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It is all too well to talk about allround reforms in the curriculum in a bid to attain Quality Education. It is also all too well to say that everything is set along the right track to provide the education our youngsters need inorder to lead the country towards enhanced economic growth. But how can we claim all these when our education system produces under the same Mauritian Sun, two categories of students, one attending the State Secondary Schools (SSS), enjoying an overdose of facilities and the other, the Private Secondary Schools (PSS) who are the less fortunate ones of the Mauritian Learning Community!.

Distressingly so, students attending PSS remain “ Les enfants pauvres de l’éducation”

( spokesman of the Federation of Managers of PSS in L’Express of 19.11.09). Why do these PSS remain “Les Parents Pauvres “of the education sector?

Presently Private Secondary Schools are reckoned to cater for more than 50% of the Mauritian Student Population? Statistics prove this fact. It is a secret to none that the CPE Examinations screen our children at their very young, immature age of 10 – 11 years. Those who achieve better are channeled to what is commonly qualified as the star schools of the country. Thus the ‘Cream’ of the student population is made to converge to State Secondary Schools (SSS) where facilities abound, very often to the extent of being underutilised or even subject to ‘Wasteful Utilisation”?. What is left for PSS? The ‘Left Overs’? Pardon me, I do not want to use the term ‘Left Overs’ as a pejorative term. It is the present situation ushered by the actual system and lubricated by the competent authorities which makes it so! These children find their ‘Salut’ in the Private Secondary Schools because their CPE Results, at such an early age, make them feel educationally stranded. They have no other option, nowhere else to go than to make their way to a PSS of their choice.

A ‘probe’ in the lives of most of these students reveal the rather poor family backgrounds, the low socio-economic and socio-psychological situations from which they hail. I wonder what is it that we call ‘Culturally deprived’ children in Mauritius! Is it only students attending the Primary ZEP (Zone D’éducation Prioritaire) who are culturally deprived? Are these Private Secondary Schools not, in a way, the ZEP schools of the secondary education sector?

It is a real contradictory situation we find ourselves in at this stage. So long that these students are at Primary level, they are considered the less fortunate ZEP students and are given much attention, Viz. balanced nutrition, school materials and so on. At secondary level, all those coming from well-to-do families are fortunate enough to secure seats in star schools and other SSS where they are provided with all facilities in terms of infrastructure, equipment and other amenities. More to these, they are still privileged with massive investments with regard to infrastructure upgrade and tools to improve quality of teaching – all these at accelerated speeds. Infact, the present situation is such that government makes overgenerous expenditures towards the SSS students. Expenses towards PSS students are reduced to nearly half of what is spent with an SSS student. For how long will the ‘Less Fortunate Ones’ have to wait for all such privileges in their world? For how long will PSS have to wait for disparities to end and be at par with the SSS? How long will PSS students continue to feel hurt in their self-esteem vis-à vis their SSS counterparts? They can presently be categorized as the second class students because of the inequalities they suffer. When will come the day when Equality of Opportunity in Education would cease to be a vague and vain or illusionary term?

The last government budget made substantial efforts towards Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs ) by providing them with ‘Stimulus Packages’ for them to continue to exist. ‘Booster Initiatives’ were provided to the Agro-Industry sector. Salary compensation made workers feel happy and the ’feel good factor’ sparkled the Mauritian society after a couple of years morosity. To what avail could all these be when an important component and partner of the education sector feel the ’Parent Pauvre’ of shining Mauritius?

Whilst massive investments were earmarked for the pre-primary, primary and state secondary sectors, the very mention of Private Secondary Schools in the outgoing budget, seemed to be purposely omitted. To me, as an Educator of the Private Secondary Sector, it was a wrongly inspired budget, defying the required motivation & devoid of any ‘Stimulus’ for Private Secondary Schools which have done, are presently doing, and are eagerly looking forward to even doing more and better with their meager means for a better, shinier Mauritius…..unless, the agenda is otherwise!