker, Sir with your permission, I am replying to this question.
According to recommendation made at paragraph 18.2.26 (ii) of the PRB Report 2008 and in Errors, Omissions and Clarifications Report 2009, officers (including Educators), though less than 50 years, who have never benefited from duty remissions, but drawing a monthly salary of Rs40,000 (top salary) would be eligible once during their career for the purchase of a 70% duty remission car with engine capacity of up to 1400 cc or a monthly car allowance of Rs1,600 in lieu of the 70% duty remission on a car of engine capacity of up to 1400 cc. Such beneficiaries may take advantage of duty remission again, if they qualify for 100% duty remission on reaching salary point of Rs41,250. However, officers who would reach salary point Rs41,250 by virtue of the provisions at paragraphs 10.52 and 10.53 of the PRB Report 2008 that is to move incrementally above their top salary would be allowed to take advantage of duty remission on a car again after seven years have elapsed as from the date of purchase of their 70% duty remitted car. For the sake of parity, officers who are drawing a monthly car allowance of Rs1,600 in lieu of the 70% duty remitted car would benefit from a monthly car allowance of Rs3,000, in lieu of 100% duty remitted car, only after seven years have elapsed as from the date they have opted for the monthly car allowance of Rs1,600. Officers who have opted for a monthly car allowance of Rs1,600 may be allowed to purchase a car on which 70% duty would be remitted after having drawn a monthly car allowance of Rs1,600 for a minimum period of six months as recommended at paragraph 18.2.22(a) of the PRB Report 2008.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether he would be ready to consider cases where an officer had opted allowance instead of the duty remission for a period of six months and then after which he attains the salary scale of Rs41,250, to decide to take up a car instead of the allowance at that particular point.
Dr. Hookoom: Mr Speaker, Sir, we are looking into the matter.
Mr Speaker: Next question!
SCHOOLS (PRIMARY & SECONDARY) – PSYCHOLOGISTS (10/08/10)
(No. 1B/440) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the school psychologists in primary and secondary schools, he will, in each case, state the number thereof, indicating –
(a) their scheme of duties, and
(b) the number of cases to which they have attended in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 to date.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I wish to reply to Parliamentary Questions 1B/440 and 1B/445 together as they relate to the same issue.
The National Education Counselling Service (NECS) has 4 posts of Senior Educational Psychologist, 12 posts of Educational Psychologist and 22 posts of Educational Social Workers.
Currently, only one Senior Educational Psychologist is in post and he is based at the Headquarters. 10 Educational Psychologists and 17 Educational Social Workers in post are deployed in the four zones where they serve a cluster of primary and secondary schools. Action has been initiated for the filling of the existing vacancies.
As regards the scheme of duties of the Educational Psychologist, they cover, inter alia, counselling and sensitisation of pupils/students at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels, provision of psychological advice to teachers, counselling of parents by way of visits, provision of documentation and promotion of mental health programmes at schools and I am tabling a detailed scheme of duties for the School Psychologists.
As for the number of cases dealt with by the service, a total of about 5,955 reported cases have been attended to by the Educational Psychologists from 2007 to date in primary and secondary schools. The breakdown is 1,425 for 2007, 1,519 for 2008, 1,872 for 2009 and 1,139 to date since January. I am tabling the breakdown of the number of cases for both primary and secondary sub-sectors.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, today’s global society is undergoing major transformations which bring in their wake, multi-faceted and complex forms of disruptive behaviour. This situation thus calls for remedies, psychological and others, that are not part of the usual run-ofthe- mill but more adapted to the needs of the schools and learners. The need has therefore been felt by my Ministry for a holistic and coordinated approach to service both public and private schools in order to cater for the social and psychological welfare of the student community.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is a fact that, ever since 2007, my Ministry had made proposals to the Pay Research Bureau to revisit the School Psychological Service and to propose a new structure more attuned to the emerging and diverse needs of the schools.
The PRB Report 2008 has accordingly recommended a new set up for the National Education Counselling Service (NECS) and proposed the creation of a new post of Head, NECS to be assisted by a reinforced team. My Ministry is therefore proposing to fill the new post of Head, NECS and the three vacant posts of Senior Educational Psychologist and financial provision is being requested accordingly in the forthcoming budget. The creation of six additional posts of Educational Psychologist is also being proposed.
This will enable the Ministry to have a strengthened team of 4 Senior Educational Psychologists and 18 Educational Psychologists as compared to the pool of only one Senior Educational Psychologist and 12 Educational Psychologists.
Funding is also being sought for the filling of three existing vacancies in the grade of Educational Social Workers. In addition, the NECS will also resort to the services of private clinical psychologists on a sessional basis, whenever the need arises. It is worth mentioning that my Ministry is also working in collaboration with the Psychologists and Social workers of the Child Development Unit of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare on complex cases.
Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, Government fully recognises that the promotion of psychological and social well-being of the student population is of prime importance in the context of our efforts to tackle problems of indiscipline and misbehaviour at school. We have accordingly taken a firm commitment under the Government Programme 2010-2015 to revamp and strengthen the existing services. In addition, community support in this endeavour will also be enlisted to ensure the success of programmes geared towards students with behavioural and other related problems.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, could we know from the hon. Minister the minimum qualifications of the social workers and the psychologists attached to the NECS and, if the psychologists who are attached to schools are Educational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists or Behavioural Psychologists?
Dr. Bunwaree: So far as the details of the qualifications are concerned, I can table it at a later stage because I do not have the information with me and at school they are all Educational Psychologists. In fact, we need Clinical Psychologists also. This is why I said we will resort to Clinical Psychologists in private sector for the time being. We are resorting to the Clinical Psychologists who are based at the level of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, but, of course, in the future we will need Clinical Psychologists attached to schools as well.
Mr Leopold: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can I know from the hon. Minister whether these services are available in Rodrigues? And, if yes, how are they delivered? And also the number of Educational Psychologists and Educational Social Workers attached to Rodrigues?
Dr. Bunwaree: I can assure the hon. Member, who must be aware, that the services are available for Rodrigues as well. But, of course, not in the same way as they take place in Mauritius and they have resort to, I think there are two psychologists in Rodrigues, not attached to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, but whose services are taken on board.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister out of the cases dealt with since 2007, if any case has been referred to a clinical psychologist or to a psychiatrist?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is quite a few of them, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Mrs Ribot: Can we get the number, please?
Dr. Bunwaree: I need notice of this question but I can assure the hon. Member, I am myself, a clinician and I know what I am talking about.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether the School Psychological Unit prepares any programme for implementation by teachers or by parents?
Programmes such as the therapeutic or behavioural programmes or courses for parents and so on?
Dr. Bunwaree: They work in close collaboration with the teachers. In fact, I am circulating the schemes of service of the Educational Psychologists but I can, here again, assure the hon. Member that very detailed work is done between the educators and the psychologists.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know if the hon. Minister does not consider the actual procedures to be quite lengthy and time consuming, should not more prompt and straightforward procedures be adopted for children with problems.
Dr. Bunwaree: There are two parts in this question I believe. In fact, the procedures are very long. I agree with the hon. Member. This is a question of Civil Service in general. And this is why I said, we are having resort to private clinical psychologists employed on sessional basis in order to circumvent the problem, but I do agree with the second part of the question.
The Deputy Speaker: I will allow one question to hon. Boolell.
Dr. S. Boolell: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know whether the Minister is in presence of any report from the educational psychologist on the cases of suicide among the young population of school age?
Dr. Bunwaree: There are various reports concerning suicide, but I don't know which report the hon. Member is referring to, but I know there is work being done, insofar as suicide is concerned.
Mr Obeegadoo: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for seeing me at long last. Would the hon. Minister tell us something about the mode of operation? I have listened carefully, what is the mode of operation? Are they deployed on given days and times in different schools? I will ask two in one since I won’t have another opportunity. Are there special provisions for those that have less children in ZEP schools and in the prevocational schemes?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is one Head Psychologist, who is at the level of the Head Office, but all the other psychologists are based in the zones and they are les hommes ou les femmes de terrain. They work in conjunction with all the stakeholders that are involved in the problems, social workers, other ministries, the NGOs and special attention is, of course, given to ZEP schools.
The Deputy Speaker: A last one from hon. Ribot.
Mrs Ribot: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I would like to know if the Psychologists should not be attached to specific clusters of schools and more specifically to those schools à risque.
Dr. Bunwaree: They are, in fact, attached to clusters of schools. I think there are about 20 schools, but based in the zones.
STUDENTS - LAPTOPS – DISTRIBUTION (29/03/11)
(No. B/81) Mr R. Uteem (Second Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Scheme for the distribution of free laptops to the students of Lower VI, he will state if any tender has been launched and awarded for the supply thereof and, if so –
(a) give details thereof, and
(b) indicate when same will be distributed.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as of now no tender exercise has been carried out with regard to the implementation of the distribution of laptops for the benefit of Lower VI students.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to inform the House that, in August 2010, a Committee comprising officials of my Ministry and those of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology was set up to look into the technical specifications including the modalities and the various implications for implementing this programme.
A proposal for the funding of the project, estimated to cost about Rs420 m. was made to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in November 2010, but funds could not be made available in the context of the last Budget exercise due to budgetary constraints and numerous other school I.T. projects evolving at the same time.
Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as the House may be aware, my Ministry had already embarked, as part of the digital revolution in schools, on the digital interactive board project known as the Sankoré Project. This will digitally empower not only the students but also educators as well, through access to interactive e-learning materials. The Sankoré Project will cover all classes of Primary and Secondary Schools of the Republic without exception. Thus, students, without any distinction, will have the possibility of learning otherwise, through the digital mode.
Being given the urgency of the start of this project, the Sankoré Project, with the collaboration of the French Government and according to MoUs signed, funds had to be made available and funding has accordingly been provided for this year.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in view of the many projects to be implemented or being implemented already and simultaneously, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has, I believe justly, recommended that an appropriate study be carried out, covering the different ICT projects envisaged for implementation by my Ministry, to avoid duplication and other problems. Funding to the tune of Rs3 m. has been provided for this study.
The modalities are being looked into by my Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Sankoré Project provides not only for the provision of only hardware but also and more importantly for the e-content-part and especially on digitally oriented pedagogical methods through the use of interactive boards and laptops in the classroom.
Furthermore the system provides for safeguards to ensure no misuse and adequate control of the digital systems, thus, assuring safety of utilisation.
Mr Uteem: I listened carefully to the answer of the hon. Minister and the question was very simple and we want a simple answer. When will Government come and implement the promise to give one laptop to each student of Form V or of Lower VI or has this project been scrapped altogether?
Dr. Bunwaree: When funds will be made available, if the hon. Member has understood well.
Mr Uteem: Will the scheme then be retroactive so that it can be extended to HSC students because the Lower VI students will now have moved onto HSC and will no longer be in Lower VI?
Dr. Bunwaree: So far I know, Lower VI is part of HSC. It is the first year.
Mr Uteem: They were in Lower VI this year. If you don’t implement the scheme this year, next year they will be in Upper VI. So, if you decide to implement the scheme would those students - who are presently in Lower VI - benefit from the scheme if you implement it next year?
Dr. Bunwaree: When we get the funds, then we will implement the whole project.
Mr Uteem: Will the funds cover only laptops or also the operating system, Microsoft or else?
Dr. Bunwaree: The Committee is working on that. That is another problem and, in fact, as I said,
the Sankoré Project will cover the laptop, also. Sankoré Project includes laptop in classrooms.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS – STUDENTS – LATE ARRIVAL (28/06/11)
(No. B/611) Mr S. Obeegadoo (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether he has been informed of recent cases of secondary school students having been sent off, on turning up late at school and, if so, will he state if an inquiry has been carried out thereinto, indicating the stand of the Ministry in relation thereto.
Reply: I am informed that there have been two recent cases whereby secondary school students have been sent off for turning up late at school.
The first one relates to a private secondary school in Rose-Hill and the second in respect of a State Secondary School in Port Louis.
As for the first one, Eden College, Belle Rose, it has been reported that 15 students were refused access on the school premises as they were late on 20 June 2011. These students had called at the PSSA on the same day at around 9.30 a.m to lodge a complaint to the effect that they had been denied access to the school. According to them their lateness was due to transport problems which they encountered. The PSSA initiated an enquiry into the matter.
The school was contacted by the PSSA and the Manager confirmed that the students were not allowed access as according to her they were late for more than half an hour. She stated that some allowances were made for latecomers but those arriving late by more than half an hour were not allowed. The Rector gave instructions to keep the school gate closed and requested the students to go back home.
The PSSA had previously drawn the attention of the Manager of the school to the negative consequences of such practice on her part. The PSSA is requesting her to bring necessary amendments to the rules of the school by providing reasonable sanction, if required, in cases where students arrive late at school without justification whilst allowing them access to the school premises. In fact, schools should make it a point to inform parents of such cases.
As regards the second case, it relates to the sending off, on 02 June 2011, of five Upper VI students of a State Secondary School in Bell-Village who were repeatedly late for unjustified and unjustifiable reasons despite living in the vicinity of the school. I would like to stress that in this case, the Rector contacted and informed the parents of the students’ continued late arrivals and proposed sending off.
The practice of schools to send off students coming late is a matter of concern to my Ministry at a time when the Ministry is deploying much effort to deal with the problem of indiscipline, juvenile delinquency and security of students. The problem of schools refusing to admit students who come late and students who are brought back to schools in certain cases by the Brigade pour la Protection des Mineurs, has been raised at meetings held at my Ministry. It is only with the collaboration of one and all that we will be able to deal with the problem and ensure that students are on the school premises during school hours.
I wish to highlight that my Ministry had during the course of discussion with stakeholders impressed upon the need for students to be punctual and that the element of security of students should be given priority. In addition, instructions were given for appropriate measures to be taken by schools to prevent students from loitering in public places and exposing themselves to risks.
Moreover, as already announced, we are implementing an e-register (SMS) system to reduce truancy and lateness of students of Secondary Schools. 21 pilot schools are being provided with an SMS-based system, to be used to inform parents of their wards’ absences at schools on a daily basis. After the pilot basis, the system will be rolled out to all of the schools.
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS – RECRUITMENT (12/06/12)
(No. B/279) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the educational psychologists, he will state the number thereof who have been recruited by his Ministry, following the advertisement of vacancies for the posts thereof, dated 27 June 2011.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as the House is aware, recruitment of Educational Psychologists, who are public officers, is carried out by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
One vacancy in the grade of Educational Psychologist was reported to the PSC back since February 2011.
Subsequently, three (3) vacancies arose in May 2011 following a promotion exercise for the post of Senior Educational Psychologist.
The posts - four of them, then - were advertised on 06 June 2011 with a closing date of 27 June 2011.
I wish to point out that 2 additional posts were created in the 2011 budget and two other in 2012 budget respectively. These posts were established in the Civil Establishment Order on 24 May 2011 and 08 May 2012 respectively.
These positions were also reported to the PSC.
The PSC had accordingly been requested to fill all eight (8) vacancies.
I understand that the matter is being processed at the level of the PSC and the posts are expected to be filled in shortly.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to my information, during the last recruitment process there were some allegations that the best candidate was not selected and this, may be a reason for this delay; because, it is taking more than one year to recruit a position which is badly needed. We all agree.
Firstly, is this the reason why the PSC is taking so long?
Secondly, it is also being said that at a particular point in time, PSC was being asked to hold on this matter, because candidates have been enquiring at PSC level and they were told, at a particular point in time, that the Ministry has instructed to hold on this recruitment process. Is it so?
Dr. Bunwaree: No, I am not aware of this. I do not have this information. I am more frustrated than the hon. Member for the non-appointment of these officers. The information that the hon. Member is giving, I cannot confirm. I have no control on the PSC.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can we know from the hon. Minister, the total number of educational psychologists, and for how many schools these psychologists are being employed?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think the number of posts for psychologists is sixteen, but eight are in function; four senior educational psychologists, which makes twelve and then, we have educational social workers also helping in the process. From time to time, quite often, I must say, we do liaise with the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare because they have got psychologists there who help us. They work according to a clustering procedure of schools.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister what is the basic academic requirement for this position and also, whether administration of psychological test is included in the schedule of duties?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think I can circulate the scheme of service which will be much better. I must say that in the scheme of service, in fact, I have been informed that there is also the fact that the educational psychologist should have undergone post-qualification practice under the supervision of a practicing psychologist or related professional, either in a recognised health or educational institution locally or abroad over a period of one year or for an aggregate of 1,500 hours with the children and young people with learning difficulties or social, emotional and behavioural problems.
Dr. S. Boolell: In view of the fact that there are psychologists at the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions and, I think, Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, would not it be possible to create a Psychologist Cadre where it would be easier to refer a case through assessment? It is quite difficult, hon. Minister, to refer anyone.
Dr. Bunwaree: At the level of our Ministry, we do have. I don’t understand the question.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has just mentioned this question of practice under supervision. May I know whether we have a list of accredited institutions, also accredited psychologists who can certify these practical hours needed?
Dr. Bunwaree: I believe that there are; but then, if a proper question is put, we can look into the details and give all the information.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Since we have a scarcity of psychologists in schools and different Ministries, could the hon. Minister consider reviewing the criteria for eligibility which seems to be very hard for a country like Mauritius with only few psychologists being trained yearly?
Dr. Bunwaree: We are looking into this, as I said, because it is taking too much time and because of that special criterion that I have mentioned. If this is the case hindering the process, we have to do like what the hon. Member is saying.
Mrs Radegonde: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in his reply, I heard the hon. Minister stating that there are 12 psychologists for the schools. Can the hon. Minister inform us if 12 psychologists can respond adequately to all the behavioural problems arising in our schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: I don’t think it is sufficient, of course, but I said that we do use the services of psychologists from the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare. I must also say that in the system that we are setting up: we are creating a platform in all schools, a specialised one, - with people who are not necessarily psychologists, because all children do not maybe need the help of a psychologist immediately - with the qualified people, using the educators. Because, the PRB has also said in the last report that this has to be the job of the educator also to come and help, or at least allow children, people, to confide in them and help to find solutions to their problems.
A very important ground work is being done. I believe in the weeks, in the months to come, before the end of the year we will come up with a system which will function by itself.
Mrs Navarre-Marie: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, will the hon. Minister state whether the services of psychologists do equally cater to Private Secondary Schools and, if not, whether he proposes that these psychologists attend to private schools as well?
Dr. Bunwaree: They do cater for Private Secondary Schools also.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I would like to come to this question of practical hours, because already there are some rumours regarding this issue. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he will table this list of accredited institutions and accredited psychologists who can certify the practical hours? Will the hon. Minister table this document in the House?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes. I asked the hon. Member to put a proper question, but she is using this question to put other questions. No problem, I will look into the matter and give the information to the House.
SCHOOLS – TEACHERS – ASSAULT (18/12/12)
(No. B/746) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the primary and secondary school teachers, 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.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS – PC TABLET – TENDER (26/03/13)
(No. B/46) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Second Member for Quartier Militaire and Moka) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the proposed budgetary measure for the provision of a PC tablet to each student of Form IV in secondary schools, he will state if the tender therefor has been launched and if so, indicate the number of PC tablets to be supplied.
(Vide reply to PQ No. B/18)
MGI SOLFERINO - TOBOGGAN – INCIDENT (25/06/13)
Dr. M. Sorefan (Fourth Member for La Caverne and Phoenix): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, my issue is to the attention of the hon. Minister of Education. Last Friday, at a fun and music day at about 1.30 p.m., there was an incident at MGI Solferino where seven to eight students have been injured from an inflatable toboggan.
From my information, the toboggan was provided by a private enterprise and the headmistress accepted to have this toboggan in the yard of the college. The toboggan, for some reason, deflated and caused those children to fall from about seven to eight feet to the ground.
During the incident, the headmistress failed to inform the parents although she had their mobile phones and did not even call the SAMU, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
One injured girl had to phone her parent; those injured children were taken to hospital by teachers. The headmistress, instead of looking after the children, was more concerned to go to the Police Station to file a statement. The Minister came to the site at about 4p.m. to 5 p.m. and promised an internal inquiry.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, parents want to know who accepted the toboggan, whether a stipend fee was claimed from the children to play in the toboggan? Will the parents be provided with the report of the inquiry and action taken by the Ministry and what financial support will be given to those seriously injured children? One had a knee fracture and another one had a severe spinal bone injury. Will the Minister look into this issue and meet the parents to reassure them?
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in fact, that incident occurred. An enquiry is on, has already started. Police also is enquiring. I have personally met all the parents of all those children who have been injured and who stayed in hospital. I am in direct contact with them and, of course, everything will be done in all transparency.
The Deputy Speaker: Time is up!
At 10.43 p.m., the Assembly was, on its rising, adjourned to Tuesday 02 July 2013 at 11.30a.m.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS - FORM IV STUDENTS - PC TABLETS (26/06/13)
(No. B/18) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the proposed provision of one PC tablet to each student of Form IV in the secondary schools, he will state where matters stand.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission I am going to reply to both PQ No. B/18 and PQ No. B/46 together as they relate to the same issue.
The proposal to distribute a PC tablet to each student of Form IV was announced in the last budget speech and, to that effect, a sum of Rs150 m. for the procurement of tablets has been provided for in my Ministry’s budget.
Immediately after the budget, on 19 November 2012, a Steering Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of the Acting Director, Central Informatics Bureau and comprising representatives of my Ministry, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Central Informatics Bureau and the Mauritius Institute of Education.
The Steering Committee has since met nine times and had numerous exchanges electronically. The project framework has been worked upon by the Steering Committee and involves seven major components which I would like to highlight -
a) Procurement of 23,110 PC tablets
b) Connectivity of fibre Optic to 153 schools
c) Recurrent charges (live rental of fibre optics)
d) Wi-Fi hotspots in all schools
e) Upgrading of Network for the Government Online Centre (GOC)
f) Recurrent Charge for GOC (Internet Link)
g) Support to MIE for the production of pedagogical content
Mr Speaker, Sir, given the use of new technology, and the novelty of such a high-tech project, a market sounding exercise was carried out on 10 January with closing date of 31January 2013.
The aim was to –
a) inform interested parties and service providers about the project proposal;
b) invite interested parties for comments on the project, and
c) use the comments and feedback received to further refine the project’s key aspects.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the above market sounding exercise was carried out by my Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Some 32 companies have responded. In light of the information obtained, the specifications are currently under finalisation. Once these are finalised and approved - I hope in the coming days - the bid documents will be prepared and tenders launched.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, we are talking here about schools. I have heard the hon. Minister – I am quite astounded! - speak about all the technical dimension but nothing about the pedagogical software, nothing about the human wear, that is, the training of teachers. Are we to understand that there is no pedagogical project on which the provision of PC tablets will rest?
Dr. Bunwaree: He wanted to hear what he wanted to - (g) Support to MIE for the production of pedagogical content.
Mr Speaker: Next question!
Ms Deerpalsing: The hon. Minister has talked about all the different aspects that have to be looked into and one of them is preparing Wi-Fi hotspots and all that. Would the Ministry consider tablets which don’t necessitate a Wi-Fi connection, that is, a tablet that connects with each other within one room? For example you already have Bluetooth technology where tablets can connect with each other without an external Wi-Fi hotspot.
I can tell you what you can do with that!
Dr. Bunwaree: This is an interesting suggestion. I’ll ask the Steering Committee whether they have taken that on Board because there have been discussions as I have said. I have to check, I don’t know whether they have taken it on board or not.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether he thinks that by the end of this year he will be in a position to supply these tablets to form IV students?
Dr. Bunwaree: End of this year? Well, I hope it is going to come as early as possible.
We are going to launch the tenders in the weeks to come. I am seeing to it that we don’t take too much time. I must thank you for this question because there seems to be some hurdles in the other aspects, apart from the tablets. So, if there are these difficulties, then we will give the tablets to the children and then, the second part will follow after because the MIE has already trained teachers for certain specific subjects to use tablets, especially for Secondary Schools.
Mr Obeegadoo: May I know specifically for what part of the Form IV curriculum these tablets will be used, how and when, and how many teachers are being trained?
Dr. Bunwaree: I cannot answer this question offhand, but I can tell the hon. Member that everything is being done for the core subjects in Secondary Schools for Form IV.
Mr Ameer Meea: Can I ask the hon. Minister why a measure that has been announced three years back - three years back during the last electoral campaign - that it is now that the tenders are being launched?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is because the Minister of Finance has changed.
Mr Speaker: Silence, please!
I say enough, now! Silence!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether these tablets will also be supplied to the Pre-Voc. Form IV students?
Mr Speaker: Could the hon. Member speak up because there is so much noise?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I ask the hon. Minister whether the tablets would also be supplied to the Pre-Voc. students of Form IV.
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, all of them; all students of Form IV.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle!
NATIONAL EDUCATION COUNSELLING SERVICE – EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS (09/04/13)
(No. A/24) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the National Education Counselling Service of his Ministry, he will state the number of educational psychologists attached thereto
and table information as to -
(a) their respective qualifications, and
(b) the cluster of schools to which each one of them is attached.
Reply: I am informed that 14 Educational Psychologists are attached to the National Educational Counselling Service (excluding one who has been assigned the duties of Senior Educational Psychologist from 16 August 2012 to end of April 2013 and one appointed Clinical Psychologist in a temporary capacity in the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life).
I am tabling a list of the 14 Educational Psychologists together with their qualifications and the cluster of schools to which they are attached.
COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
ESTIMATES OF SUPPLEMENTARY EXPENDITURE (2012) of 2013 (29/10/13)
Rodrigues - Programme Code 311: Rodrigues Development was called.
Mr Uteem: Mr Chairperson, at page 11, under item 22120 - Fees, may I know from the hon. Prime Minister how many Psychologists are we talking about here and whether this amount represents only their salary or other expenses?
The Prime Minister: It is said here, Mr Chairperson. It is for the services of an
Educational Psychologist – one. If you see the price of Rs868,800 there, who would work for less than that?
Mr Obeegadoo: On the very same issue. Again, we welcome the fact that there is provision, there has been provision, there has been spending. We just want to have some clarification. Is this a full-time Educational Psychologist who is now posted to Rodrigues? We would like to have some details as to what arrangements have been made that would justify this payment under the Ministry of Rodrigues.
SCHOOLS - TABLET DISTRIBUTION PROJECT (22/07/14)
(No. IB/22) Mr M. Seeruttun (Second Member for Vieux Grand Port & Rose Belle) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Tablet Distribution Project to Form IV Students, he will state the total cost thereof for the first year, indicating the number of -
(a) tablets purchased, and
(b) students having received a tablet, as at to date, indicating the fees payable by each student in relation thereto.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, let me at the outset inform the House that the Tablet PC project, which was initiated in 2013 with the elaboration of tablet specifications and initiation of procurement procedures, consisted in the provision of 26,100 Tablet PCs to students of Form IV in 2013 and educators of all State as well as private aided secondary schools of the Republic of Mauritius.
I must point out that the project which is meant for Form IV students was worked upon in 2013 to Form IV students of that year. However, the implementation process which involved procedures was completed by late 2013 and distribution was effected in early 2014. As such, the Form IV students had already moved to Form V in 2014, hence it was decided to distribute the tablets to those Form V students of 2014 who, in fact, were Form IV students cohort 2013.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Tablet PCs will support the teaching conducted in class through the use of Classroom Management Software to better enable the teacher-learner interaction.
The Tablet PCs, which are meant basically for educational purposes, are equipped with pedagogical contents relevant to Forms IV and V curricula, aligned with the teaching of Cambridge GCE O Level syllabi for Mauritius.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the total cost of the project relating to the procurement of the Tablet PCs amounted to Rs 134,349,018.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a) of the question, let me inform the House that 26,100 Tablet PCs have been purchased (20,700 for students and 5,400 for educators of all State as well as private aided secondary schools of the Republic of Mauritius.)
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, regarding part (b), I am informed that, as at date, a total of 24,289 Tablet PCs have been sent to all the State and private aided secondary schools of Mauritius and Rodrigues (including 70 tablets to MIE for training purposes) for distribution to students and educators the process of which is still in progress. I am informed that some -
i) 6520 students out of the 7761 Form V students of state secondary schools have already received their tablets, and
ii) 7766 students out of 9894 Form V students of private aided secondary schools run under PSSA have already received their tablets.
As at date 14,286 students out of 17,655 Form V students have already received their tablet PCs.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in order to provide coverage for the eventual replacement of the tablet PC in case of theft or damage, an amount of Rs650 is paid by the beneficiary student. In this respect, a mechanism has been put in place with the approval of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for this contribution to be deposited into a special deposit account.
However, students who benefit from the Social Register of Mauritius Child Allowance (SRMCA) are exempted from the payment of the Rs650.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this project has been money well spent as it is contributing to taking Mauritius into the 21st century and making our students become digital learners in an increasingly digital environment.
Mr Seeruttun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this Government, at the outset, wanted to distribute laptops to lower six students. Then, they gave up that idea and then came up with the idea of distributing tablets to Form IV students. From the reply that we just got from the hon. Minister, it appears that some of the students are still awaiting the reception of the tablets. We are already in July, the exams for the SC will be in a few weeks’ time and it looks like those students, probably, will receive their tablets while they will be starting the lower VI classes. So, we are back to the initial project. My question is that those tablets have applications meant for the SC exams. What will be the use of those tablets for students who are going to receive those tablets by the end of this year or beginning of next year when they won’t be of any use for those students who will be taking HSC classes as from next year?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we should, first of all, realise that it is a major innovative project and at the beginning there will be certainly some teething problems.
But, I am satisfied that it has been a project which has been successfully implemented. The distribution process involves, I must inform the House, registration of each tablet through the use of internet at the level of the schools.
As we are all aware, the internet connectivity is not as good in all regions of the island. The process is, therefore, slow in certain schools and this causes certain specific problems. Then also, all these tablets have been – all of them – the 26,100 have been verified. It takes time to verify these tables. What has happened is that in the course of the registration process, there are some delays, because the children have to register and, therefore, to pay Rs650. I have said that for the Social Register of Mauritius children, they are exempted.
This is what is causing the problem, in fact.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether he could indicate to the House the number of schools which have received the tablets, but which have not been provided yet with free Wifi connectivity, thus preventing the students from being able to use those tablets?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this question of Wifi connectivity is to give them the facilities for internet, but the tablets are already in use in all the schools where they have been distributed, but not to 100% of students.
There is a percentage which I have given.
Wifi is a problem. I must say, I am informed that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology will be launching a tender, in fact, it is today itself, for connecting all the 155 secondary schools to high speed internet under the SchoolNet Project. Pending the coming of the SchoolNet II Project, the Ministry has allocated a certain sum to all schools for internet connectivity. This is not giving full satisfaction. We have to wait for the procedures that have already started. This is under the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Mr Seeruttun: Surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister must be aware that those tablets had problem of batteries. There have been complaints from many users that the battery does not last long. Will the hon. Minister inform the House what action has been taken to ensure that batteries that are integrated on those tablets are of a lifetime which is reasonable, whether those batteries are removable and whether they are available from suppliers for them to purchase those batteries if ever they are not functioning properly?
Dr. Bunwaree: The question was raised, in fact. There was a minor outcry and we looked into the matter. I must say that the technical tests have been carried out and it was on Tuesday 24 June 2014, to ascertain the aspect of battery duration by officers of the Ministry in the presence of the supplier which is the Mauritius Telecom. The test has indicated that under average typical classroom conditions, usage of the tablet for reading, browsing the internet, viewing videos and Powerpoint presentations and use of the Classroom Management System on the tablet PC, the average battery autonomy is 7 hours. If it is used along these conditions which were spelt out in the tender documents, the autonomy is around 7 hours, which is quite satisfactory for students who are at school for about the same time. Now, the Ministry has worked out, with the Mauritius Telecom, for the preparation of a guideline for power management of the tablet PC. The guideline is available on the tablet PC website and is also being updated. I will also inform the House that the Ministry is working with the Mauritius Telecom, as the tablet provider, regarding possibility of providing rack charges to schools to cater for tablets with low battery charge, because sometimes the students have not charged the battery at home and we are trying by all means to give satisfaction to these students.
Mr Uteem: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, it has been widely reported in the press that some students misuse their tablets. This being the case, will the hon. Minister indicate whether he intends calling back the tablets and installing tougher software for parental security and whether he intends to launch a tender or whether MT will provide this enhanced security provision to prevent misuse of computer tablets?.
Dr. Bunwaree: I can assure the House that I am very much concerned with this aspect of the problem. I must also say that we have put so many security measures there, but, unfortunately, not only that the students are well aware of everything that is happening in so far as technology is concerned, but almost every day, there are new technologies coming up which have not been catered for in the tablets that have been distributed. So, what we are doing, first of all, I must inform the House that the tablet PC is configured with internet security through a parental control software. I think the hon. Member mentioned that. The Norton Family Parental Control Software has been configured on the table PC at school, an internet access from the school is filtered by the Government Online Centre. However, if students, in fact, may be able to bypass the parental control from home, access to unauthorised sites may be possible. The Ministry is, therefore, currently exploring possibilities with MT for potential solutions where such an internet security could be reinforced when the tablet is online. I am told that there are solutions. So, this problem will certainly be une histoire du passé.
Mr Jugnauth: May I know from the hon. Minister whether, out of the 26,000 and so tablets that have been received, there have been some faulty ones, and if yes, may I know what amount this represents in terms of money?
Dr. Bunwaree: No, I am not aware of faulty ones. In any case, if there are faulty ones, they are covered as the provider has to take and replace the faulty ones à l’heure où il prend l’autre, this is the condition.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether he could tell us the name of the supplier of those tablets and the cost per unit?
Dr. Bunwaree: I said it is the Mauritius Telecom (MT).
Mr Roopun: Hon. Minister may I know what measures are envisaged for the timely update of the...
The Deputy Speaker: Kindly address the Chair!
Mr Roopun: Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. May I ask the hon. Minister what measures are envisaged for the timely updating of those tablets? For students who are today in Form V and when they reach Lower Six next year, is there any mechanism already in place?
Dr. Bunwaree: We started last year and we are already on target for Form IV and Form V and all the stakeholders who have responsibility there are already working on what is going to come after Form V. So, we are on target and on time.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question hon. Seeruttun!
Mr Seeruttun: We have been talking about students who were in Form IV last year and who are now receiving those tablets this year. May we know when students of Form IV this year are going to receive their tablets? Is it going to be this year itself, next year or the year after? Can we have an idea of when these students are going to get those tablets, please?
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, if we follow the usual procedures once the tablets have been distributed, it is to Form IV students of last year, but once they have been distributed it is only after one year that we could have expected that the other batch of tablets would come. But, it is not going to be like that, we are launching the tenders for the other batch in a few days time, two or three weeks time which means that the students of Form IV of this year who were in Form III last year should be able to get their tablets two or three months later.
But, I fear, following from what has happened last year, that this could take some more time because of the procedures. We are going to tendering again so this could take some more time and there could be the possibility where the students are already by the end of the year and they find themselves with the tablets to be distributed which can bring them to Form V next year.
What I have proposed to do is that we increase the number of tablets for which we are going for tender procedures, we ask for twice as many, but we ask the supplier to provide only half this year and the other half in January next year.
The Deputy Speaker: Next question hon. Seeruttun!
MONNERON SSS – RENAMING - ABDUL HAMID GOOLAM MOHAMED ISSAC SSS (20/02/15)
Mr S. Mohamed (First Member for Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East): Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity, which I thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving me to address a matter of importance - in my view - to the House and it is that on 19 July 2013, Cabinet took the decision and agreed that Monneron State Secondary School be named after 90 late Abdul Hamid Goolam Mohamed Issac also known as Gorah Issac. He was the Municipal Councillor from 1951 to 1953. He was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1959 to 1963.
Mr Issac devoted much of his time to education of the youths, free coaching students who could not afford private tuition, and during his mandate he fought for the inclusion of Urdu and other Oriental Languages for the Cambridge and London University Exams. He presented motions to the Legislative Assembly for sustaining private colleges and Madrassas so they could operate more efficiently. I pray, therefore, Madam Speaker, to the hon. Prime Minister and also to the hon. Minister of Education if that Cabinet decision could be implemented because it still hasn’t even though it has been decided and we pray, therefore, that this could be implemented because Mr Issac is, indeed, a hero who should be remembered for what he has done for this country.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research (Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun): I have taken note and I will look into the matter and inform the House at a later stage.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Members, I wish to inform you that provision has been made for dinner.
At 7.48 p.m. the Assembly was, on its rising, adjourned to Tuesday 24 February 2015 at 11.30 a.m.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS - DIGITAL TABLETS (03/03/15)
(No. B/115) Mr R. Uteem (First Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the distribution of digital tablets to students, she will state -
(a) the number thereof returned as broken or defective;
(b) if all the secondary schools have internet connections, and
(c) where matters stand as to the distribution thereof to students this year.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that out of 24,111 Tablet PCs distributed last year in 155 State and Private-aided Secondary Schools, 2,304 Tablet PCs have been reported faulty during the period May 2014 to November 2014 as per the Service Level Agreement signed between my Ministry and Mauritius Telecom. There is a warranty period of two years on all Tablet PCs procured and users encountering problems with their Tablet PCs may call at the six after-sales outlets of the Mauritius Telecom around the Island.
With regard to part (b) of the question, I wish to state at the very outset, that the device has been provided with digital resources on both online (on the internet) and offline (in the tablet PC itself) basis. All State and Private Secondary Schools already have internet connections. However, there is no WIFI connectivity in secondary schools except, 2 model schools, that is, the Gaetan Raynal State College and Mauritius College where WIFI connectivity is available in Form V classrooms.
The provision of WIFI in all State and Private-aided Secondary schools is being catered into by the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation. I am informed that as far back as in August 2014, a tender for upgrading the internet connectivity to at least 10 MB and the provision of WIFI connectivity in Form IV and Form V classrooms for all colleges was launched by the then Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. The evaluation of bids has been completed at the level of the Central Procurement Board, but, the contract has not yet been awarded since two bidders have made applications for review before the Independent Review Panel. This matter is being followed up by the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation. The next meeting of the Independent Review Panel is scheduled on 13 March, 2015.
As far as part (c) of the question is concerned, I am informed that in September 2014, a tender for procurement of 23,400 Tablets intended for Form IV students and educators of 2014 was launched. The closing date was on 27 November, 2014 and bids were opened on the same date. The bid evaluation exercise is currently under way at the level of the Central Procurement Board and it is expected that the distribution to students who are now in Form V and educators may start around July 2015. However, it is expected that by that time the issue of availability of WIFI in schools would be sorted out so that optimum use of Tablet PC would be made.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, being given the number of tablets that had been returned from the distribution of last year, is the Bid Evaluation Committee or has the Ministry issued guidelines to ensure that there is no repeat and that appropriate software is on these tablets?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, the tablets that were repaired have been given back to the students after repair, but measures have been taken to ensure that proper specifications are given to get good tablets for the students.
Mr Uteem: Does the tender extend also to the provision of education software to be used on these tablets or is it just limited to the supply of tablets?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The tablet contains already education software, but lessons are now being provided by the MIA. The MIA is working on resource material for these tablets.
Mr Jhugroo: Madam Speaker, can the hon. Minister inform the House what was the cost for one Digital tablet and whether students were asked to pay any insurance and, if so, can we know what amount?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The cost of the tablets for year 2014 was Rs134,349,018 and the students were made to pay a sum of Rs650 in order to ensure that in case of theft or major damage to the PC, the PCs would be replaced, but they would have to ensure that they have proper evidence that major damage or theft has occurred.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Uteem!
Mr Uteem: On the same point I was going to ask in relation to this insurance. We have had people especially in my Constituency who have come to me and said that: ‘you know, Rs650 is a lot of money.’ So, this year, is the Government considering whether to exempt, at least, those who are at the lower rung of the social ladder from the payment of this sum of Rs650?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Students whose parents benefit from social aid do not normally pay this amount.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo!
Mr Jhugroo: The hon. Minister replied earlier, I think, the amount paid was around Rs180 m. for…
Rs138 m. for 24,000 tablets. I think that it will cost around Rs750 for one tablet. How come we are giving free of charge to students, one tablet that cost Rs750, when they had to pay for insurance of…
Madam Speaker: Sit down, hon. Jhugroo! Allow the hon. Minister to reply.
Allow the hon. Minister to reply. Yes, hon. Minister.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: It will cost much more than Rs700, around Rs5,000.
Madam Speaker: Okay! Next question, hon. Rutnah!
FORM IV STUDENTS – DIGITAL TABLETS (07/04/15)
(No. B/273) Mr F. Quirin (Fourth Member for Beau Bassin & Petite Rivière) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the project for the allocation of digital tablets to the students of Form IV, she will state if all the students of Form IV have been allocated with a digital tablet, including those of the prevocational sector and, if not, indicate the reasons therefor.
The Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security (Mr M. Seeruttun): Madam Speaker, with your permission I am going to reply this question.
The Tablet PC project was implemented by the Ministry in 2013 following a measure announced in the Budget Speech 2013 to allocate Tablet PCs to all Form IV students and educators of State and Private-aided Secondary schools, and also to Year 4 students of the pre-vocational schools.
The process of the procurement of Tablet PCs for Form IV students and educators of the year 2013 started in July 2013, but due to lengthy tendering procedures, the award of the contract was made in December 2013 with delivery, commissioning and registration of the Tablet PCs taking place from January to June 2014.
The distribution of the Tablet PCs to students could, therefore, be effected only as from July 2014 and since, at that time, the Form IV students of 2013 had already moved to Form V, it was decided to distribute the tablets to the Form V students of 2014.
The students of the pre-vocational sector who were in Year 4 in 2013 were not allocated the Tablet PCs given that, at the time of distribution, they had already left the pre-vocational schools in October 2013. As regards to students who were in Year 4 in 2014, since at the time of the distribution in July 2014, they were nearing completion of their studies, no Tablet PC was distributed to them.
Madam Speaker, the 2014 procurement exercise for Tablet PCs, which started in September 2014, has not yet been completed due to two challenges received on the tender exercise upon notification of award to all bidders.
Since my Ministry currently has a stock of 2263 Tablet PCs, and so as not to penalise this year’s Year IV students of the pre-vocational schools, my Ministry with proceed with the distribution of these Tablets to the students during the second term of this year.
As regards the distribution to Form V students and educators of 2015, that is, Form IV of 2014 and educators, same will be effected once the issue of challenge is sorted out and the contract is awarded.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Barbier.
STATE SECONDARY SCHOOLS – SUPPLY TEACHERS – RECRUITMENT (07/04/15)
(No. B/292) Mr S. Rutnah (Third Member for Piton & Rivière du Rempart) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the supply teachers in the State Secondary Schools, she will state the number thereof employed over the past two years, indicating –
(a) on average the
(i) shortest and
(ii) longest engagement contract allocated thereto and
(b) if her Ministry will consider adopting and implementing the policy of recruiting the supply teachers on the permanent establishment.
The Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security (Mr M. Seeruttun): Madam Speaker, I am informed that Supply Teachers are enlisted in respect of State Secondary Schools for both mainstream and pre-vocational stream in order to palliate the shortage of staff and to replace Educators proceeding on sick/maternity/vacation leave and leave without pay.
For the past two years, the number of Supply Teachers enlisted for mainstream and the pre-vocational stream are as follows:
Year 2013 : 332 (short and long periods
31 (long periods)
Year 2014 : 397 (short and long periods)
31 (long periods)
Madam Speaker, I am also informed that, generally:
(i) the shortest period of enlistment of Supply Teachers is 19 days to replace Educators who have proceeded on vacation leave, and
(ii) the longest period is one full academic year, that is, as from the resumption of studies in January up to the end of the third term, normally in the first week of November.
As regards part (b) of the question, the enlistment of Supply Teachers is made every year under delegated powers from the Public Service Commission on the terms and conditions specified by the Commission. In the offer of appointment made to the Supply Teachers, it is clearly stated that their enlistment would be on a purely temporary basis as and when required.
It is also specified that in the offer of appointment that the enlistment will not give them any claim for permanent appointment as Educator and may be terminated without notice or compensation in lieu of notice in the event of incompetence, misconduct or insubordination or in case their services are no longer required.
Should they wish to be considered for appointment to the grade of Educator, they will have to submit their application anew as and when the post is advertised by the Public Service Commission. Hence it is not envisaged to implement a policy for employment of supply teachers on a permanent basis in as much as there already exist a mode of recruitment for Educators on a permanent basis.
However, it is also to be pointed out that, with the approval of the Public Service Commission, around 125 Supply Teachers were enlisted in the years 2004/2005 for the pre-vocational stream. Their enlistment was on a month to month basis as and when required. As at date, 30 supply teachers prevocational are still in employment. They are enlisted at the start of the academic year in January and their enlistment is terminated at the end of the third term in October/November and they are re-employed at the beginning of the following year on the same terms and conditions. Given that the 30 supply teachers are serving since 2004/2005, the approval of Cabinet was obtained in May 2014 to absorb them on the establishment of the Ministry.
In this respect, the scheme of service is actually being amended to take on board the Supply Teachers in conformity with the Cabinet decision. It is expected that their situation will be regularised shortly as a special case.
Mr Rutnah: That is the answer that the hon. Minister gave in relation to making some of the teachers permanent once the Cabinet will meet. Is the hon. Minister aware that for the last 10 years, there is a shortage of teachers in, at least, three State Secondary Schools in my constituency, for example, at the Piton State Secondary School, at Mapou State Secondary School and at Ramsoondar Prayag State Secondary School and in the last 10 years, only supply teachers have been teaching on and off?
Mr Seeruttun: Madam Speaker, if this is the case, then probably I will have to ask the officers of the Ministry to look into it and see what are the measures they intend to take to correct that situation.
STUDENTS & EDUCATORS -TABLET PC – DISTRIBUTION (10/11/15)
(No. B/835) Mr. O. 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 procurement of 23,400 digital tablets intended for distribution in 2014 to the then Form IV students who are now in Form V and to the Educators respectively, she will state where matters stand.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, first of all, I wish to inform the House that tablet PCs have not yet been delivered by the contractor. It is intended to distribute, ultimately, the tablet PCs to the 2014 cohort of Form IV students next year.
Following a procurement exercise, which was started in September 2014 through the Central Procurement Board for the procurement of 23,400 tablets for Form IV students and Educators of 2014, the contract was awarded to Data Communications Ltd on 06 May 2015. As per the terms of the contract, which was signed on the 12 June 2015, delivery of the tablets was due to start on 07 September 2015 at latest.
However, DCL made a first delivery of 24 tablets in unsealed boxes only on 11 September 2015. It is to be highlighted that on the 16 September the attention of the DCL was drawn to the fact that these tablets were not delivered in sealed boxes as per the contractual delivery schedule. On 01 October 2015, DCL provided a delivery schedule whereby it has proposed to deliver the tablets from 15 November 2015 to 30 November 2015.
The Ministry has reported the matter to the Procurement Policy Office and has sought the legal advice from the State Law Office on same. The latter has advised that as regards the first delivery which occurred on 01 September, the Ministry should notify DCL that it is in breach of the contract and that the contract may be terminated if DCL fails to deliver the tablets within the period specified in the contract. My Ministry has notified DCL accordingly.
Mr Mohamed: Since this deals with the tablets, and here I am not in any way going to play party politics because even during the previous Government which I form part of, there was a serious issue of having internet coverage or internet service in schools. I have also been informed, recently, that this situation is simply the same, whereby, many schools still do not have Wi-Fi coverage of such an extent that allows the students to use the tablets. What does the hon. Minister, therefore, intend to do in order to try to correct the situation that existed from before?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, the Wi-Fi connection is being dealt with at the level of the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation. I have been informed that the contract has been signed recently for 300 spot sites for Wi-Fi.
Mr Uteem: Thank you, Madam Speaker, I heard the hon. Minister mentioned that following the advice from the State Law Office, the contractor would be notified that the Government can terminate the agreement. My question is whether the Government will terminate and if it does not terminate, will it, at least, ask for penalty fees, damages to be paid for late delivery?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, Madam Speaker, I’ve just mentioned that the Ministry is taking the steps, has already notified the company and will, in fact, terminate if the tablet PCs are not provided within the time scheduled.
Obviously, the penalty fees as well! I have been informed that the company was asked to provide the bank guarantee and the bank guarantee has expired, but the company has been asked to extend it further till December.
Mr Jhugroo: Can the hon. Minister inform the House whether it is the first time that Data Communications Ltd is providing services for tablets or it delivered in the past?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I don’t have the information
SSS - MR R. B. – TRANSFER (28/03/17)
Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for GRNW & Port Louis West): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will invite the hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research to look into the case of a Trade Unionist of the Secondary Private School, Mr R. B..
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, Mr R. B. has worked in the State college for more than 28 years teaching accounts. Actually, he is suffering from a serious disease, a throat cancer. He is a Trade Unionist. He has, last year, during the debate on the nine-year schooling, expressed his désaccord on certain points.
Following that, he had to travel to India and when he came back this year, he received a letter informing him that he is transferred from Floréal SSS with immediate effect to St Aubin knowing fully well that this gentleman needs his treatment. He does not live far from Floréal. He lives in Eau Coulée. It is difficult for him to travel long distances and he believes that it is a punitive transfer. I do not want to enter into a debate whether it is a punitive transfer or not.
I am making an appeal to the hon. Minister, on humanitarian ground, to reconsider - he has made several representations - the possibility of returning him back to Floréal SSS where he was.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you, hon. Baloomoody! Any remark, hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research!
The Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research (Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the transfer of Educators is done through the administrative arm of my Ministry. Obviously, if a teacher is transferred, he has to abide by the transfer he has been asked to undertake.
However, in case of disease or any other matter, we can sometimes review. Now, in the case of that person, I have received his letter, but he has been submitting medical certificates dated four years back. So, we have asked him to submit a fresh one. And anyway, in case there has been a transfer, we can review the transfer, but it does not mean that he will be sent back to the same college where he was.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you, hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research.