The workers’ education association, Ledikasyon pu Travayer, that has spearheaded the campaign in Mauritius for the promotion of the Mother Tongues held a Press Conference on Thursday, 15 November, 2012 to present both its new campaign on the Kreol Language and a 200-page book on its recent campaign, which has reached a point where there have been spectacular successes. Present at the Press Conference at the Mother Earth Hall in Grand River North West, were Rada Kistnasamy, Cindy Clelie, Lindsey Collen and Alain Ah-Vee. The Press were given soft copies of the book, which was presented in hard copy. The book is for sale at Rs 400. The MBC ran a news item on the Press Conference, which was also attended by Le Defi, Lagazet Lalit de Klas, and by Radio Plus.
Lindsey Collen began by saying that the campaign started for the mother tongue had done preparatory work from 1976, when LPT was founded, until around 2005, when a totally new impetus was injected into the campaign, as our Association came to a new realization, helped by some LALIT thinking. We realized that the mother-tongues are important not merely for schooling, and not merely as a basic human right in some abstract way, not merely to correct the terrible class bias in society, but because by suppressing the mother-tongues the State is actually harming the intellectual development of children, which takes place naturally and to high levels in the mother-tongue/s. “Once we realized this,” she said, “we spent three or four years preparing our International Tribunal”. She was referring to the International Hearing held by LPT in 2009 into the harm done to children by the suppression of the mother-tongues in Schools.
Since the Findings of the Hearing in 2009, there have been fast developments at State level. The National Forum on Kreol in School was held the very next year, in 2010. And in 2011, the Akademi Kreol Morisyen (Mauritian Kreol Academy) was set up by the Government. The AKM, in a committee chaired by Dr. Arnaud Carpooran, then produced a well-argued official orthography, and, in a committee chaired by Dr. Daniella Police, also produced a basic grammar for the use of teachers of Kreol. Both orthography and grammar were accepted by Government. And the MIE the same year, 2011, trained up the first batch of 90 teachers to teach Kreol.
In 2012, Kreol was introduced as a subject in schools in Year One. 2,300 parents opted for their child to take the subject. Bhojpuri was introduced as a subject, within the Hindi class.
Alain Ah-Vee then introduced the new campaign, saying that the Government’s policy on Kreol is not moving fast enough, and that harm is still continuing to be done to children by not using Kreol and where appropriate Bhojpuri, for the teaching of content subjects like Maths and Science, Geography and History. To reach high-level multi-lingualism and to avoid the rote-learning that is the base of the Mauritian education system, the mother tongues need to be introduced as medium. At the Centre International des Etudes Creoles International Conference held at the University of Mauritius, the MIE and the Centre Culturel Nelson Mandela last week, Minister Bunwaree announced that he is “not against” the use of Kreol as a medium. He said that too many teachers are still ignorant about how to write Kreol.
Alain Ah-Vee said that LPT is also campaigning relative to MPs, the Prime Minister, the Clerk and Speaker of the Assembly, for the early introduction of Kreol in the National Assembly. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have both said they are not against.
The other important demand that LPT is still fighting for is the right to keep the “collective memory” (i.e. the minutes of proceedings) of associations in the mother tongues. The present law allows the Registrar of Associations to insist on English or French, whereas nearly 100% of meetings of associations, unions and co-operatives are conducted in Kreol, and/or Bhojpuri. Recent census figures confirm that 84% of people say they usually speak Kreol in the home. If we add the Bhojpuri figures, it produces a very high figure for people whose languages are effectively banned, he said.
Anyone wanting a copy of the book can buy it at the LPT Bookshop.