Addressing the World

 

1968

Admission to the United Nations,24th April

Mr. President, I should like to express to you and to all the distinguished representatives, my cordial thanks for the admission of my country to the United Nations. My special thanks go to those Member States which have so generously sponsored our application for membership. It is gratifying to ackowledge the wide response and welcome Mauritius has received from Members of the United Nations. By this act you have given formal consecration to the accession of Mauritius to the status of a sovereign independent state. Although I come from a small country, my Government and the people of Mauritius are very conscious of the honour of belonging to this great Assembly, and we can assure you that we shall strive to uphold the great ideals which are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and will play fully our part in the struggle for justice, racial equality, peace and understanding among nations.

This is indeed a solemn moment in the history of my country. I stand here in all humility, in the midst of this great world community, as the symbol of my people's hope that through the effort of the United Nations mankind will really see the ultimate fulfilment of the principles and purposes to which men and women in this august Assembly have dedicated themselves. In that grand and noble endeavour, we as a small nation will bring our contribution, however modest it may be, to the shaping of the destiny of a better world, of a new and broader world civilization in which man's essential needs will transcend considerations of national self-interest.

I also bring to you, Mr. President and distinguished representatives, the greetings and good wishes of my country which after successive periods of colonisation by the Dutch, the French and the British, is now looking forward to an era of fruitful collaboration and partnership with all nations.

Mauritius has a rich historical background and in the past it has played a notable part in some of the great events which have moulded the course of history. Mauritius is a densely populated island, and over an area of seven hundred and twenty square miles lives a population of almost eight hundred thousand. It is a view held by some scholars that our island was visited by Dravidian seamen in pre-Aryan days, and during the time of their great awakening, the Arabs sighted Mauritius in the early part of the Christian era while plying between India and the Red Sea.

However, it was the Dutch who took formal possession of the island in the seventeenth century, and gave it its present name. But colonisation proper started in earnest by the French who succeeded the Dutch, and France has left its last imprint on the history of Mauritius. Such indeed has been the impact of French culture and civilization on the life of the people that even those who came from other lands have been profoundly influenced by it. The meeting of the peoples of Asia, Africa and the West in Mauritius has enriched our previous heritage, and as I said in France during my last visit:"Sovereign Mauritius will ally itself still more closely with France, as with the other countries from which our forefathers came. Thus this remote island in the Indian Ocean will become one of the most important meeting places of East and West."

Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1810, Britain conquered Mauritius. Because of the island's proximity with India, Mauritius was captured from the French with the help of Indian troops from Bengal, Madras and Ceylon. British power in the Indian Ocean became supreme after the annexation of Mauritius to the British Crown and British rule was to last until the accession of Mauritius to Independence on 12th March, 1968. In the course of the European colonisation of Mauritius, people from Africa and Asia came to its shores and they have all played a decisive part in the progress and development of the island. Ever since, the people of Mauritius have been trying to promote the maintenance of contrasted cultures within the framework of a wider community to which each group could contribute its own share.

It is indeed true to say that although Mauritius has drawn its cultural inspiration from Africa, Asia and Europe, yet it has succeeded to a remarkable degree in evolving a distinct Mauritian way of life. The visitor to Mauritius is impressed by the fact that on the whole, Mauritians have more in common with each other than with the native inhabitants of the lands of their forbears. Indeed, it has been the privilege of my small country that its citizens have inherited the influence of the best traditions of the East and of the West. And this influence is noticeable in the works of our poets and writers, as has been pointed out by many speakers who have preceded me.

I spoke a little while ago of the basic principles of the United Nations, and of its work for the oppressed peoples who have been struggling for the recognition of their rights to nationhood. We are all here pledged to this great ideal, and indeed all member States have been working with great fervour and dedication to achieve these great ends. In many areas of the world, hatred and violence and denial of human rights are still raising their ugly heads and human beings are being subjected to segregation from one another because of the colour of their skin or their way of life. It is a statistical fact that more than half of the world's population is forced to live in conditions where human dignity and social justice have hardly any meaning. Even in some of the progressive countries which have been the bulwark of democracy, men of goodwill are constantly trying to find a formula by which inequality and fear can be banished, and the underprivileged can aspire to a place in the sun.

We in Mauritius have a long tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding, despite the occasional evil exploitation of our diversity. Our social customs and habits have transcended racial and cultural differences. Although much has been achieved in the past two years in the field of economic and social development, Mauritius, like other developing countries, is bedevilled by the rapid rate of population growth. As a sequel, unemployment is a cause of great anxiety, for the rapid increase in the birth rate is a constant threat to our present standard of living. We are taking steps to contain this serious population explosion, and to counteract it, a comprehensive programme of family planning is being launched.

Fully conscious of the seriousness of the problem, the Mauritian Government has embarked on the diversification of our economy. Great efforts are being made to stimulate the production of tea, tobacco and food crops, and a number of manufacturing industries have been set up. We have also been giving careful consideration to the possibilities of emigration as a means of easing our unemployment problem. In this respect I am glad to say that a large number of Mauritians who have emigrated to countries like Britain, Australia and Canada are actively contributing towards the development of those countries. I should like to add that Mauritian workers are efficient, intelligent and adaptable, and have proved to be an asset to those countries which have welcomed them. We all know that there are yet many large areas of the world available for settlement, whereas in Mauritius and other territories there is a serious surplus of human resources. It is in this vital task of revolutionising the social and economic setup of Mauritius that my people are looking forward to a close and fruitful partnership with Member States of the United Nations.

Here, with your permission, Mr. President, I should like to avail myself of this opportunity to express the gratitude of my Government and my country for the assistance that has already come to us from these quarters and the various United Nations agencies; and I might add in this context how deeply indebted we are to countries like Britain, France, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Pakistan, which have sympathised in a practical way with the problems we have been facing.

We fully realise that economic stability and world peace depend very much on the understanding between individual groups within a nation, as well as in the field of international relations, and on the success which countries achieve in their efforts to give a reasonable standard of living to their populations. It is in this great task of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor that we join our efforts with other Member States forming part of this Assembly.

To conclude, allow me on behalf of my delegation and my country to renew our pledge that we will carry out our obligations under the United Nations Charter and will stand by the great principles which inspire this great world assembly in its pursuit of peace and happiness.

1973

Human Rights Special meeting of the General Assembly to Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10th December

It is with a great sense of humility that I express to the United Nations my heartfelt appreciation for the great honour it has bestowed upon me, and also upon my country, by awarding me a Human Rights Prize on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We were not participants on that historic night of 10th December, 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping the Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for the rights and freedoms set therein and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

In 1948 we were a territory under the jurisdiction of a member state, and it has only been some six years since we have been independent, which has hardly given us time to fulfil all the goals of the Universal Declaration, although the latter is firmly entrenched in our Constitution. For us the date and place of the adoption of the Universal Declaration will always have, however, a special meaning and a sense of joy, because of our close connection with France where the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted by the French National Assembly in Paris in 1789.

Mr. President, in your announcement to the General Assembly, at its 2157th meeting on 26th October , concerning the prizes for human rights, you most kindly referred to me as having done "exceptionally valuable work in the protection and defence of an exemplary multiracial society …" You will therefore permit me to say a few words about my own country and its people.

We are an island in the Indian Ocean discovered originally by Malays and Arabs, and rediscovered in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese, held later by the Dutch, who named it Mauritius, and colonised by the French who named it Ile de France, until Great Britain came in 1814 by the Treaty of Paris and named it again Mauritius.

It is a densely populated country, and ninety-five percent of the land under cultivation is devoted to sugar which represents ninety-one percent of the value of our total exports. Because of our dependence on sugar agreements and our lack of natural resources, we face problems common to many developing countries; but, while we may have a comparatively contended labour force, we are fortunate in having an almost entirely literate population, blessed with a high quality of adaptability. We are diversifying our economy and establishing light industries in order not to be wholly dependent on sugar, although for many years to come the latter will continue to be the backbone of our economy.

We are, if I may say so, a remarkable model of a working multiracial and multicommunal state, where descendants of Indians, Pakistanis, Europeans, Africans and Chinese, professing all the religions in the world, cooperate and enrich our everyday life and maintain a working democracy. There is a wide choice of political parties and the electorate takes a deep interest in politics. I can say that we have had years of considerable social and economic progress as well as a growing spirit of harmony and identity of purpose among our people. We have drawn freely upon our cultural heritage and we are basically a peace-loving, non-violent people.

We are a member of the Organisation of African Unity and of the Commonwealth, among other organisations, and our policy in the United Nations is aimed at achieving the maximum benefit for mankind in the greatest harmony and friendship. We purposely became a party to the Internatinal Convention on the Elimanation of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, because we are resolved, in the word of the Convention, to adopt all necessary measures for speedily eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations and to prevent and combat racist doctrines and practices in order to promote understanding between races and to build an international community free from all forms of racial segregation and racial discrimination. Accordingly, the United Nations can expect from us the fullest cooperation in pursuing the goals laid down for the Decade against Racism and Racial Discrimination, which is being launched today.

I should like to emphasise that although we have so far avoided the worst horrors of a nuclear holocaust, we cannot afford to be complacent with our future peace and progress. We must fully comprehend the stresses of the modern world. We must not believe that scientific and technological advances, as well as instant comunication, have made Governments and people give up all hope of comprehending the complexities of our society and become incapable of making any attempt to right its wrongs.

As a newly independent country, we are dedicated to the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples adopted by the General Assembly in 1960, which declares in one of its articles, that "all States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ….". We cannot tolerate, and we must eradicate for ever, policies and programmes of segregation, apartheid and racial discrimination. We are equally opposed to the so-called real world of apartheid between the have and the have-not countries. We are against the erection of barriers to keep out the realities of hunger and suffering that threaten life and lead to abandonment of human aspirations and values. As Article 22 of the Universal Declaration states: "Everyone, as a member of society … is entitled to realisation through national effort and international cooperation …of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality."

If we are to face with any hope of success, the bewildering and seemingly insoluble problems of our times, we must steadfastly adhere to the decisions and instruments of the United Nations and its family of organisations, and above all, to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose purpose it is to uphold the dignity and worth of the human person and his welfare, based on liberty and justice for all.

Mr. President, allow me once again to express my profound gratitude to the United Nations for the award it has given to me and to my country, and to conclude by reiterating on this twenty-fifth anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights our unswerving support for the achievement of its objectives.


 

ECONOMY

 

1948

The Armed Forces Legislative Council Debate, 19th October

We all have a part to play in the defence of the Empire; we are all part of an Empire which is based on equality and democracy. I think we must try and help the Government of this island to preserve our freedom by using whatever we have, and to bring it to the defence of the Empire. The Government should be very careful in selecting the personnel which it intends to recruit under this Bill. The Government is by now aware that there are fascist tendencies in this country which are forming themselves in a nucleus, and if they infiltrate the Defence Forces, I am afraid our freedom will be jeopardised.

Pro-fascist groups are everywhere active and great pressure is brought to bear upon people to accept certain ideals, under which the working men, the majority of the world's population, would work as slaves and do whatever their rulers please.

The fascist tendencies here are backed by forces from outside this country and people in this country must come forward when we are all collecting and gathering together our democratic forces to fight oppression. They have come forward and they have questioned the loyalty of certain people. This is a method which they adopt to sow discontent among the people and to bring about a defeatist attitude towards the realisation of the object we have in view.

We want to ask the Government to bring to light the truth of this matter. As regards the argument that there will be no check after we have passed this Bill, surely there will be a 2 - check. The Estimates will come before this Council annually and it will have a chance to vote whether or not to grant the supplies asked by Government. I think this is a sufficient guarantee. We cannot ask the Members of this Council to sit in the various departments day in and day out and check what is going on in the normal administration of the country. That would be outside our powers and an impossible task. We must be satisfied if the Government will give us the guarantee that this Force will be run properly and if the Government will see that all sections of the people are recruited and that the recruitment is not only from one class of the population.

We have been told that the expenditure which we will be going to discuss later will tend to lower the standard of life of our people because they are taxed, they are overburdened and there is a good deal of poverty and want in the country. Yet the conclusion drawn from these facts is wrong. If we allow our defence forces to diminish in their power, I think that when the oppressors arrive our standard of living will be lower still.

The Government should take into consideration all the facts that have been coming to light, and make clear to the people what penalties have been inflicted and whether Government will in the near future reconsider the whole position and try to help those already serving terms of imprisonment. They have suffered enough and the time has come for their cases to be reconsidered by the Government and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We must be very careful in this country that we do not find ourselves in a situation similar to that which is prevailing in South Africa. The coloured people of this country and most of the members of the communities who share equality and freedom will be vigilant to see that they are not reduced by slow degrees to slavery.

1949

Land Tenure Legislative Council, 17th June

It has been a familiar practice in this House that whenever new suggestions are made, whenever the rights of people are in a way being put forward, we always find ourselves against a brick wall; for instance, concerning the laws of inheritance. Laws are necessary. The Colonial Secretary has admitted that he is not against an investigation of the land tenure system on our Colony. What did we find during the war? A great many property owners left their lands uncultivated. When people asked that those lands be utilized for food production and for the economy of the island, the owners were unwilling to release these lands even for the cultivation of rice. During the war it was next to impossible to get marshy lands, that no one was using, for rent at a reasonable price so that some food could be obtained for the people. In the end, with great difficulty, the Supplies Control Department effected some change and the Government gave land to people in some parts of the country so that food might be cultivated at a reasonable rent. But the owners of marshy lands where the rice could be cultivated only rented those lands at exorbitant prices. Land must be controlled and tenants must be safeguarded. We found out only last year that people who had been cultivating lands for many years by verbal agreement were called tenants by the owners of those lands and were liable to have their lands taken away. Those who were affected came running to me and tried to get redress in the newspaper and from us or from the Government.

A man who has been cultivating a certain piece of land for some years should be given reasonable notice. He must be given some measure of security while he is on the land and he should not be asked to upset his economy within a few months. That is not right, especially at a time when the Food Production Board is helping this country to be self-supporting, and enabling its resources to be exploited to the utmost.

The Government has also leased vast tracts of land to people almost at nominal rents. Instead of sharing the rich fruits they have gathered with those who are the backbone of this country, what do these people do? They tell the poor people that the lands can no longer be used by them. Those lands rented from Government at very low rates are now rented to other tenants at very high prices. I will also ask Government to look into another aspect of our life and the way Government has dealt with it. The rent for houses is being controlled and owners of property are really spending three or four hundred percent more for their maintenance than they used to spend during pre-war days. The rent is being controlled by Government. The Government, which I am sure isendeavouring to rule this Colony in the best tradition of democracy, should pay great attention to what elected representatives say in this Council.

1949

Estimates Legislative Council Debate, 3rd November

The Estimates represent the economic and social policy of the Government. That policy must be revised some day. The social and political atmosphere must change. But the Government is not doing enough to bring about those changes. This Estimate before us is no different from those presented to us year after year.

A good deal of money is being spent on social services. But in my view the sum is still too small, and much of it is wasted.

Reference has been made to the nationalisation of the rum and the lotteries industry. This is not going to satisfy the people of this country. If we are to run this country in the interest of one and all we should nationalise the very source of our income. There is no way out of it. We have heard that the railways do not pay. But they have never paid, in any part of the world, not even the most efficient. They are a national industry and cannot pay, especially here where freight is not commensurate with the rise in the cost of the railways.

For the first time the Government has found it possible to institute milk for school-children. We welcome this and are prepared to give it a trial, hoping that it can be instituted without problems, and that it will be carefully controlled. We also welcome the new institution of a School Medical Service, which will be of great help.

On the question of education and subsidisation, I have some remarks to make. The old Council intended to make education compulsory. Mr. Ward's Report proved that we all wanted compulsory education.

All our children should go to school to get education at least up to primary stage. But as far as compulsory education is concerned nothing much has been done since the departure of Mr. Ward. There are about forty-five thousand children who are still without education. We are getting an average of seventy-five teachers a year through the Training College, which is not enough. The slow - the very slow - building programme will also do little to help in solving the problem of accommodation for the schools.

Within a period of ten years, we should like to see the majority of our children having primary education as is their due, and for which parents are clamouring,. Children are being refused admission to schools. What is going to happen to them, to their parents? The children cannot remain idle in their homes. It is a real burden to make our children go to work during the day. It is a tragedy for their parents. Government should pay attention to these matters very soon.

Coming to subsidisation, I will say that some people are trying their level best to keep the workers trapped in poverty and ignorance. Subsidisation is not a solution to the rise in the cost of living; we must bring down this subsidisation. The policy of subsidisation should be reviewed. The main commodities which are subsidised are rice, flour and oil but it is not necessary to subsidise them now. The cost of living has gone up much more than the statisticians can show us. The housewife does not know where and how to purchase her commodities because of the daily fluctuation in the prices.

The workers spend all they earn without being able to meet all their expenses. I am told that the workers are not strong enough to claim their due from employers. I agree they are powerless when dealing with capitalist organisations. This is why I, who have opposed subsidisation, am favouring it, in certain aspects, today. Butter is a dream to the average worker - not to talk of the child who needs it - and the Government should see that a commodity like butter is subsidised. The Government is spending a great deal of money on sugar estate hospitals and their health services, yet we are not able to cope with the problem of the workers. The Government should introduce National Health Insurance and old age pensions for the workers who, in their old age, are left to beg or go to the Poor Law Houses provided for that purpose. I have visited one such house in Calebasses and cannot express the horror that I experienced. Your Excellency should visit it; not by arrangement but as a surprise visit…The horror that met me there - the dirt and filth - was extreme. These people are spending their last days in obscurity. They should be treated in a more civilised manner. I hope some system of social insurance will be established which will help the field workers of this country.

We have not yet reached the limit of our capacity for taxation. The Government should see that taxation be put on sugar exports so that our reserves can be brought back to what they once were. We should like to see this budget rise to sixty million so that it may provide fully for what the workers need, what people are clamouring for. Let me add, however, that it is our duty to sympathise with the Government in its difficulties. We are also prepared, with the British people and with the British Labour Government, to do our part to help it and help the British Commonwealth in its difficulties.

 

EDUCATION

1943

The Ward Report

Legislative Council 7th December

No one will say that the changes to be introduced by the Director of Education are undesirable. We have all worked in the Select Committee with the closest cooperation and have discussed our views freely, and at times, heatedly. Nevertheless, although the report before us embodies a more or less general consensus about what we wish to do and wish to see in the country, there are some points that demand further clarification. One concerns the Indian languages. I do not see what is meant in the summary when it says: ‘Provided a common language like Hindustani is accepted later on’.

My section of the community wishes to see that Indian languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Tamil are taught to our children as a matter of right. Any change that will bring about the suppression of one language or another is undesirable and will have a detrimental effect of that section of the community. I shall therefore impress upon the Government to see that these three languages are taught, and indeed taught in a manner that is more scientific. Such a recommendation was accepted by the Select Committee, and I do not see why some such proviso is not included in the summary which was sent to us.

Taking for granted that we have accepted these three languages in our schools, I do not see why, instead of having Hindustani as an optional subject, Hindi or Urdu or Tamil should not be made optional for Indian students. By that I do not mean that they should take either French or one Indian language. I think they should have the option to take both of them, as is done in other parts of the world, like India,. I am very glad that there is no opinion that favours the abolition of any of these languages.

With regard to the salaries of the teachers, as recommended in the Ward Report: I think that the provision made for the present scale of salaries is, to an extent, penalising certain teachers or certain grades of teachers who have been in the schools for many years already. First class teachers received, in the old system, up to three thousand rupees, and head teachers were receiving the same salary, with a duty allowance and a house allowance. With the present system, first class teachers will be graded to receive only one thousand five hundred rupees; their salary is more or less halved. This has spread a sort of discouragement among the teaching force of the island, and I should like to point out to the Government that if a better salary is not possible now, the Director of Education and his Committee should see that in the near future, better provision is made for these teachers who run the risk of remaining, I do not know how many years, at only one thousand eight hundred rupees a year, if ever they reach that, because there are many aspects in the new scale that might prevent them from climbing to that point.

I believe there is nothing much in the Report with which one would not agree; but the manner is which the regulations are implemented by the Department concerned certainly raises issues that are important.

One of them is the admission of boys at the Royal College and the School of Port-Louis. The Director of Education should see that admission to the College is proportional to the population attending the primary schools. At present, certain classes of the community are favoured. I have figures in front of me. I see that at the Royal College today we have only a few pupils from the Indian Community and yet in the primary school proper there are over twenty thousand Indian boys and girls getting free education. The proportion of those who go to the Royal College is far from fair. In a certain year seventy-eight percent of the non-Indian population got admission compared to only twenty percent of the Indian population. These anomalies should be remedied if satisfaction is to be given to all sections of the population. I do not mean to encroach upon the privileges that go to each community, but I only wish that the Government and members of the other sections of the population act in fair play.

In this Report, there is also something about the abolition of examinations. I know that in all progressive countries examinations have been abolished and fewer and fewer textbooks are studied in the primary schools. But in a country like Mauritius, where we have to deal with a population that is still extensively uneducated and poor, I think we should strike a happy balance somewhere and see that some sort of text-book teaching is given to the children in the primary schools, especially in geographyand history, because I believe these two subjects are quite necessary if we are to build up men and women who are fit to be citizens of this island.

I only hope that the Select Committee’s recommendations will bring about improvement and give great satisfaction.

Legislative Council
7
th December, 1943

1949

Educational Extension

Legislative Council, 3rd November, 1949

For the first time the Government has found it possible to provide mils for school children. We welcome this move and are prepared to give it a trial, hoping that it will run without problems, and without lack of control. We also welcome the new institution of a School Medical Service, which will be of great help.

 

The old Council intended to make education compulsooory. Mr. Ward’s report showed klthat we all wanted compulsoory education. All our children should go to slchool to get education, at least up to the primary stage. But as far as compulsory education is concerned nothing much has been done since the departure of Mr. Ward. There are about forty-five thousand children who are without education today. We are getting an average of seventy-five teachers a year through the Teachers'’Training College, which is not enough. The very slow implementation of the building programme will help very little in solving the problem of accommodation in the schools.

  • But within a period of ten years, we should like to see that the majority of our children get primary education; it is really their due and parents are clamouring for it. Children are being refused admission in schools. What is going to happen to them, and their parents? The children cannot remain idle in their homes. It is also a real burden to force our children to go to work during the day and it is a tragedy for their parents. Government should pay very urgent attention to these matters
  • 1968

    The Purpose of a University

    Extract from Speech at the inauguration of the Barclays Bank DCO

    Building of the University of Mauritius

    29th November

     

    An independent nation has to shift its priorities and assume new responsibilities befitting its position in the world. The most urgent task to which we must all direct our attention is the adaptation of our educational institutions to the changing needs of society. Our salvation truly lies in educating and training our men and women in such a way that they are better equipped to face the great battles of life. It will be the supreme responsibility of the University to provide the best possible training in agriculture, business and commerce, and at the same time to impart such industrial skills as will enable our young people to make use of the most up-to-date technological advances. Our public service is also in need of acquiring new skills so that its members may be able to understand fully all the implications of social change and help to build a more efficient administration to grapple with all our national problems.

    1974

    Pre-School Education

    The inauguration of courses for 1974 organised
    by
    O.M.E.P., 20
    th March

    First of all I must say that I am greatly honoured to come here this afternoon to open this course. It gives me great pleasure to address you on this special occasion to mark the start of the "Organisation Mondiale des Etudes PréScholaires", concerned with modern methods of teaching infants.

    As you have already underlined, Mr. Minister, and as renowned psychologists have demonstrated, there are several stages in the development of a growing child. The first stage, as you mentioned just now, which ends at the age of about two requires maternal care, The nest from three to at least five years, is an intermediate stage which precedes school life and is a period of transition between the family and the school. At this age, the child should feel that he is still at home, surrounded by familiar objects and by the gentleness and affection of an experienced teacher who replaces the absent mother.

    Specially qualified people therefore are needed for this delicate and important job. These teachers differ from mothers in that they group together children of the same age and of diverse origins, and they organise exercises and educational games for them. But they also differ from primary school teachers because their job is not to educate or instil elementary knowledge; their job is to help the under-fives to acquire mastery of their gestures and of their bodies, and to develop all their faculties of curiosity, observation and creativity. In fact it deals with all the child’s instincts. By instincts, I mean hereditary elements which have been communicated to it from the gene.

    I must congratulate you, ladies and gentlemen, on your decision to become pioneer educators of children of pre-school age, and I am glad that you are here today, for the opening of this course. I can see how enthusiastic you are about this and what an important part you all wish to play. The formation of children is a kind of loving work; it requires your patience, your personal help, coupled with modern methods of pre-school teaching.

    The success of this depends entirely on what you make of this very delicate and important part of the life of the children. I know you understand that you carry a heavy responsibility because a substantial element of the future generation of Mauritius lies in your hands. It depends on you in a large measure to ensure that these young people grow healthily and succeed in their own development to make this country stronger, happier and more prosperous in the future.

    Some years ago one of the Swamis who came to Mauritius, when my own boy was very small said:"Why don’t you give this boy to me? I’ll make him a man." I said that I would miss him too much; egoistically we feel we cannot part with our children. But he said:"Give him to me, till fourteen only." But even then I felt it was not possible. So you see, in this context, what an important part you are going to play. Here are mothers, who will leave their children with you, and you have to take care of them, be their mother, be their nurse, be their educator.

    To bear this responsibility successfully, you must re-orientate your teaching and your thinking. You must study the principles involved and train yourselves in the practice of those up-to-date methods which O.M.E.P. has devised after world-wide experience in teaching infants. You will work together with a team of devoted and competent teachers of the Pedagogic Committee of O.M.E.P. who, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Education, are devoting their valuable time to these courses. I should like to congratulate and thank the committee for establishing and organising these courses.

    Lastly, I would address myself to the parents of the young children who are the objects of this praiseworthy enterprise. What I would ask you is to collaborate and cooperate fully. Without your support, the task of building pre-school education along modern lines which the Committee of O.M.E.P. has undertaken will not succeed. It is imperative that the teachers now working in infant schools should adopt these new methods. And it is your duty as parents to encourage them in this path of progress.

    It is with confidence in you all that I now declare open the 1974 courses of O.M.E.P

     

    .