SPECIAL SUPPORT SCHOOL/ZEP
SCHOOLS - MINORS – HEARING AIDS (11/11/08)
(No. B/1271) Mrs M. Martin (Second Member for Curepipe and Midlands) asked the Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions whether, in regard to the minors attending special or normal schools and who are in need of hearing aids, she will state –
(a) the number thereof, and
(b) if they have been provided with same.
CEDEM – MINORS K. M., D.K.M. (07/04/09)
(No. B/132) Mr G. Lesjongard (Second Member for Port Louis North and Montagne Longue) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether he is aware that the CEDEM has refused to accept minors L. M., K. M. amongst others and, if so, will he state if his Ministry proposes to take measures to enable these children to pursue their studies.
Dr.Bunware: Mr Speaker, Sir , I am informed that both pupils who were enrolled at the ‘’Centre D’education et de Developpement de l’Enfant Mauricien’’ (CEDEM) for some time have left and are attending other specialized schools. In fact, D.K.M - both of them are K.M, not L.M and KM but KM and DKM; I am talking about the second one - who joined CEDEM on 7 February 2003 left the institution since 2006 for Foyer Namasté, located in Roche Brunes, where , I am also informed he has adapted himself.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as regards K.M who attended CEDEM from 2003 to February 2009, I am informed that due to some tense relationship between the parents and CEDEM, the former deemed it more appropriate to have the child transferred to another school. K.M therefore left CEDEM in February 2009 and is presently admitted at the Children Foundation, another specialized school registered with my Ministry.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I believe personally that up to now Special Needs Education (SEN) has not received the attention we all in this House would have wished for various reasons specially for lack of means.
Even when education was made free and Government was funding a few Special Education Needs School, it was still very difficult for all children to have access to Special Education Needs Institutions. I would like to reiterate this Government’s commitment to give all children of Mauritius equal opportunities to quality education, on the basis of their human rights to education as well as our Government’s moral and ethical obligation to protect our children who are more at risk of being excluded and marginalized.
In line with the National Policy and Strategy Paper for Special Educational Needs, published in 2006, my Ministry has adopted an inclusive educational system, aimed at responding to the needs of each student through a child centred pedagogical approach and an adapted curriculum with a view to ensuring that no child is left behind.
As highlighted in the Education and Human Resource Strategy Plan (2008-2020) my Ministry is elaborating an Action Plan, with defined goals and targets so that all Special Education Needs Children in Mauritius will be enjoying access to relevant high quality education.
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, doesn’t the hon. Minister find it fit that in such cases there should be mediators to deal with problems related to the parents and the person responsible for such schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I think this is a good question. In fact, we are trying to go along this line and for the time being, I have asked people of my Ministry themselves to mediate, as far as possible.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I heard the hon. Minister mentioning that the policy of his Ministry regarding special education needs is the inclusive approach.
May I ask the hon. Minister what have been the measures implemented to ensure the inclusive approach of the special education needs during the past years, that is, since 2006?
Dr. Bunwaree: The problem is very difficult, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, because it is a question of means finally and there is also the question of trying to find in the country wherever they exist, where are these children because all of them are not in the streamline of the schools. We have published the 2008/2020 Strategic Plan. We are going to have a debate, brainstorming around this very specific question to which I am personally very much attached and as time comes in the coming weeks, we’ll certainly find a way out.
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to the behaviour of such difficult children, may I ask the hon. Minister whether it is done by a panel or it is done by the responsible of the institution?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, it is done by the responsible of the institution in collaboration with the parents and, of course, they try to find a care giver, who is welladapted to the problems of the child.
Mr Lesjongard: One last question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Is it very difficult to find such a person to take care of those children in such schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is not so difficult, but what is more important is the relationship between the management and the parents. Parents feel that they have problems with the management and the management feels that they are trying to do their best and the parents do not understand. This is where the problem crops up.
The Deputy Speaker: One last question!
Mrs Perrier: In some countries, parents are allowed to cater for their children in the private and public schools. Can it be the case in Mauritius?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, it is, parents are catering for. Whenever they are not working, they can get the help of carers, but in this particular case, especially part 3(a),the problem was that both parents were not available for the child during working hours and they were trying to give their best. In fact, they did the best they could, but, unfortunately, as I said, problems cropped up between the management and the family.
DAY CARE CENTRES/SPECIALISED SCHOOLS – NUMBER (28/04/09)
(No. B/355) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas and Floreal) asked the Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions whether in regard to the Day Care Centres/specialised schools for disabled children, she will state the number thereof, indicating the criteria laid down by Government for the opening and operation thereof.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I will reply to this question.
In fact, Mr Speaker, Sir, a Day Care Centre or specialised school means an institution registered with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources for the purpose of providing special care and education to children who have severe learning difficulties due to their disabilities (physical, visual, hearing, mental, psychological, emotional, social essentially). On registration they benefit from a grant on the part of my Ministry for the purpose of providing specialised education to those children. Such institutions are normally Non-Government Organisations registered with the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions.
Mr Speaker, Sir, as at to date, I am informed that the number of Day Care Centres/specialised schools which are registered with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources is as follows -
Day Care Centre : 7
Specialised Schools : 38
Total : 45
Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards the criteria laid down for their opening and operation, registration should comply with the mandatory norms relating to -
i. the building, yard and playground;
ii. sanitary conditions of premises;
iii. furniture, play equipment and educational toys/materials;
iv. health and safety norms as defined by the Ministry of Health & Quality of Life;
v. developmentally appropriate practice;
vi. needs-based curriculum;
vii. child-centered programme in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child;
viii. the qualifications of staff, experience in special education needs and eligibility of staff to work in SEN Schools/Day Care Centres;
ix. teacher:pupil ratio 1:7;
x. space/child ratio 1 mt sq per child, and
xi. environment norms as defined by the Ministry of Environment
Mr Speaker, Sir, in reply to PQ No. B/132 on 07 April last, I did inform the House of this Government’s commitment to give all the children of Mauritius equal opportunities for quality education - on the basis of their right to education, as well as the Government’s moral and ethical obligation to protect our children who are more at risk of being excluded and marginalised.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the Policy and Strategy Document on the special educational needs of children with disabilities published by my Ministry in 2006 provides for several measures for the inclusion of these children in our
educational system through appropriate services, in partnership with relevant Ministries and Non-Government Organisations. Several affirmative actions for this sector to bring children with disabilities at par with their peers in mainstream are accordingly being taken. These, inter-alia, include a regulatory framework under the Education Act as well as a manual detailing the general conditions and the norms and standards to be fulfilled before the registration of Day Care Centres and Specialized Schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the issue of special needs school is a complex one and I am of opinion that we need appropriate-expertise in the domain. My Ministry is, however, leaving no stone unturned to seek assistance from
friend countries or overseas organizations to build up the required capacity for Mauritius so that all special education needs children in Mauritius enjoy access to relevant high quality education.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether there is a particular mechanism to ensure the standard of these schools and what is being implemented right now for them?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have a mechanism and if the hon. Member had tried to get the gist of my reply, I am not fully satisfied. There is a mechanism which is working satisfactorily well in a certain measure, but we need expert advice. I am of opinion that we lack expertise and we have to look seriously at it. There is a unit at the level of the Ministry which takes care of it.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I know from the hon. Minister whether visits are being effected to these centres, and on what frequency these visits are being effected and by whom?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, there are visits. There is an inspectorate. The inspector goes to visit all these schools and centres. Well, on what regularity - I need notice of this question, but it is quite often, I must say, and I am taking a very special attention to that.
Mrs Martin : Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. May I ask the hon. Minister - I don't know if he has the figures - what is the average capacity of accommodation of these Day Care Centres and specialized schools and how this compares to the number of children who are not enrolled in these schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: It varies according to the schools. If the hon. Member is interested I can give her a list of schools and centres in the country, which I have already given, but for each school the number of children who are admitted.
Mr Gunness: Can I know from the Minister whether friendly countries or the UNESCO, international organisations, have been approached by his Ministry in order to get the services of such experts to come and help in this field?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, I mentioned it in my main reply; in fact, this is in line with what we want to do.
Mr Barbier: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Since the Minister stated himself that this is a very complex issue and there are various types of disabilities that children have, may I know from the hon. Minister whether it is a policy from his Ministry to see to it that these specialised schools and care centres have the appropriate trained personnel to attend to these disabilities and if not, is the Minister envisaging to have appropriate training for the personnel?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, I mentioned that. Before registration, the qualifications of the staff, experience in special education needs, eligibility of staff to work in these schools are seriously considered.
And, of course, there is the inspectorate which goes there to see that these conditions are adhered to. There is also the possibility for teachers who have got experience at the level of the Ministry who sometimes are delegated to help there.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Dowarkasing!
Mr Dowarkasing: Thank you Mr Speaker, Sir. May I know from the hon. Minister - I mean having Day Care Centres and specialized schools is a very good thing - what are the efforts that are being done for the handicapped and disabled children to enter the mainstream?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is a whole strategy, as I have mentioned. I did not go into details, but we are working actively on that and we are going to publish very shortly the implementation path to allow the strategy. It had already been defined in 2006 by my predecessor. We are trying to fine tune, to polish and then to work with experts from abroad to be able to give the best we can.
Mrs Martin: Can the Minister say how many children are actually not going to those Day Care Centres and specialised schools? Does the hon. Minister has the number at his Ministry?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, we are, in fact, conducting a survey, I must say, at this present point in time. The survey is not over, but we have to liase with the Ministry of Social Security and the Ministry of Women Affairs also to be able to give the right figures.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle!
Mrs Labelle: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. In fact, it is a very complex question. Very often there is so much confusion between the motor impairment and the different levels of impairment. With regard to motor impairment, do we have particular Day Care Centres actually registered with his Ministry?
Dr. Bunwaree: Of course we don't have all that we would have wished. But I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all those people who are involved in that type of special education needs. They are doing their utmost best and we are trying to help as much as we can at the level of the Ministry. I expect that, in the months to come, with the work that is being done at the level of the Ministry, with all other stakeholders, we will find a better way out for these children.
Mr Gunness: Mr Speaker, Sir, I agree with the Minister that, in fact, these people working with these disabled children are doing a marvellous work. Can I know from the hon. Minister whether any organization or the MIE actually provides any sort of ongoing training in Mauritius for the personnel working in these disabled schools and, if not, whether the Minister can approach at least the MIE to work out a training programme for these teachers?
Dr. Bunwaree: This has already been taken care of. In fact, there is a specialised curriculum for these children which is taken over at the level of my Ministry.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Leopold!
Mr Leopold: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. Can I know from the hon. Minister what is the qualification or, at least, the minimum experience that is required for someone to teach in these institutions?
Dr Bunwaree: It depends on the type of invalidity, Mr Speaker, Sir, but I can give the assurance to the hon. Member and to the House that we do whatever best we can at the level of the country.
At 12.57 p.m, the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.30 p.m with Mr Speaker in the Chair
PRIVATE TUITION – SURVEY (23/06/09)
(No. B/619) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas and Floreal) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to private tuition, he will state if he will consider the advisability of carrying out a survey to assess the -
(a) number of students who are involved and at what levels;
(b) the financial implications thereof, and
(c) how to address the issue.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, private tuition is a phenomenon which is rampant internationally and also has far-reaching implications. At the local level too, there are strong indications that private tutoring is widespread at different levels.
I wish to point out that, in our educational establishments, tuition is allowed in Government primary and aided schools to pupils of Stds IV, V and VI and the schools keep records of teachers providing private tuition, of the children involved and of the classrooms where tutoring takes place.
However, it is a fact that tutoring is also provided to pupils of different classes outside the primary school premises. At the secondary level, however, tuition is given in private tuition centres or on private premises.
Some information already exists about the scope and financial spread of private tuition.
It is estimated that about 75% of the Stds IV and VI of the student population resort to private tuition. As for the secondary sector, given that students take tuition in individual subjects, this percentage could be higher.
Private tuition is a real scourge in our educational system. It is hard to reconcile the fact that on the one hand, education is free and yet on the other, parents have to disburse considerable sums as private costs to education. This problem becomes more acute as private tuition places a huge onus on poor parents and raises the question of equity since most of them may not be able to afford it.
Equally, private tuition also has a human dimension since long hours of tuition lead to stress and other health and psychological problems for pupils. This has been amply researched by several scholars, with some of the studies specifically focusing on the Mauritian case.
Mr Speaker, Sir, relevant alternatives to private tuition have to be envisaged. In fact, we are already working on a number of measures that require some more in-depth discussions and consultations with all stakeholders.
We are planning to tackle this problem at its root and in a phased manner. In view of the fact that we shall be having three cycles of two years at the primary level as compared to two cycles of three years previously, my Ministry is proposing to address the issue by prohibiting private tuition at Std IV level in primary sector by January next year. Once this is done, we will ensure that remedial education will take place for the weak pupils while options will also be provided for the bright ones. Equally, we shall be giving greater emphasis on the co-end extracurricular activities. The process has already been initiated.
Mr Bodha: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I’ll ask for some figures. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that for every Rs3 spent by Government - I think the Budget is about Rs6/Rs7 billion - parents are spending Re1 and that there is a matter of urgency? As he said himself it’s a scourge and we can’t continue with the system.
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, we know what is the problem and I think everyone in the House is well aware. In fact, I didn’t venture to give figures because it’s very difficult for some students take tuitions to two or even three places. We know that it is a problem, we have to address it, but it’s not very simple as you know and je n’ai pas envie d’agacer les professeurs qui se donnent aux leçons privées, but something has to be done. As I said, we are trying to go by in a phase manner and, at least, for Standard IV, next year, we should be able to move it with the help of everyone in this House.
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he has been appraised of the fact that private tuition is being held even in pre-primary institutions?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is not a fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. What happens is that after pre-primary school ends in the afternoon, some parents are not in a position to take the child and then the child goes in crèche, something like that. This has been interpreted, but I am going to watch in any case to see to it that this does not occur.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we are talking about major amount of money that are not going into the coffers of the State through taxes and MRA action. Can I ask the hon. Minister whether, in the meantime that a solution is found, his Ministry will sensitise parents and the students to declare where they are taking tuitions so that then the teachers, who are giving tuitions on a commercialized basis, can be tracked by MRA? I am sure the hon. Minister of Finance will be more than happy to get more money in the coffers.
Dr. Bunwaree: This is one way of trying to put order in the system, but I must say for primary teachers there is no problem because, as I mentioned in my reply, we know these teachers, they are giving officially. I don’t want to be unfair to them also parce que pour eux c’est facile et à ce moment là on saute sur eux and then for whom it’s not very easy to catch them, then they run out of the system. In any case, we have discussed with people at the MRA, the Minister of Finance is informed and then we will try to see in what we can make justice become more justice, if I may say so.
Mr Cuttaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I want to come back to the question raised by hon. Dowarkasing. May I ask the hon. Minister to verify the information which has been given to him, namely, that there is no private tuitions being given in pre-primary? I know of cases where this is done and how much money is being paid by parents. I know of one case where it is Rs150 per month. I will give him the information Can I ask the hon. Minister whether it is not advisable to have a circular from his Ministry sent to all these registered pre-primary schools informing them that if this practice is introduced or continues, licenses can be removed?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is going to be done. But, at the same time, I would like to have the names of these people who are trying to let the children have private tuitions. But, in most cases, it is a question of parents not in a position to take their children at certain point in time in the afternoon and then, what is being done to the children, this is what we are looking into. As I said just now, I am watching and, of course, we are going to take action, but we are doing the necessary so that all those who are involved in the business of pre-primary schooling are informed of the whole matter.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask from the hon. Minister whether he has envisaged putting a ceiling on the number of students per session at primary level and secondary level for private tuitions?
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, we are considering seriously a few measures and I don’t want to say everything here because we have to discuss with stakeholders not to rouse other interest, but this is one thing we are looking into. We are also looking into prohibiting private tuitions in the early morning, for example. We looking into other aspects of private tuitions where supposedly the teacher should not get involved in giving private tuitions to the same students that he is teaching in the school himself.
Mr Bodha: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he can see also as regards to private premises because often the students being in the laboratories, studying science in the garage of the same teacher? Can we do something on that as well?
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, this is what I said. The teachers are not supposed to give tuitions to the students he is himself coaching in the school and, of course, the problem of using garage as laboratories also, are being looked into.
BLACK RIVER REGION – EAP PROGRAMME (24/11/09)
(No. B/1200) Mrs S. Hanoomanjee (Second Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Empowerment whether, in regard to the Eradication of Absolute Poverty Programme, he will state if any indepth inquiry has been carried out in Bambous, Tamarin and Rivière Noire, since the implementation thereof and, if so, indicate the –
(a) number of families identified;
(b) needs identified to be addressed in the short and long terms, and
(c) actions taken.
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, six months back, in my Budget Speech in May 2009, I had informed the House that the different institutions, namely Trust Fund for Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups, EAP, DCP and Empowerment Programme, would be brought under the National Empowerment Foundation (NEF) to provide a single platform to facilitate coordination and bring efficiency and effectiveness in the various interventions in the fight against absolute poverty, and for the socio-economic empowerment of the vulnerable families.
In fact, with this new structure, the NEF is now able to optimise in the use of its human and financial resources and harmonise its intervention under the different programmes.
Regarding those receiving assistance, the NEF is developing a centralised database on each vulnerable family with an identification of their specific needs under different Programmes.
Such information will ensure an integrated approach to focus measures on family needs and facilitate monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the interventions under the different programmes.
In so far as the region of Black River is concerned, the following interventions have been made under the EAP, the Trust Fund and the Empowerment Programme Under EAP, a Coordinating Working Group (CWG), comprising stakeholders from the private sector, representatives of NGOs and relevant public agencies, was set in July 2009 for the region of Bambous. In fact, the CWG is catering for -
• first, the model village at La Valette, Bambous where 198 families are being supported in terms of life skills, remedial education and income generating activities, so as to ensure their smooth integration in that region, and
• second, the pockets of poverty in the locality of Bambous, namely Cité La Ferme/Camp La Paille, Vandagne and Camp Rodriguais. A needs assessment is being conducted in these pockets and, as to date, 50 families out of some 160 have already been identified and profiled.
Furthermore, a similar profiling and needs assessment exercise was started in September 2009 at Tamarin and Petite Rivière Noire. To date, 25 families have already been profiled. The preliminary needs assessment has revealed that the following issues will have to be addressed, namely -
i. life skills training for dysfunctional families;
ii. provision of complementary education;
iii. treatment and rehabilitation of substance abusers;
iv. training and re-skilling of the unemployed;
v. infrastructure, such as access roads and drains, and
vi. social housing.
I am informed that, once the profiling and needs assessment are completed, an action plan will be prepared in consultation with the stakeholders in that region to support those families in a holistic manner, with a view to bringing them out of the poverty trap. Meanwhile, consultations with relevant stakeholders in the region are being held to set up another CWG.
Furthermore, back in September 2008, some 102 children were indentified in the district of Black River as not attending pre-primary school regularly. They have now been taken care of under the National Pre-Primary School Project of EAP and are benefiting from the package of incentives offered under that project. Periodical assessment has confirmed that the attendance of these children has improved. In fact, these children are being provided with -
a) pedagogical materials;
b) uniform, shoes, school bags and related items;
c) school fees, where this has to be paid;
d) a meal every school day;
e) “Accompagnement Scolaire” by NGOs;
f) transport facilities where needed, and
g) medical screening.
Next year, in January 2010, out of the 102 children, some 50 of them, aged five, will be joining Standard I, and will continue to benefit from the same facilities that were provided to them at pre-primary school level.
As regards the Trust Fund, it is already providing immediate support to the vulnerable families in the region of Black River. In this respect, the Trust Fund has, since the beginning of this year, approved the construction of 233 CIS housing units for a total amount of Rs14.4 m., and distributed school materials to 550 needy children for a total sum of Rs755,000.
On the other hand, under its national “Placement for Training Programme”, the Empowerment Programme already provided training and placement to some 128 individuals in the district of Black River, who have – all of them - afterwards secured a job.
Additionally, under the Special Programme for Unemployed Women, a project, in collaboration with an NGO, Association Tamriv, relating to capacity building and employment of women in various home services was launched in 2008 for the region of Black River. To date, some 47 women have been trained, amongst others, in gardening, housekeeping, and childcare, and 45 of them have secured a job already. To support mothers at work, some 25 women have been trained, and are taking care of children whose mothers are at work.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I have so far mentioned progress made under the various initiatives under the NEF. We are, however, not stopping here. In fact, the House will note that, in my Budget Speech, a week back, I again emphasised on Government’s commitment to deliver on the promises on economic growth, wealth creation and sustainable development, and remain focussed on our core social responsibilities. We have given social progress and wealth creation the same right of way and that Government has built a diversified and strong platform from which to combat poverty, fight exclusion, promote inclusive growth, and secure social progress.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, the vice-Prime Minister has just mentioned that his enquiry has revealed that there is a social housing problem in Black River. This social housing problem is giving rise to promiscuity, which requires immediate attention. Can we know when the social housing projects will be completed in this region?
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, we have already started. In fact, it’s the first, not only in the history of Mauritius but in ACP countries. There is the integrated social development housing project at Bambous. 198 former squatters have received social housing, training for the men, the women, and we are ensuring that the kids go to school. I have also mentioned how many CIS housing units are being built, with assistance from the Trust Fund for the Integration of Vulnerable Groups. I have announced in the Budget that we have a programme for 5,000 housing units for families earning less than Rs5,000 and another 5,000 for families earning between Rs5,000 and Rs10,000.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: The Vice-Prime Minister keeps saying that the housing problem has been completed and I am sure that he is talking of La Salette, when he mentioned Bambous.
Dr. Sithanen: I mentioned it in my answer.
Mr Speaker: First of all, I will have to have some guidance from the hon. Member whether the housing problem that she is talking of falls under the Eradication of Absolute Poverty Programme? If it falls within that programme, then yes, otherwise there is a Minister in charge of Housing.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: It does, Mr Speaker, Sir, because when the hon. Vice-Prime Minister mentioned the Social Housing Project at Bambous, it is for people who have come from other regions and not the people from Bambous who have benefitted from this project. What I am asking is: when will people from Bambous itself benefit from the Social Housing Projects under the EAP Programme?
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, there is a fundamental rule of fairness in all society. Poverty must be fought and exclusion alleviated wherever it is from. I have not personally checked where each and every one of the 198 deserving families who have benefited from houses come from. We will do the rest according to the programme that has been spelt out in the Budget.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I do not dispute this fact, but my question relates to people from Bambous. I do not dispute the fact that there has been a Social Housing Project which has been completed in Bambous, but my question relates to the Eradication of Absolute Poverty Programme in Bambous, for the people of Bambous.
Mrs Perrier: Regarding again this problem of lodging, the Vice-Prime Minister mentioned that he would have some houses in the vicinity. Can we know where and can we know as well how many have been requested according to the inquiry done?
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, there is a need assessment that has been done in order to identify the requirement and whenever we have land, implement housing projects. Where we do not have land, we have to enter into an agreement with those who have the land and we know who are those who have land. I have announced in the Budget that in the context of the agreement reached between the Prime Minister and the MSPA, 1,000 of the 2,000 acres of land would be used for social housing. My colleague, hon. Dr. Kasenally has done an excellent job and we have already identified some of these terrains. Construction will start once all the formalities have been completed.
Mr Barbier: With regard to the housing project of Bambous, la Salette which the hon. Minister just mentioned, may I know what was the part of contribution from the State and Médine and from all other stakeholders, if any?
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, let me reveal to the House, some people came to see me about two years ago. They said: “Rama, we need to do something for these poor people”. And, we decided that we will help them. Initially, it was supposed to cost Rs50 m., but it turned out to cost about Rs250 m. Most of it has been invested by the Government. There is a misconception that when we do a land exchange deal, the terrain comes from the Sugar Sector. It may come from the Sugar Sector, but the exchange deal itself means that there is a qui proquo.
Mrs Perrier: The hon. Minister talked about the problem of availability of land, but is he aware that, in 2004, we had identified land in Case Noyale for lodging and this land is still there and, according to some answers made some times back by the hon. Minister Dulull, he said that he could not give this land now, because it is on the coast and he could not make low-cost housing there. So, there is land, can the hon. Minister look at it again?
Dr. Sithanen: Mr Speaker, Sir, let me again emphasise to the House, I know that some of my friends on the other side do not like it when I say it. Never in the history of this country has so much been done for the poor, through such a variety of instrument from the National Empowerment Foundation, Eradication of Absolute Poverty and the CSR for the IRS Scheme.
So, we are doing everything that is possible. With respect to the land, the hon. lady will have to ask a specific question to the Minister of Land, and I am sure that my good friend, the Minister will reply.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: The hon. Vice-Prime Minister had mentioned about pre-primary school projects but, is he aware, since I drew the attention of the House to the fact that primary school students who fall under the EAP Programme in Black River did not have their school materials till September and nothing has been done, the calendar year is over but they did not receive any school material for the primary school students?
Dr. Sithanen: This is regretted. In fact, the week before last, I chaired a meeting on the Trust Fund for the Vulnerable Group and I told them that we need to make sure that these poor kids get their school materials at the beginning of the year. Again, let me remind the hon. Lady that the EAP did not exist before, Mr Speaker, Sir, there were 2000 kids of 3 to 4 years old who were not going to school. It is this Government that has introduced the EAP in the Budget, but we will make sure that these kids get their materials.
Mr Speaker: Could you just communicate the information to the hon. Minister and he will look into the matter and make the necessary amendment, please.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: I am asking a last question, following the reply made by the Vice- Prime Minister. Since now the EAP Fund exists, and since funds have been voted for this specific purpose, and these people have not received what they should have received, does the hon. Minister propose to take to task these…
Mr Speaker: No, I think there is one thing. The Member and the Vice-Prime Minister are in the House. If there are such small details, she can address them to him. If it is not sorted out between her and the Vice-Prime Minister, then she can come with a Parliamentary Question.
If we go on like this, other Members will not have an opportunity to put their questions. I will allow a last question. Is there anybody? Next question, hon. Jhugroo!
PRIVATE TUITION – SURVEY (24/11/09)
(No. B/1218) Mr N. Bodha (First Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to private tuition, he will state if Government will consider the advisability of carrying out a full-fledge survey in relation to the number of students and funds involved and make recommendations to preventing it from undermining the mainstream education system.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, in my reply to PQ No. B/619 on 23 June 2009, on the same issue, I indicated that the practice of private tuition which has been in place for decades is widespread in Mauritius and that some information about its scope and financial spread is available. Obviously, private tuition reinforces inequity and places a significant additional burden on parents when the actual education system is ostensibly free. On the other hand, parents exercise their choice to have recourse to private tuition for their children to succeed.
No scientific survey has been conducted but few studies have been carried out and indicate that private tuition has serious implications at all levels.
In fact, a study carried out by the University of Mauritius already in 1989 clearly brought out the fact that private tuition not only represents a financial burden on the poor families but also causes stress and health problems to pupils. Further, it does not leave much time for their emotional, social and physical development.
My Ministry has been looking into ways and means to come forward with a strategy to prevent private tuition from undermining the mainstream education system.
As a matter of fact, in our Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020, we have highlighted the need to review our current policy of private tuition. The outcome of consultations we had, led to the conclusion that a holistic approach should be adopted to tackle the issue. This implies a review of the existing summative form of assessment through the introduction of continuous assessment which is formative in nature.
The whole exercise would then gradually pave the way for a review of the CPE that, in its present form, leads to an overreliance on private tuition. This explains the rationale behind the proposal for an alternative to private tuition at Std IV level as highlighted in the Strategy Plan.
My Ministry has had discussions with the MIE and the MCA for an “Enhancement Programme”. The modalities of this programme which are being worked out not only cover pedagogical aspects, but also carry co-and extra-curricular components. This innovative approach would be a departure from the traditional frontal teaching in that it would render the learning experiences of children more enriching, enjoyable and rewarding because of its participatory dimension.
Mr Bodha: Mr Speaker, Sir, in view of the fact that the last study by the University of Mauritius dates back to 1989, would the hon. Minister agree that a full-fledge survey today would help us, in fact, see to it that private tuition is not undermining, as I said, the mainstream education system?
Dr. Bunwaree: We’ve had other reports also; I’ve mentioned only this one because it seems to be the most interesting one. We have some which were done even later, but we all agree that we have to do something.
In fact, the hon. Member has made his point. We are trying to do something, at least, with Std IV next year and then gradually with all that is being proposed in the strategic plan to do away with it, at least, to regulate wherever it is necessary.
ENHANCEMENT PROGRAMME - PRIMARY SECTOR (23/03/10)
(No. B/62) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Enhancement Programme in the primary sector, he will -
(a) state the number of
(i) teachers and trainee teachers involved therein, and
(ii) the monthly financial implications thereof, and
(a) table copy of the cursus thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as regards part (a) of the question,
educators and 95 trainee teachers are involved in the Enhancement Programme, and the monthly financial costs which basically cover allowances amount to about Rs4 m.
As regards part (b) of the question, I am tabling a copy of the Teacher’s Manual for the first term 2010, which has been prepared by the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE).
I wish to highlight that all educational reform documents that have been elaborated over the years have stressed the need for the holistic and integrated development of the child, which is the very essence of education. Even the Convention for the Rights of the Child, to which we are party, recognises, in Article 31, the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child, and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. Indeed, it is for the first time in our history that a programme has been developed along that line and concretely translates into action such an intention.
The Enhancement Programme is pupil centred and focuses on five core subject areas. It makes use of innovative pedagogical tools that are more activity based and involve hands-on experience. This is supplemented by other creative practices such as drama, sports, painting, sculpture, music and others. The overall objective, therefore, is to provide more equity in learning opportunities for all, thereby rendering the learning experience of pupils more enriching and rewarding.
The programme which was launched on 17 February 2010 has seen a level of participation of pupils of Std IV beyond expectation. Even at the very early outset, some 80% of pupils were attending the Enhancement Programme; the level of pupil participation has now reached about 85% in Mauritius, which makes it clear that the large majority of parents are strongly supportive of the programme. The programme is also being implemented in Rodrigues and Agalega, where participation has reached 90% in Rodrigues and 100% in Agalega respectively.
Mrs Labelle: Concerning the 95 trainee teachers who are involved in this programme, may I ask the hon. Minister whether is it by choice or because of lack of teachers who wish to join the programme?
Dr. Bunwaree: Both! In fact, these trainee teachers are those who are going to join the schools in the month of June. I must also inform the House that the trainee teachers have been fully involved in this mode of pedagogy. They are, I won’t say better, but they are well prepared for this programme. In fact, little by little the programme is going to be extended to other classes as well.
Mrs Labelle: May I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware or has been made aware that in many cases, above the Enhancement Programme, the pupils are having their private tuition, which means that, instead of being at school three days per week as it was the case, now the kids are having a higher burden of work?
Dr. Bunwaree: I don’t think it is a minority of cases, but we are aware of it. We are following it very closely. I make an appeal to all teachers to be very careful. In fact, in schools it is not allowed to give private tuition in standard IV and outside schools we are opening our eyes. If there are cases, please let us know.
SCHOOL MATERIALS – NEEDY STUDENTS – DISTRIBUTION (30/03/10)
(No. B/103) Mr G. Lesjongard (Second Member for Port Louis North & Montagne Longue) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether he will state if the distribution of school materials to children of eligible families in Constituency No. 4, Port Louis North and Montagne Longue, has been completed and, if not, why not.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I am replying to this question. I am answering this question addressed to me as Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources and as Ag. Minister of Finance and Economic Empowerment.
As the House is aware, the main objective of the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups is to alleviate poverty through the funding of projects/schemes, and ensure their smooth integration in mainstream society. This is also done with the active participation of NGOs, as they have closer outreach and can facilitate quicker assistance to those needy and vulnerable families. In this respect, the Trust Fund finances projects from NGOs that assist needy school children through the provision of the school materials, namely uniforms, school bags, shoes, copybooks and other related stationary.
It is to be noted that NGOs in general do not submit projects to the Trust Fund on a constituency wise basis, but according to localities in which they provide coverage. The Trust Fund also receives requests for basic school materials from PTAs, community leaders, vulnerable families themselves, as well as from its field staff.
All requests are processed at the level of the Trust Fund, and it is the direct responsibility of the social facilitator of the Trust Fund to ensure that the needy children meet the established criteria which are namely that - first, the monthly household income of the family does not exceed Rs5,000, and second, the child is attending school: pre-primary, primary, secondary, pre-vocational or vocational.
Insofar as the regions encompassing Port Louis North and Montagne Longue are concerned, I am informed that requests for a total of 2,225 children for school materials were received for this year. These requests have been processed at the level of the Trust Fund, subsequent to which, the families concerned were visited by the field workers of the Trust Fund to ascertain whether the applicants do meet the established criteria that I have mentioned earlier.
After the completion of this screening exercise, meetings were held by the Social Facilitator concerned with the NGOs submitting the project proposals to validate the assessment and finally to ensure that the projects would be monitored and implemented in accordance with the parameters established by the Trust Fund. Obviously, the scrutinizing of requests, ensuring compliance, having meetings with NGOs, and validating the assessment till finally the distribution of the school materials is a time-consuming exercise.
Out of the 2,225 requests, 1, 607 children were found to be eligible for such assistance.
As to date, 1,484 children have already received their school materials for a total amount Rs2.4 m. and a batch of 123 children will be receiving school materials by the end of this week. The distribution of school materials are being made in a phased manner as from December 2009 to ensure proper monitoring.
I am also informed, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, that requests for a total of 518 children were received from community leaders, NGOs, individuals and heads of schools in the region of Montagne Longue and Crève Coeur during the months of December 2009 and January 2010. Visits effected by field workers revealed that a significant number of families were drawing more than Rs5,000 monthly and they were not eligible for assistance. The screening process is expected to be finalised this week and those who are eligible will receive schoolmaterials by mid-April 2010.
Furthermore, additional requests for school materials have been received on 25 March 2010 from Ramnarain Government School for needy pupils in the region of Terre Rouge and Cité Briquetterie. Screening will be carried out as from this week to determine their eligibility.
Mr Bhagwan: The fact that we are talking about the distribution of school materials, can I know from the hon. Minister whether, there is any criteria for allowing hon. Members of Parliament to get into contact with schools for the distribution of ‘biscuits sorbet’, pencils or pens? Is there any criteria, because these are school materials? In the past, we have seen their ‘cinéma’...
The Deputy Speaker: We have heard your question!
Mr Bhagwan: This is very serious. I would like to know whether there is any criteria as to how to proceed?
The Deputy Speaker: I have heard your question! Thank you hon. Bhagwan!
Yes, hon. Minister.
Dr. Bunwaree: The best thing for the hon. Member of Parliament is to join the NGO.
Mr Bhagwan: Going through the NGO or going through your Ministry?
Dr. Bunwaree: They can always inform the Zone Director that there is this problem and then the Zone Director can transmit it to the Trust Fund.
Mr Guimbeau: Just recently we saw hon. Ms Deerpalsing giving...
The Deputy Speaker: No! Please sit down when I am on my feet! We are having questions on Constituency No. 4 and materials, not about hon. Ms Deerpalsing. I will not allow any reference to hon. Ms Deerpalsing. You may come with a substantive question if you want to.
Mr Guimbeau: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, still concerning distribution of school materials, is it proper for a Member of Parliament to have distributed in schools...
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Guimbeau, I will not allow that question! Come with a substantive question!
PRIMARY SCHOOLS – PRIVATE TUITION (22/06/10)
(No. 1B/119) Mr S. Obeegadoo (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to private tuition in the primary sector, he will state the measures being taken and that will be taken to address the adverse impact thereof on the students.
Reply: In my reply to PQ No. B/619 on 23 June 2009 on the same issue, I pointed out that private tuition is a phenomenon which is deep-rooted in our educational system and at the local level, it is widespread especially in the primary and secondary sub-sectors. Government is fully aware of the adverse impact of private tuition on students and has been looking into ways and means to address the problem.
The Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020 underscores the need for a review of our current policy of private tuition. Consultations held on the matter revealed that a holistic and integrated approach should be adopted to address private tutoring which has been in place for years. This approach aims at tackling the problem at its very root and not merely dealing with the symptoms.
This explains our opting for a phased process.
A number of measures have thus been worked on, some of which are already in place and yielding positive results while others are to be implemented shortly.
As you are aware, at the primary level we now have three cycles of two years as compared to two cycles of three years previously. As from this year, we are embarking on a national remedial education strategy for Standard III pupils to improve the performance of these pupils who are moving on to the second primary cycle. This remedial strategy is a follow up of the Diagnostic Assessment exercise initiated and which has identified weaknesses at Standard III level. Remedial measures are thus being applied at an early stage to overcome learning deficits that would otherwise, cumulate over the years.
Further, we have introduced the Enhancement Programme at Std IV level. This afterschool hours innovative programme using a differentiated pedagogy and backed by co- and extra-curricular activities has received widespread acceptance from the community of parents who have clearly understood the benefits of this innovative programme and encouraged their wards to actively participate therein. Already a majority of pupils are participating in the Programme which has necessitated an investment of some Rs30 m. from Government.
There are substantial benefits that are accruing from this programme. Indeed, so much so that parents would much rather have their children exposed to its richness than having to make them labour under the heavy burden of private tutoring. After all, this programme is beneficial for the gifted, the average and the slow learners.
Since Std IV pupils belong to the second cycle, we believe that the policy regarding private tuition applicable to the first three years of primary schooling, inside and outside the school environment, should logically and for reasons spelt out earlier be extended to this Standard also. This explains why we are already implementing the decision of not allowing private tuition at Standard IV on school premises and as already announced, we have proposed to extend the existing policy on private tuition for pupils of Standards I, II and III to Standard IV as well.
Furthermore, I wish, at this stage, to inform the House that following the announcement made for the introduction of the draft Amendment Bill for the above purpose into the National Assembly, I have received further comments on the issue of private tutoring from the main stakeholders of the sector which, inter alia, relates to parental right of choice to education and control of private tuition by way of regulation and these are being given due consideration before finalising shortly relevant amendments to be made to legislations.
I would also like to add that it is desirable that all partners and stakeholders have a concerted approach with a view to evolving a national consensus on the issue in the best interest of our students.
ZEP SCHOOLS – CPE EXAMINATION - PASS RATE (27/07/10)
(No. 1B/362) Mr C. Fakeemeeah (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port Louis East) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Certificate of Primary Education, he will -
(a) for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Mauritius Examination Syndicate, information for each of the last five years as to the pass rate in the Zone d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP) schools found in Constituency No.3, Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East, and
(b) state the measures, if any, being envisaged to improve the results thereof.
Reply: The Emmanuel Anquetil Government School is the only Zone d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP) primary school in Constituency No.3 and I am informed that the CPE Pass Rate of this school for the last five years have been as follows -
Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
CPE Pass Rate 22.4 19.7 20.1 26.7 23.3
As regards part (b) of the question, I would like to inform the House that several affirmative measures are being taken by my Ministry to improve both the pass rate of pupils at CPE level as well as the attendance of pupils in ZEP schools.
These, inter alia, include -
(a) consolidation of school leadership and capacity building;
(b) monitoring of pedagogy in collaboration with the MIE;
(c) inbuilt remedial work conducted by class teachers;
(d) after school remedial work conducted by Community based organisations/private sector partners;
(e) regular meetings with parents conducted by Head Masters/Parent Mediators;
(f) setting up of Club des Parents for parental empowerment;
(g) profiling of needy students;
(h) implementation of the supplementary Feeding Programme as in all ZEP schools (Supply of bread, cheese and a fruit – apple/orange), in addition lunch is supplied to some 60 needy pupils by an NGO;
(i) needy cases referred to appropriate agencies/Ministries for further action;
(j) distribution of school materials by the Trust Fund for the Integration of Vulnerable Groups;
(k) introduction of creativity classes and learning support after school hours (up to 17 00 Hrs) under the ZIIS (Zone of Inclusive and Integrated Strategy) Project, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Arts & Culture; (l) upgrading of infrastructures and school facilities, and
(m) close monitoring of attendance. The absenteeism rate which was 18.2 % in 2007 has decreased to 15.0 % in 2009. Efforts are being sustained to bring it down further.
The Zones d’Education Prioritaires (ZEP) strategy aims at combating social inequalities by providing equitable opportunities to all primary school children of the country. Although progress has been slow in most ZEP schools in terms of pupil achievement as measured by the CPE pass rate over the last years, ZEP schools have, on the other hand, managed to produce some good practices. These encompass holistic educational approaches, school-community partnership, active parental involvement in the educational process and fund-raising models for
school improvement projects. Significantly, these good practices do serve as models for non- ZEP schools with whom they are shared.
In the long term, I am confident that these innovative measures carried out in the ZEP schools will positively impact upon the very image that h3as been traditionally associated with them.
SCHOOLS – PUPILS - DROP OUTS (27/07/10)
(No.1B/339) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to pupils who drop out of schools or training institutions before the age of sixteen, he will state if an annual survey is carried out to determine the number thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, the Statistics Unit of my Ministry normally carries out an annual survey which covers, inter alia, enrolment at primary and secondary school levels and gives an indication on promotion rate, repetition rate and of the trends regarding drop outs.
The situation with respect to enrolment is monitored at school level with a view to ensuring that there is continued schooling. Heads of Schools ensure at the level of their respective schools the follow up with responsible parties regarding the prolonged absence of their wards. Such cases are closely monitored and in many instances, they are backed by home visits by educational social workers for investigation into the reasons for such absences.
Drop out rate at the end of the primary cycle is negligible. In the secondary sub-sector, statistical compilations for drop-outs within the system undertaken as a whole, show that students drop out for the years 2007 and 2008 in respect of the academic stream for secondary sub sector up to Form IV is on average 2.5% and 2% respectively. The exercise for 2009 is still in process. I have given these figures although they have not been asked for. I think that this is interesting for the hon. Member, but I must say that we took 2007 and 2008 because before that,
I personally believe that the figures that were there and the way that they were calculated are not reliable.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, since education is compulsory up to 16 years, may I ask the hon. Minister what measures he is contemplating to ensure that our youngsters have any training programme up to 16 years so that we do not have children aged less than 16 years out of schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this is in fact a problem and we are looking into it. I have given instructions at the beginning of this year in certain specific cases, for example, where children who ought to go to the pre-voc sector and have not attended school when it started, to try to find out the reasons. The survey has given some positive results and we are seriously looking into the matter and trying to find ways and means to curb this situation.
Mr Obeegadoo: Is the hon. Minister aware that according to the Education For All Global Monitoring report, Mauritius is a country at risk of not attaining universal primary education by year 2015? On the MDGs, there is the universal primary education. Is he aware that according to the statistics obtained from official sources in Mauritius, the survival rate for children joining primary is only 96%? Is the Minister aware that according to these international statistics, there are some 6000 out-of-school children of primary school going age?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Deputy Sp4eaker, Sir, I think that I gave the reply to the hon.
Member last week and try to give the reasons also for this situation. But, this is an important factor that we are looking into.
Mr Obeegadoo: The hon. Minister referred to education and social workers who follow up in case of prolonged absences, would he inform the House what category of civil servants are being referred to? Are these employees of the Ministry of Education? How many of them are there and where are they deployed?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have, first of all, the school psychologists themselves because in the survey that we carried out, the main reasons are family problems in fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, and this is why the psychologists are actively involved. But, we also liaise with the Ministry of Women’s Rights in charge of family and children to enrol social workers to go and do the job.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question!
Mr Obeegadoo: The Minister knows that is not the case, the parents médiateurs are no longer there. Will the hon. Minister ensure that in a country where there is a duty incumbent upon the State to ensure that all children below 16 are in school that we cannot tolerate the situation where according to those figures that the Minister quoted, and with which I do not agree, 2.5% of children joining secondary are drop-outs?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, but the situation is not alarming as such, Mr Deputy Speaker, sir.
While listening to the hon. Member, we get the impression that he is being pathetic and so on.
The situation is not alarming and I can assure the hon. Member, the House and the country that all the necessary is being done to try to improve the situation.
Mr Obeegadoo: Can the hon. Minister quote one single measure since 2006 to ensure that children below 16 are made to attend school?
Dr. Bunwaree: Of course, there is the Second Chance Programme, the Special Needs Education Programme and the close follow-up by the school psychologists. In fact, there are other measures that have been taken. There is the enhancement programme. We are trying to make the school environment become more attractive for children and students.
The Deputy Speaker: I will allow one last question from hon. Labelle!
Mrs Labelle: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I think that I heard the hon. Minister mentioning that psychologists do follow up for prolonged absence. I would like him to confirm that and to inform the House how many psychologists the Ministry has so that this particular work can be done. Regarding the Second Chance programme are qualified teachers attached to this programme? When were these teachers being recruited and whether this Second Chance Programme is suitable for school leavers after Form II or III, that is aged 12 or 13, whether this programme was meant for this category of students and what are the qualifications of those persons who are actually working on this enhancement programme?
Dr. Bunwaree: You allow the question, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, but I think that a proper question should be put. I will give all the information concerning the Second Chance Programme, it’s so long a reply. But in the part reply that I gave, I said that was one of the measures which has already started in the sense of making the school environment become attractive for the children.
The first part of the question with the psychologists, - this is part of the reply - but I also said that social workers get involved first and when they find that there is any psychological disorder, not only with the children but sometimes with the environment around, not to say the parents, the psychologists enter into play.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Li Kwong Wing has informed the Chair that he has had to leave; therefore, we will move straightaway to question 1B/342.
SCHOOLS – ENHANCEMENT PROGRAMME - STANDARDS III AND IV (19/04/11)
(No. B/242) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Enhancement Programme for Standards III and IV respectively, he will state the number of resource persons available in each school in relation thereto and -
(a) indicate the respective qualification requirements therefor, and
(b) list out the activities that are carried out.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, following the successful implementation of the Enhancement Programme (EP) for pupils of Standard IV last year and in a view of the tangible benefits derived from participation, the programme has been extended to cover pupils of Standard III as from February 2011. It has received widespread parental support and currently about 80% of pupils of Standards III and IV are participating. I wish to add that the programme focuses on a differentiated pedagogy and also includes co and extracurricular activities which are being serviced by Resource Persons.
On an average, there are two Resource Persons servicing each school for different activities. Normally, a school offers about three activities per week.
With regard to part (a), Resource Persons who were enlisted for Enhancement Programme fall broadly under two categories - Educators in the Primary Sector who had expressed interest in assisting in extracurricular activities -
(i) The qualifications of the Educators (Primary) are School Certificate, Higher School Certificate and Teacher’s Diploma. They have also received their training from the MIE.
(ii) Non-teaching persons who have expertise and experience in the different specialist fields.
As regards part (b), the activities carried out are: drama, poem, sports, music (Oriental and Western) including flute playing, the Arts, SLAM and dance. Students with best performances in the respective activities are rewarded both on a regional and a national basis and prizes are offered to them.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to know from the hon. Minister if he is aware that in a few schools teachers just carry on with academic teaching.
Dr. Bunwaree: This could be a tendency, I do not say no, in some schools, but, we try to remedy to the situation as soon as possible. If there are specific cases, please let me know. But, this is not the reason. There is a question of dosage, I think that it is about two thirds extracurricular and one third curricular or half, half.
Mrs Ribot: I would like to ask the hon. Minister about the components of the training of the educators in the primary sector who are in charge of the Enhancement Programme.
Dr. Bunwaree: As I said, we are talking of resource persons, I suppose, because there are educators who are in charge of the academic part and they continue. But, for the other extracurricular, they are either educators who are trained in that and who have got the experience or there are specific people who come as resource persons.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister mentioned the successful year of the Enhancement Programme. May I know from the hon. Minister the criteria used to qualify the Enhancement Programme as successful?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is a work which is being done at the level of the Ministry, one thing is the public appreciation for it, which is well known. But then, this is one thing of course, it has to be more scientific as the hon. lady is trying to make us understand, and I agree with that.
There is a work which is being done. It is a full assessment of the program and I can say that there are inspectors who are involved in the programme, not only teachers, educators and resource persons, but there are headmasters and inspectors who are being paid for that work to be done. The assessment is going on. I am waiting for a detailed assessment as soon as possible.
Mr François: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, is the hon. Minister aware that in Rodrigues the choices are limited and schools are imposing choices that the children are not even interested in?
My own son, in Standard III, wanted to do music, but the school proposed only one flute! This obliged the school to drop music and choose SLAM which is not in the interest of all children.
Without any discredit, I question the qualifications of those delivering courses in SLAM. Will the hon. Minister look into that matter, especially for musical equipment?
Dr. Bunwaree: This is a very pertinent question, in fact, for Rodrigues. We thought about the weaknesses before the programme started, but we did start it and I am happy that the hon. Member is already appreciating the work that is being done. But there are flaws, of course, and we have sent people for training trainees there in the first instance this year. We are going to continue on that trend and as the adage goes: something is better than nothing.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question, hon. Mrs Ribot.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister talked about the assessment of what the students have acquired during those two years of the Enhancement Programme. Can we know the timeframe of that assessment and are we going to be made aware of its outcome?
Dr. Bunwaree: Definitely yes, but I will urge the hon. Member to think a bit for herself.
How do we assess if the children are doing well in drama? We have to go and watch them. This is the best assessment that we can make. So, I will invite you to follow what is happening in schools.
PQ NO. B/447 - POINT OF ORDER (31/05/11)
Mr Dayal: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, on a point of order. In relation to PQ No. B/447, hon. Obeegadoo made a very serious and unacceptable allegation against the hon. Minister of Education, by saying that the Minister is not paying attention inter alia to ZEP and pre voc schools, because these children come from a poor background. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I consider this unacceptable and not in order, and might have far reaching implications.
Therefore, hon. Obeegadoo should withdraw what he said. I am asking for your ruling.
The Deputy Speaker: I draw the attention of the hon. Member that he should not impute motives and should, therefore, withdraw this allegation.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I know under which Standing Order the point was taken?
The Deputy Speaker: The point of order was taken under Standing Order 41.
Mr Bérenger: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I take it that the so-called point of order refers to a question that was put today. Can we have the record? I would press for the record before you rule, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
The Deputy Speaker: I will give my decision on that issue later.
STREET CHILDREN PROJECT (12/07/11)
(No. B/678) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the children, he will state if a survey thereof under sixteen who are not attending school, since 2005 to date, has been carried out, indicating if consideration will be given for the re-introduction of the éducateurs de rue to take care of them.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to the first part of the question which involves many institutions and Ministries apart from mine, I wish to inform that there has been no formal survey carried out as such by my Ministry to identify specifically children under the age of sixteen not attending school. However, the Statistical Unit of my Ministry carries out an annual survey which covers, inter-alia, enrolment at pre-primary, primary and secondary school levels. Since last year, at my request, the survey also includes children in the Special Education Needs Sector.
The Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) for the year 2010 with respect to the different education sub-sectors are as follows -
Pre-primary - 93%
Primary - 96%
Secondary 11- 16 years - 88%
Up to 19 years - 67%
Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to highlight that for the secondary school sub-sector, those who are out of the formal school system include -
• A number of unsuccessful CPE students who do not enroll for the pre-vocational stream.
• Students enrolled in the prevocational stream and who do not complete their cycle.
• Students in the main stream who leave the system because they have failed a particular grade, twice.
I must point out, Mr Speaker, Sir, that all those who fail the CPE twice are given the opportunity to join the pre-vocational stream with 3-year schooling which will soon be 4 years and the pre-vocational stream has a greater number of drop-outs than the mainstream.
A survey was conducted in 2010 to trace those students who has been allocated a seat for the year 2010 in the pre-vocational stream but who had not responded to that offer. Out of a sample of 299 students surveyed, 213 only were attending schools.
In line with the commitment taken by Government under its Programme to the effect that no child should be left behind, this year, an exercise has been initiated to cover all who have not taken the offer at the beginning of 2011. This will form part of a larger survey which my Ministry will carry out, before the end of the year, to determine all out of school children including those at pre-primary, primary and secondary sub-sectors. This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Security, Ministry of Social Integration, the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Ministry of Health. In this context, my Ministry has just availed itself of the services of a social statistician with the support of UNDP to reinforce capacity and obtain better and more precise statistics.
Mr Speaker, Sir, we are also adopting a holistic approach to address the problem of dropouts of the Pre-voc sub-sector where drop-out is relatively higher than in the mainstream. In the context of the review strategy for the Pre-voc Sector, a Concept Paper has been worked out and will be the subject of discussion with relevant stakeholders during the course of a consultative workshop to be organised very shortly.
A key component of the review strategy will be the establishment of a permanent tracking mechanism to identify students who drop out and this is on a regular basis. The tracking mechanism, once fully embedded in our system, will reinforce our statistical database on dropouts and contribute towards further decreasing the drop-out rate in the sub-sector.
Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards the second part of the question on the proposal for reintroduction of the éducateurs de rue, I believe that the hon. Member is presumably referring to the Street Children Project set up in 2002 under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions with the objective of improving the living conditions of neglected and abandoned children on the streets and to facilitate their social integration.
I am informed that the project was funded by the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of the Vulnerable Groups, UNICEF and UNESCO for enlistment of the services of street workers, training and consultancy. The project came to an end in 2006 after which, the street workers set up, with the help of the Ministry of Social Security, an NGO known as SAFIRE which was paid a grant by the NGO Trust Fund. However, I am informed that subsequently, the NGO has not been able to secure sufficient funding from the above sources and is still in operation.
My Ministry, Mr Speaker, Sir, will collaborate fully with all the other relevant Ministries in order to track this category of children and offer them the best possible education.
Ms Ribot: Mr Speaker, Sir, is it clear that for the past few years the regulations concerning compulsory education up to age of 16 have not been implemented?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is being implemented because if we compare Mauritius with other countries we said we are doing very well indeed but, of course, there is still work to be done.
Ms Ribot: I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that there is a close correlation between the number of enfants de rue going up and the rajeunissement de la population carcérale.
Dr. Bunwaree: This has to be looked into. I am not aware exactly of that. I have not gone into the figures, but I am not sure that the number of enfants de rue is going up. According to the figures I have, I see that we are progressing with the number of children at school.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, the figures given by the hon. Minister are truly scandalous. How does the hon. Minister reconcile.
Mr Speaker: You cannot use the word ‘scandalous’.
Mr Obeegadoo: How does the hon. Minister reconcile the figures just quoted, 96% only of enrollment in primary years and he says 88% for secondary whereas in an answer given here in the House at the end of last year for secondary 11 to 15 age group mentioned a net enrollment ratio was quoted as 72%. So, how can the hon. Minister reconcile the fact that 4% of our children are not in primary school and, at least, 12% - and may be much more not in secondary school - with the legal obligation placed upon the State to provide…
Mr Speaker: No, no, I am sorry. There is no need to quote the legal obligation.
The Minister takes judicial notice of that.
Mr Obeegadoo: Then, Mr Speaker, Sir, how is it to be reconciled then with the obligation of the State to ensure that each and every child aged between five and 15 is schooled?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think the hon. Member has to take into consideration because the age of children at secondary schools under the statistics is from 11 to 16 and I have said in my reply - this is why I mentioned it I could have not mentioned it. I said that dropouts in the pre-voc sector is much more important than the other sectors. So when we put all this together, the hon. Member finds the answer to his question.
Mr Obeegadoo: Is the Minister aware that right now Mauritius is classified by UNESCO as one of the countries at risk of not reaching the objective of education for all at primary level in 2015 because of this 96% enrolment ratio at primary?
Dr. Bunwaree: I do not agree with the hon. Member. He has been working at UNESCO.
I don’t know from where he gets those figures he is mentioning. I have myself a copy of a report from UNESCO, in fact, and I am going to quote, for example, for the hon. Member’s attention: ‘the situation is also nearly stable in Mauritius which has a slow growth rate insofar as this is concerned, but will probably reach the target by 2015’. That is the date limit that has been fixed as we know for that.
Now, I may table this table. Universal primary education countries probability of achieving the goal by 2015. There are 22 countries where there is high probability and Mauritius is in there.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker…
Mr Speaker: No, no. I am sorry. You cannot comment. The Minister has replied to what you have said and the hon. Member must assume his responsibility of what he says; he must verify the facts first.
Mr Obeegadoo: I stand by the facts I put forward, Sir. My question is: why is it that the follow-up mechanism - each time a child stops attending school has still not been set up and being fully functional although we are in 2011 and the hon. Minister has been Minister for three years now.
Mr Speaker: There is no need to say that.
Dr. Bunwaree: I have been less than three years Minister of Education. Mr Speaker, Sir, I am giving more attention for the time being to the statistics. If the hon. Member has been able to grasp from my main reply, I am not satisfied with the statistics. In fact, as since last year – the question is put today – I have asked my specialist at the Ministry to take care of the special education needs children qui ne sont pas comptés dans la liste. Ces enfants ne sont pas dans les
rues, ils sont dans les maisons, dans les résidences. All this has to be taken into consideration. As I mentioned in my reply, by the end of this year, I will be able to give probably better statistics and I also mentioned that we have enrolled the services of a statistician which means that I saw the weakness in this and from there we will be able to work out better in the sense that has been mentioned.
Mr Dayal: Can I ask the hon. Minister - with regard to the attendance to school and the assessment carried out - whether there has been a positive impact with regard to free transport; whether there has been any improvement inasfar as attendance to school is concerned?
Dr. Bunwaree: Attendance in school probably, there has been no survey carried out, but I must say I am looking into that also.
Mr Speaker: Next question, hon. Anquetil! The Minister has said that he will come with proper statistics at the end of the year. Then you can come back.
PRIMARY SCHOOLS - CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES – FACILITIES (18/10/11)
(No. B/797) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the children with disabilities in primary schools, he will state the facilities provided to them thereat.
Reply: I wish to refer the hon. Member to the reply I made in the House to PQ IB/657 wherein I highlighted this Government’s moral and ethical obligation to provide equal opportunities and quality education to all so that no child of the Republic is left out. I also dwelt on the various measures being taken by my Ministry to facilitate the education of children with special needs.
Let me point out that according to latest statistics, as at March, 2011, some 1800 children are enrolled in 42 schools and Day Care Centres run by NGOs registered with my Ministry and in 5 Specialised Units operational in Government Primary Schools and also one SEN school run by Government in Stanley, Rose Hill.
The needs of children with severe disabilities are mostly catered for by the NGOs whereas those with mild disabilities are admitted in mainstream Government primary schools.
With a view to ensuring that no child with special needs is deprived of education, my Ministry has since last year started a procedure for the registration of children above the age of 5 years requiring special educational needs in order to enable us to admit these children in an appropriate school where specific facilities best adapted for their education, are available.
Following this exercise in 2010, some 65 children, who would have otherwise stayed at home, have been identified and admitted in schools adapted to their needs.
A Press Communique is now regularly issued at the end of the school year requesting parents having children with special education needs to register them in the nearest school of their locality. This year, the communique has already been issued for registration to take place on 24, 25, 27 and 28 October 2011 i.e. next week.
With regard to children with mild disabilities admitted in primary schools, my Ministry is currently providing the following facilities -
(a) library services, science laboratories and computer rooms that are located on the ground floor;
(b) classrooms that include pupils suffering from disabilities or physical impairments are also located on the ground floor;
(c) there is flexibility to release pupils with disabilities earlier than other students so that they do not face any movement difficulties;
(d) ramps and handrail facilities and adapted toilet(s) are being provided in a phased manner in primary schools;
(e) children with disabilities are benefitting from extra time for the CPE examination, and
(f) enlarged print school books/manuals and question papers are produced for children suffering from visual impairment. Furthermore, a flexible approach is being adopted to allow parents who wish to call at schools during the day to provide any assistance that may be necessary for their disabled children.
Equity of access to education remains high on the agenda of this Government and all efforts are being deployed to ensure that children with special needs benefit from appropriate education.
Furthermore, with a view to implementing the national policy and strategy for the SEN Sector, my Ministry has now already obtained the assistance of the European Union for Consultancy Services to make an assessment of the situation obtaining for SEN and to make recommendations with regard to -
(i) appropriate curriculum and pedagogy;
(ii) capacity building;
(iii) regulatory framework;
(iv) Quality Assurance Mechanism, and
(v) setting of SEN Resource Centres.
With a view to reaching out children with special needs throughout the island and providing to them specialised services (including counseling, therapies and medical support), my Ministry will be setting in a first phase 3 SEN Resource Centres at Ferney, Beau Bassin (Maingard) and Plaine des Papayes respectively. These are expected to be operational in 2012.
CHILDREN (VULNERABLE) - OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS – MEDIA EXPOSURE (08/05/12)
(No. B/28) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley and Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to the vulnerable children, she will state if consideration will be given for measures to be taken for these children not to be exposed in the media during official functions organized for their betterment to avoid them from being ostracised.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as regards vulnerable children, I assume the hon. Member is referring to cases of children already victims of violence or to children deemed to be at risk of violence referred to my Ministry. I would like to inform the House that measures are taken by my Ministry to prevent the exposure of these children in the media during official functions organised for their betterment. In fact, the standard practice is as follows-
• Media people are not allowed to take photographs of children living in shelters and residential care institutions during functions since these children are under court orders (Emergency Protection Order, Interim Committal Order and Committal Order). Nevertheless, if children shows mounted for them at the level of the shelters and residential care institutions have to be given media coverage, media people are made aware that these children faces are to be blurred to avoid them from being recognised. In case the children are taken to functions and celebrations, care is taken for members of the press not to interview them.
Members of the media are regularly reminded of the need of confidentiality.
• Further, my Ministry is in the process of preparing a Comprehensive Children’s Bill and provisions will be made to ensure that media-reporting on children faring in vulnerable situations do not further stigmatise the child, avoid categorisations
or descriptions that expose the child to negative reprisals, including additional physical and psychological harm, or to lifelong abuse, discrimination or rejection/ostracism.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in fact, I was not referring to children victims of violence. I was referring to the distribution of school and pedagogical materials to vulnerable children who are shown on television; those children are in the media and they are made at the end of the distribution to come and say how happy and grateful they are to have received those school materials. I wanted to know from the hon. Minister whether she does not consider that kind of exposure to go against the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The Deputy Speaker: Let's the hon. Minister answer please.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to the mention of violence as mentioned by the hon. Member, it is in line, in fact, with the global study that was carried out in 2006 by the UN special expert Sergio Pinero on child violence, which is taken as an old encompassing word, which includes element of abuse, neglect, growth and negligent treatment as well. This is why we used the term violence. As regards the other aspect mentioned by the hon. Member, this can be considered and I will speak to the hon. Member.
The Deputy Speaker: I will come back in a moment, hon. Dookun-Luchoomun!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister, whether she intends to talk to her colleague, the Minister of Social Integration, to ensure that whenever such distribution of books or bags are done to children that this should not pass on TV so that the whole of Mauritius comes to know that this particular child cannot afford a bag or her schoolbooks.
Mrs Martin: In fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I believe that it is also for the media to take its own responsibility, but as I said before, I have already answered the question with regard to my colleague.
The Deputy Speaker: Let the hon. Minister answer please. Hon. Hanoomanjee.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am afraid the hon. Minister misunderstood the question. It is not for the media to take that responsibility. That responsibility rests on the Ministry since it is the Ministry which has signed and agreed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mrs Martin: As I have said before, in the first part of the question which was answered, I will look into that possibility.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Dr. S. Boolell!
Dr. S. Boolell: Could the hon. Minister more specifically instruct the MBC/ TV to stop projecting images of children showing extreme gratitude?
Mrs Martin: I can look into the matter.
The Deputy Speaker: We round off the question with hon. Ms Ribot.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister to see to it that the protection of the child against such exposure in the media forms part of the amendments to the Child Protection Act, which we understand, is under discussion with the State Law Office and of the Children’s Bill which is in preparation so that never again our children are going to be used as political agents.
Mrs Martin: I must say, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I do not agree with what the hon. Member is saying. Our children are not used as political agents and they are never going to be used as political agents.
Furthermore, like I have said, in my answer, my Ministry is examining and preparing a comprehensive Children Bill and the media aspect will also be taken into consideration.
STREET CHILDREN – STUDY (08/05/12)
(No. B/33) Mr S. Soodhun (Second Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to the street children, she will state if her Ministry has commissioned any study to assess the present number thereof and the number thereof engaged in prostitution and if so, the outcome thereof, indicating the measures that will be taken.
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in regard to the street children, I am informed that there is no study which has been commissioned by my Ministry to assess the present number thereof and the number thereof engaged in prostitution.
Mr Soodhun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can the hon. Minister inform the House whether the victimised children have been given proper psychologically advice?
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the question relates to street children and whether any study has been done, there has been no study; there has been no number of children thereof engaged in prostitution then.
Mr Soodhun: Are there cases then reported to the Ministry?
Mrs Martin: As regards that question, no.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Since the hon. Minister just mentioned that she is aware of cases of street children engaging in prostitution, may I ask the hon. Minister what measures her Ministry intends to take to support these children?
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am afraid the hon. Member did not listen
carefully to what I was saying. I repeat my answer again: “in regards to the street children – because the question relates to street children - I am informed that there is no study which has been commissioned by my Ministry to assess the present number thereof and the number thereof engaged in prostitution.”
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, to a supplementary question set by hon. Soodhun, the Minister mentioned that she is aware of cases of street children and to that answer I put the supplementary: what are the measures her Ministry intends to take to support street children engaged in prostitution,
which she just mentioned, she is aware of after hon. Soodhun’s supplementary question.
Mrs Martin: In a former answer, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I stated that there are no children of the street in Mauritius; they do not live in the streets, they do not sleep in the streets.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: As a point of clarification, can I understand from the hon. Minister, whether in the absence of any study for street children engaged in prostitution, she is saying that there are no children engaged in prostitution who are on the streets?
Mrs Martin: I am not saying that, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, but the question relates to street children.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, in the former answer given by the hon. Minister in this House, she mentioned that there are two types of children in the streets. She mentioned children on the streets and children of the streets and in her previous answer she mentioned that in Mauritius we do not have children of the street, but we have children on the street and she has just mentioned the exact opposite of what she said earlier. May I ask the hon.
Minister whether she is still confused or whether she can make it clear which type of children we have on the street, whether they are children of the street or children on the street?
Mrs Martin: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we do not have children who stay on the street to sleep, this is what I said.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Soodhun, have you got a supplementary question?
Mr Soodhun: The question that has been asked, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, concerns the number thereof engaged in prostitution. Can I ask the hon. Minister whether this is the case or not, whether there are cases of children who are engaged in prostitution and whether this has been reported to her Ministry? This is clear, as I had already said…
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Minister has given a reply to this question. So, we move on to the next question.
I am sorry! We move on to the next question. Dr. Boolell!
PRIMARY SCHOOLS - ENHANCEMENT PROGRAMMES (15/05/12)
(No. B/78) Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley and Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Enhancement Programmes in the primary schools, he will state –
(a) the number of students enrolled therefor at the beginning of each year for 2010 and 2011 respectively, indicating the number thereof who were attending same at the end of each year, and
(b) if changes have been brought thereto for the year 2012.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, in a written reply of 08 November 2011 to PQ A/329, it was highlighted that an average of about 70% of students of both Stds III and IV and above 80% of students for Asian/Arabic languages at Std. III and Std IV level were attending the Enhancement Programme in 2011.
As regards part (a) of the question, in February 2010, 12,428 Std IVpupils enrolled in Enhancement Programme and in October same year 10,161 were still enrolled.
In February 2011, 23,494 pupils of Std III & IV were enrolled and in October the same year the number following Enhancement Programme was 17,098.
As pointed out earlier, a big majority of pupils has been participating in the Enhancement Programme. Nonetheless, efforts are being sustained to keep parents informed of the importance of the programme. In this regard, a ‘lettre aux parents’ has been issued informing them of the benefits of the programme, its new orientation and the linkage of the Enhancement Programme with the review of the CPE.
As regards part (b), in view of experience gained over the implementation of the programme and with a view to rendering the Enhancement Programme more effective, a number of measures has been taken as follows:
(i) Differentiated pedagogy is being sustained and under the Co & Extra Curricular component, the focus is on the unleashing of hidden potential and talent of the pupils so as to develop their creativity, personality and leadership. Through the Enhancement Programme, Music along with other activities, namely SLAM, poetry, dance and art are being given a new boost.
(ii) This year, arrangements are being made for pupils to be provided with a Portfolio for Core Subjects & Co & Extra Curriculum Activities where they will be requested to keep the assignments carried out during the Enhancement Programme for revision and follow-up purposes and this would also be used as a means of assessing their progress.
(iii) Workbooks for Co & Extra Curricular activities are introduced in Stds III and IV in Enhancement Programme Classes this year and these are currently being finalized.
(iv) Competitions which are organized for core subjects will also be extended to Asian/Arabic Languages at Zonal Level and National Level.
(v) Greater sensitization will be carried out with the support of Teachers and Headmasters on the benefits and importance of the Enhancement Programme. Certificates of attendance will be awarded and more
competitions would be organised.
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, according to the Minister’s reply, we see that only last year, in 2011, of the 23,000 students who started the enhancement programme at the beginning of the year, 6,000 dropped out during the year. Has there been a study carried out to find out the reasons thereof?
Dr. Bunwaree: They didn’t drop out from the beginning. They were enrolled in the beginning but little by little - because the question was asked for the figures at the end of the year. Of course, at the end of the year there is the examination pressure coming; there are competitions also which start in the third term and, therefore, this explains why the figures are like that. When we see the graph, it is, in fact, more or less stable for the first four months and then it drops for about 2% or 3% for the next four months and then, at the end of the year, it comes to that level which has been mentioned by the hon. Member. There is an assessment being carried out presently by the MIE and it is being done independently. I have asked for that and we are going to have the results of these assessments by the month of July this year.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to the figures the hon. Minister has just given, there is an increase in the number of pupils attending the enhancement programme. May I ask the hon. Minister whether there has been an increase in the personnel, whether there has been additional recruitment and, if so, in which fields there have been recruitment to support the enhancement programme?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think the hon. Member has mixed up or is not aware – probably I could have given the reasons. In 2010, only Std IV students/pupils were going for an enhancement programme; then we added STd III. This is what explains the bigger number that is found. Now, when we have enrolled other pupils, we have, of course, increased the number of teachers, the number of resource persons which has almost doubled.
The Deputy Speaker: A last question, hon. Ribot!
Mrs Ribot: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to our information, there is an acute lack of resource persons in primary schools, for example, music teachers and the sad fact is that teachers seize that opportunity to go on with curricular activities and some even have gone back to give homework to those students. Would the Minister kindly look into the matter?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, we will never be satisfied with the number of teachers and resource persons, but I must say that, in 2011, we had 982 educators and 582 resource persons for the enhancement programme. In 2012, the number of educators is 1,021 and the number of resource persons 564. Of course, we would like to have more and I do agree that we have some difficulties in certain subjects, but we are trying to manage with what we have for the time being.
By the time we get more educators for even les épreuves physiques et sportives, that is, EPS or for music or for other subjects as well, yet we are fairly satisfied that with the limited resources, we are doing a good job.
The Deputy Speaker: Do me a favour to express your question in a straightforward manner!
Mr Obeegadoo: I have one question, Sir. Being given that the Minister had committed before this House, that there would be a totally independent evaluation of this Enhancement Programme and he knows full well that the MIE will never dare criticise the Minister and his pet project, will he tell the House why it is that he cannot or will not commission a truly independent external, to the Ministry, evaluation of this Programme?
Dr. Bunwaree: I did explain at the same time that for assessment to be conducted for Enhancement Programme, we need to give time to the programme, we had just started. I said, in a first instance, we will have an assessment which would be independent, but from our own people and dans un deuxième temps, we would come with another assessment. We have tapped the resources of foreign institutions, but this would be coming. For the time being, let us wait for this first assessment from the MIE.
Mr Obeegadoo: Can the hon. Minister indicate how much this project has cost the exchequer so far since its inception?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have to see what it has given as results also.
AUTISM – GOVERNMENT SUPPORT (15/05/12)
(No. B/71) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare whether, in regard to autism, she will state the support, if any, her Ministry is proposing to offer to children suffering therefrom and to their respective family.
The Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions (Mrs S. Bappoo): Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I will reply to this question. I wish to inform the House that my Ministry already provides support to autistic children at par with other disabled children and their families.
Autistic children below 15 years benefit from social aid and those above 15 benefit from the Basic Invalidity Pension.
Besides, these children benefit from free travel bus pass and their parents are refunded bus fare when they accompany them to schools or Day Care Centres.
My Ministry also organises regular respite care programmes for the benefit of both the autistic children and their parents.
In the context of the International Day of Autism, that is, on 02 April, the National
Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (NCRD), which falls under the aegis of my Ministry, organised a number of workshops in collaboration with “Autisme Maurice” to raise awareness on autism and train parents on how to cope with autistic children.
The NGO Trust Fund also, which operates under the aegis of my Ministry, provided an ad hoc assistance of Rs50,000 to “Autisme Maurice” in January 2012 to run its Day Care Centre.
“Autisme Maurice” may also tap ad hoc assistance from the NGO Trust Fund for any other specific projects.
On its part, the National Solidarity Fund, which also functions under the aegis of my Ministry, provides financial assistance to autistic children on a case to case basis.
Mrs Labelle: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. I thank the hon. Minister for this answer, but I wanted to know whether there is a particular support to the families.
The Minister has mentioned financial support, but this was the reason why I sent it to the Minister for Family Welfare - is the Minister aware of the suffering of the family with an autistic child and what psychological support or any other support is being given to these families?
Mrs Bappoo: I am informed, Mr Speaker, Sir, that the Minister for Gender Equality is involved in a way for bringing psychological support to the parents of these children. But, the NCRD also put up workshops to train the parents. NCRD has had a resource person from UK, who in fact, is a consultant on child and adolescent psychologist and senior clinical lecturer in paediatric and child care from the University of Birmingham who is herself specialised in autism. She is a Mauritian and she has come twice to train these parents on how to bring their
support as parents to their children.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: In the light of what the hon. Minister has just said, does not she think that it would be appropriate to have a standing committee regrouping the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Gender Equality, her Ministry and the NGO's involved as well to see how best support can be given to the parents of these children?
Mrs Bappoo: This is a good suggestion that can be considered, Sir.
Mrs Ribot: The hon. Minister mentioned the respite centres. Can we know the number of respite centres and the number of children who can be accommodated at a time?
Mrs Bappoo: I did not say that there are respite centres, I said respite care programmes.
The respite care programmes are being done at the recreational and residential centre found in Pointe Aux Sables and another one which is found in Belle Mare.
But, we have also other respite care programmes which are being organised with the different private enterprises, hotels, etc.
There is in the pipeline a project to put up a proper respite care centre, but this needs to be finalised with all its budgetary implications.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Obeegadoo!
Mr Obeegadoo: Could the hon. Minister inform the House whether there has been an estimate or an assessment of the number of autistic children in the Republic and also, will she tell the House what early detection system has been put in place to work with kindergartens, preprimary schools and primary schools to ensure there is adequate support to such children?
Mrs Bappoo: I am informed by the Ministry of Health that actually there are some registered cases in Mauritius. These are statistics available from the Ministry of Health, but there has not been any decision taken properly on whether we should set up any system with different stakeholders and Ministries to be able to identify, maybe in pre-schools or in primary schools.
But, this is something that might be considered not only by my Ministry, but in consultation with other Ministries.
Mrs Bholah: Can the hon. Minister inform the House if the Ministry envisages to carry out research on autism, given especially that this disorder is on a continuous spectrum; it might be misdiagnosed?
Mrs Bappoo: Yes, of course, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Dr. Boolell!
Dr. S. Boolell: M. le président, est-ce que la ministre peut s’assurer qu’il y a une mise en place de salles spécialisées dans chaque région de l’île associée à une formation du personnel hospitalier en matière d’autisme et aussi une consultation de médecins, pédiatres et dentists envers les autistes membres de l’association. En fait, il y a 53 membres de l’association autisme.
Mrs Bappoo: But, Mr Speaker, Sir, I suppose as far as policy is concerned, this should be taken at the level of the Ministry of Health. On the social point of view, my Ministry is ready to come forward with different accompanying measures, but as far as public health issue is concerned, I better leave it to my colleague, the Minister of Health to take up the matter.
Mrs Labelle: I think I heard the hon. Minister mentioning the figure of 50 autistic
children. May I ask the hon. Minister whether this figure of 50 refers to the 50 children who are actually in some centres, and whether she is aware of the survey made by the NGOs Autisme Maurice?
Mrs Bappoo: I don’t have at hand the findings of the survey, but when I did give the figure of 50, this is the actual official figure of registered autistic children in Mauritius from the Ministry of Health.
Mrs Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, from what we have just heard, there is a clearly a gross under estimation of the dimension of the problem in Mauritius. Can the hon. Minister tell us why - given the situation, given the international concern with autism - there has not been such a Standing Committee as hon. Mrs Hanoomanjee just mentioned, set up? Why have measures not been taken upon till now to allow for information of the public, of parents and early detection of such children with special needs?
Mrs Bappoo: I don’t think, Mr Speaker, Sir, that I am going to set up other mechanism which will be in parallel to others, which have already been set up, as we already have the Working Together Committee at the level of the Ministry of Gender. I suppose this is an issue that can be taken at the level of that committee because in that Working Together Concept Committee, we have all the other stakeholders, and if they have to go for further studies or surveys or whatever further support to these children, I think that this committee will be most
appropriate to see to it.
Mrs Labelle: May I ask the hon. Minister when she has referred to 50 whether this figure refers to children in private schools or in Government schools because we know that we have some private centres that are taking care of autistic children?
Mrs Bappoo: In fact, as far as I am informed there is only one registered NGO, that is, Autisme Maurice that really takes care of autistic children. The figure 50, as I said[, Mr Speaker, Sir, it is the official figure that we got from the Ministry of Health. Now, whether these children are found in schools or in pre-schools, this needs further investigation from my Ministry.
AUTISTIC CHILDREN - EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION – SURVEY (05/06/12)
(No. B/229) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the autistic children, he will state if -
(a) a survey has been carried out to assess the number thereof who attend an educational or a specialized institution, and
(b) his Ministry has initiated or is contemplating to initiate any measure for the education thereof.
AUTISTIC CHILDREN – EDUCATION (19/06/12)
(No. B/324) Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the autistic children, he will state if –
(a) a survey has been carried out to assess the number thereof who attend an educational or a specialized institution, and
(b) his Ministry has initiated or is contemplating to initiate any measure for the education thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, despite the limited resources presently available to identify children with autism, preliminary surveys have been conducted in all pre-primary schools by the Early Childhood Care and Education Authority (ECCA) in January/February 2012 and by my Ministry in all primary, secondary and Special Education Needs schools in April and May 2012 to assess the number of children with autism attending educational institutions.
The results obtained indicate that some 172 children with autism are currently in schools as follows –
Number Type of Schools
15 pre-primary schools
15 integrated units in primary schools
6 mainstream, primary schools
136 SEN schools run by NGOs.
Figures for secondary schools are still being compiled.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is now proposed to undertake a comprehensive survey with the collaboration of stakeholder ministries and NGOs to have a full profiling of children with autism. Such information will serve to guide policy formulation and affirmative action in the best interests of these children.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the education of children with autism is high on the agenda of my Ministry and the following actions have been initiated to cater for the specific individual and educational needs of these children and also to support work being done by Autisme Maurice and other NGOs and stakeholders engaged in this area –
(i) Setting up of Integrated Units for Autism
An Integrated unit for Autistic Children has been set up since 30 April 2012 at Henry Buswell Government School in collaboration with Autisme Maurice. My Ministry has provided space, furniture and the services of one Educator to facilitate the running of the school. Some five children are presently attending the school.
With a view to increasing and improving access, Integrated Units will be opened in other parts of the country depending on needs identified by the survey. By the end of this month, another Integrated Unit will be operational at Gopeechand Chuttur Government School, Ecroignard and will be admitting some six children in that region.
(ii) Special Education Needs Development Resource Centre (SENDRC)
My Ministry will be setting up three Resource Centres - one at Ferney, one at Colonel Maingard, Beau Bassin and one at Plaine des Papayes. These centres will be staffed by a multi-disciplinary team including professionals such as Speech Therapist/Audiologist, Occupational Therapist, Educational Psychologist and Educational Social Workers and will provide a range of services including assessment works, sessions with children and families, therapeutic services, capacity building, parenting and counselling programmes.
(iii) Special Admission Exercise
Since 2010, my Ministry has conducted and is conducting a special admission exercise to register children with special needs. During this year’s exercise, some 59 children including two with autism have been registered and these two children with autism have been directed to a private pre-primary school.
(iv) Monitoring Team
A special monitoring team has been set up at the Ministry to work together with NGOs in identifying children with Special Education Needs and facilitating their admission to schools that can best respond to their specific needs.
(v) Appropriate Curriculum and Pedagogy
Since July 2011, the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) is running a Teacher Training Programme whereby teachers, working in specialised schools, learn to adjust and adapt the curriculum according to the cognitive developmental level of children with autism. Teachers are also trained to develop an individual Education Plan for each child and to make use of appropriate assistive devices to respond to the unique needs of learners with autism, as well as children with other Special Education Needs. This first batch of 18 teachers will be graduating from the MIE in December this year.
(vi) Parental Support
With a view to engaging the full participation of parents as partners and enabling them to play an effective role in the education process of the child with autism, parenting programmes including meetings and working sessions are being organised by my ministry and the ECCEA.
Furthermore, the SEN unit of my Ministry and the ECCEA are maintaining regular contacts with individual parents and providing dedicated support and guidance as appropriate.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, given the specificity of the SEN sector, my Ministry is working with development partners and friendly countries on a bilateral cooperation basis, to tap expertise in the field and to enhance the local capacity in implementing Special Education Needs programmes. In this connection, collaboration is already under way with the UNDP and the European Union to professionalise the SEN sector with focus on the development of appropriate
curriculum and pedagogy, capacity building, setting up of a regulatory framework and also provision of technical support and services.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with the limited resources at our disposal presently and in collaboration with various stakeholders, whom I would like to thank wholeheartedly here, my Ministry has started making some headway in meeting the education needs of children with autism and will sustain its efforts in that direction.
Mrs Labelle: The hon. Minister has mentioned that a comprehensive survey will be carried out, I think, in the near future. There will be a diagnosis and evaluation centre which will be open by Autism Maurice very soon. Will they be carried by this organisation through the centre or will it be a separate survey that his Ministry is contemplating to have?
Dr. Bunwaree: It would be a separate survey, but Autism Maurice also will be on board.
Whatever they are doing will be taken on board and we are working with, as I said, international experts because I must say that we lack some capacity in this field.
Ms Deerpalsing: In his reply, the hon. Minister has mentioned the recruitment of speech therapists and audiologists. Is the hon. Minister aware that before, as per the PRB, they used to recruit people with the two together whereas now worldwide these are two separate disciplines and people do not do any more speech therapy and audiology in the same field. Can the hon. Minister see to it that the job description is changed so that we can have specific disciplines instead of having a job description that calls for audiologists and speech therapists together?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, of course, we have taken that on board.
Ms Deerpalsing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to Government Programme, there is supposed to be a Child Health Passport and the hon. Minister has mentioned that children are identified and sent to the special needs education institution. Can the hon. Minister inform the House at what age they are identified presently and whether with what has been announced in the Government Programme, there will be a change in the process of identification in the light of
Child Health Passport?
Dr. Bunwaree: The question of identification starts as soon as they come to school, that is, at the age of 3, but il y en a qui passe, because you may have a forme fruste, comme on dit, which we have not discovered. This is why the comprehensive study will take care of all this.
But, because the obligatory school age was 5, it will be 3 soon, but it is still 5, so we started since last year or the year before to invite parents, with children having handicaps, to come forward, not to believe on what they feel, that the child cannot go to school, despite that, to come to us and register the child at the level of the school, draining the area. This has been done and it is in this way that we have discovered about 59 cases, including two, this year.
Mr Bérenger: The hon. Minister must be aware that we spent billions going to Mars or inventing nuclear weapons, but Autism is still internationally very much unknown territory, unfortunately. Can I know what international expertise, we have benefitted from to date and which international expertise we expect to benefit from in the near future?
Dr. Bunwaree: In fact, there are some countries which are doing very well and we are working with them. But the UNDP itself has got a very good organisation and we are going to tap the services of these organisations, and of course, we have also some experts in the matter.
Maybe, the system did not exist in Mauritius. This is why I said and I appeal to all to help us to continue in this direction, because with limited means we have, we have started a breakthrough in this question of Autism.
Mr Bérenger: Does the hon. Minister have any idea or otherwise of the percentage of children population that can be placed in that category of autistic children.
Dr. Bunwaree: I have given the figure of 172. This is on the whole population of preprimary and primary students. So, the percentage is very, very little, but still, these children must be taken care of, because they can do marvels if they happen to be well educated.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister has mentioned the scarcity of resources, which is rightly so. But actually, there are, at least, 72 teachers who have been trained by Autisme Maurice. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he will consider using these teachers and what support also he will be giving to Autisme Maurice, for example, for the next coming of the centre in 2012, is the hon. Minister contemplating giving support to this organisation who has himself said, is doing a good job, in the meantime?
Dr. Bunwaree: Le travail a été très, très pris. Je dois assurer l’honorable membre, avec Autisme Maurice, doing a marvelous job, I must say. In fact, as I mentioned in my reply, le 30 avril dernier, we started the first integrated unit of autistic children in primary schools and it is with the help of Autisme Maurice. We have given the infrastructure, we have given the services of one educator to help them, but they are doing the work, in fact. In other centres that we are going to open, it will be with them, and of course, other NGOs which could prove themselves in the field.
The Deputy Speaker: Last question, hon. Obeegadoo!
Mr Obeegadoo: Can I ask two in one, Sir? The initiatives announced by the Minister are most welcome. My question is: who at the Ministry coordinates? In the past, there used to be a Special Education Needs Unit headed by Cyril Dalais, Gilbert Chung. I would like to know whether such units still exist, who leads, who staffs that unit? And secondly, the point raised by hon. Ms Deerpalsing is of fundamental importance, the early screening. In the past, we used to produce Special Educational Needs Coordinators at the MIE, is this still the case?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think I have already replied to the question in different ways.
This Special Education Needs Unit is there and has been reinforced. In fact, I won’t say I am heading it myself, but I can assure the hon. Member that I give all the possibilities of my actions to this special unit, because I am so much attached to the progress that has to be accomplished in that sense. New people have worked and they are working in very close collaboration with experts from NGOs existing in Mauritius and also experts from abroad.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, right now the education of autistic children rests with NGOs. The hon. Minister has said that it is high on the agenda of his Ministry, but right now, the Ministry is collaborating, is helping the NGOs to cater for the education of autistic children. My question is: will the hon. Minister consider to revert the situation, that is, that the Ministry takes care of the education of autistic children, helped by NGOs and not vice-versa?
Dr. Bunwaree: J’espère que l’honorable membre ne décourage pas, parce que c’est exactement cela que j’ai dit. I have given a list of things that we are doing. In fact, we have started for the first time, il y a deux ou trois semaines, deux mois with the Integrated Units in primary schools concerning these children. So, I do not want to reply: setting up of integrated units, special education needs…
The Deputy Speaker: The answer has been replied already.
Dr. Bunwaree:…resource centre, the special admission exercise…
The Deputy Speaker: It is ok. Hon. Minister, I think there is no need to repeat the answers. Next question! Hon. Ramano!
SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOLS – UPGRADING & RENOVATION WORKS - GRANT (23/10/12)
Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, following recent announcements by the hon. Minister of Education as well as hon. Minister of Finance regarding payment of an additional sum of Rs200,000 to primary and secondary schools for upgrading and renovation works, may I be allowed to make an appeal to the hon. Ministers to extend this facility to special needs schools.
These schools, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, have not benefitted from the initial grant of Rs500,000. We all know that children attending these special needs schools are those who need more but are receiving less. True it is, there has been some progress during the past years, but still, the State is spending less money on children who deserve more money. This is the main reason of my appeal. And extending this grant to the special needs schools is, in my humble opinion, going in the direction of equality of treatment for all the children of our Republic.
Allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, just to remind that the main objective of this grant was to renovate and improve school infrastructural environment and purchase modern pedagogical ICT equipment to enhance teaching and learning. Who needs more these types of equipment than children attending special needs schools? This is the reason of my appeal to the hon. Minister to kindly consider this humble request.
I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V.K. Bunwaree): I thank the hon. Member for this observation, but I believe she is still talking of private schools. The grant is for Government and Government-aided schools, but we will try to see in which way we could come to help these schools. There are special grant projects at the DBM to help them to innovate and upgrade their schools.
ZONE D’EDUCATION PRIORITAIRE SCHOOL FEEDING PROJECT -
(No. B/22) Mrs S. B. Hanoomanjee (Second Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Zone d’Éducation Prioritaire School Feeding Project, he will state if, prior to the implementation thereof, a committee was set up to examine all the aspects thereof and, if so, indicate the -
(a) composition thereof, and
(b) number of meetings held and table copy of the minutes thereof.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the Primary School Feeding Programme wasimplemented in ZEP schools for the past 10 years with a view to improving learning through better child nutrition, and to encouraging pupils of lower social groups to attend school regularly, thus reducing the absenteeism rate.
In November 2012, in a bid to further strengthen its support to pupils of ZEP schools and to combat absenteeism, Government announced the provision of a daily hot meal to each child attending ZEP schools in the Budget Speech 2013.
With regard to part (a) of the question, a Technical Committee was set up at the level of my Ministry in early December 2012 to look into the implementation of the budgetary measure, examine its implications, and work out the modalities for its implementation. The project was scheduled to start on the day of resumption of studies in schools i.e 14 January, 2013.
The Technical Committee was chaired by the Chief Technical Officer of my Ministry and comprised the following Senior Officials -
ı Assistant Director (Primary);
ı Principal Assistant Secretary (School Management);
ı Principal Assistant Secretary (Procurement, Stores and Pre-primary);
ı Manager, Financial Operations, and
ı ZEP Project Manager
The Ministry of Health and Quality of Life was consulted with regard to food safety guidelines, menu to be served and inspection visits to be conducted. Guidelines and menu were subsequently provided by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life.
A meeting was moreover held with the Head Masters of all the ZEP schools in thepresence of ZEP Cluster Coordinators to explain the modalities for the implementation of the project as well as the need to ensure strict compliance with relevant norms and standards.
In reply to part (b) of the question, I am informed that two formal meetings were held prior to the start of the project and I am tabling a copy of the minutes of proceeding of the two meetings dated 07 December 2012 and 04 January 2013.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I understand from the hon. Minister that the Ministry of Health did not form part of that technical committee at the level of his Ministry to sort out all aspects of the project. Can the hon. Minister say whether all places where food was to be prepared were visited equally by members of a technical team comprising Education and Health at the same time to ascertain that these places were according to safety norms?
Dr. Bunwaree: I put the question when the problem arose and I was made to understand that all the places had been visited - not everywhere - by officials of the Ministry of Education but, at least, by the Ministry of Health and their inspectors.
Dr. S. Boolell: I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether the project is still on course and whether the same Technical Committee which had proved to produce the results that we know in Bambous will be the same people who will actually decide again on the same guidelines or whether there is any change.
Dr. Bunwaree: We had a meeting chaired by my colleague, the hon. Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Development with all those stakeholders involved and we have not done away with the project. In fact, I must admit that there are flaws. It was not easy for us to monitor everything that was happening from the beginning to the end. In fact, hon. Obeegadoo was Minister then and he also tried – he is not responsible, of course – but he must know the difficulties that exist in such cases. I can report on many cases that took place in those days. But the thing is that we have decided to review and some decisions have already been taken. We may go on pilot scheme. We have chosen a few schools and, of course, the monitoring will be stricter and will include all those who need to be included to see that such problems do not recur. But, it is not an easy thing, Mr Speaker, Sir. I must tell you that we have had cases where excess of e-coli have been seen in food, but that has been proved only microscopically.
We did not find any sign of infection or whatever, but it is through microscopic examination that this could have been detected and that takes time. So, at the same time, the food can go to the children, but we have to be very, very careful about that, especially insofar as hot meals are concerned. However, we have put in place another system where food is being served but not hot meals for the time being.
Mr Ganoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, the question that I want to ask the hon. Minister concerns the Bambous Government School where food poisoning took place on an important scale. Is the hon. Minister aware if the Ministry of Education has taken follow-up actions with regard to these children as some of them are still suffering from this traumatisme of this food poisoning, and whether special attention should be given to them on the part of the Ministry so that they can recuperate, and even thinking in terms of monetary compensation to these children or their parents?
Dr. Bunwaree: Definitely, the first and most important concern for us was the situation with the children since the incident occurred. The monitoring is still going on and it is being done by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. Insofar as compensation is concerned, we will look into the matter if ever there is any need. Of course, there are some problems but these have occurred in cases where problems already existed with the children who, for example, were asthmatic and allergic. It does not mean that it is the result only of what happened on that day at school.
Mr Jugnauth: In fact, the hon. Minister has just admitted that there are flaws with regard to this project. Can he tell the House what are all the flaws that he has found out?
Dr. Bunwaree: I can mention a few, but then I have already mentioned the most important one just now. It has been difficult for us to control the food from the place it is prepared to the place it is being distributed and whatever happens on the transport. The control has to take place at many points and I must say that I was not satisfied with the fact that we could not follow everything that was happening from the beginning to the end.
Mr Obeegadoo: If the hon. Minister is to be believed that there was a committee that met in anticipation of the project, how does he explain that the Head Teachers - to whom the Ministry entrusted the responsibility to take charge and manage both the procurement and the delivery of the hot meals - should have come up with a public statement to the effect, and I quote –
“Tout a été fait dans la précipitation et sans planification (...).”
Dr. Bunwaree: This is not really exact, but it could have happened in one or two cases.
It was not the Head Teacher alone; it was the Head Teacher with the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) and also in close collaboration with the Zone which was responsible for the schools which existed in the Zone. I must also add that we had already experienced even hot food supplied to children through what we call the Summer Schools and the Winter Schools and it worked marvelously well. Maybe we have been taken by surprise afterwards, but it worked marvelously well. We used that same system when it came to the supply of hot food to schools
but one thing did happen. And, as I said, hon. Obeegadoo himself had experienced things like that in the past. What is important is for us to see where the problem lies and we address it as it should.
Mr Seeruttun: Est-ce que l’honorable ministre peut confirmer si dans ces écoles ZEP les élèves ont été servis des repas comme mine frit, des frites et même des burgers alors qu’on sait que dans des écoles normales ce sont des repas interdits?
Dr. Bunwaree : Normalement, cela ne devait pas être le cas. Si l’honorable membre a connaissance de tels cas, je lui recommanderais de m’informer …
S’il a eu des complaintes dans ce sens ! Ce que je peux dire et assurer la Chambre - et je l’ai dit dans ma réponse - c’est que les menus étaient proposés par le ministère de la Santé d’après des experts et tout allait dans ce sens. Mais il n’est pas impossible, et je ne dis pas le contraire que dans un cas il y a eu un problème quelconque.
C’est à nous de savoir. Mais venir dire comme cela, sans avancer des choses plus solides, je ne peux pas agir. Mais, à ma connaissance, il n’y a pas eu de tels cas.
Mr Jugnauth: Can the hon. Minister say whether, after the incident at Bambous, there were checks at different places by Health Officers and also if e-coli were discovered in a number of cases?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, e-coli were discovered in a number of cases. I said that publicly and it was then that we decided to stop it altogether.
Mr Speaker: Last question hon. Obeegadoo!
Mr Obeegadoo: Can the hon. Minister explain to us why it took the poisoning of so many little innocent children at Bambous for the Ministry to realise that you cannot have one caterer who is not a professional caterer for more than 600 children?
Dr. Bunwaree: Là je suis vraiment flabbergasted. L’honorable membre, quand il était ministre, à son époque, il y a eu un seul caterer pour l’ensemble du pays.
Et il y a eu des problèmes ….
De nombreux problèmes ont existé.
Mr Speaker: Silence!
Dr. Bunwaree: Au moment où il fallait décider, on s’est inspiré de cela au contraire pour ne pas répéter cette erreur. C’est pour cela qu’on a décentralisé pour essayer de faire de façon que cela ne se reproduise pas. Maintenant lui il vient me dire cela, c’est incroyable!
Mr Speaker: Well, I have said the last question, but, nevertheless, being given the interest of Members, I’ll allow a few more questions.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, for such an important project where millions of rupees are involved, doesn’t the hon. Minister think that if right from the beginning the Committee which was set up would have roped in not only the Ministry of Health but also some of the PTA’s for whom the catering service was given? Does not the hon. Minister think that the flaws which have risen would not have and that these issues would have been addressed at the level of the Committee before the implementation of that project?
Dr. Bunwaree: Whether we ought to do it together, but I said that a meeting was moreover held with all the head masters who were involved in the project and all the PTA’s.
Mr Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition!
Mr Ganoo: One of the advantages that Government was flagging with regard to this project was that providing repas chaud to these children of the ZEP school would discourage absenteeism and would favour more attendance at school. But now that this project has been done away with, can the hon. Minister tell us what the situation is? What is being done now to promote more attendance in these schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: I said that we have not done away with the project, we are going to come again with it but we are going to take all precautions and learn from the bad experiences of the past.
Mr Jhugroo: Mr Speaker, Sir, le hot meal a été remplacé par du pain et du beurre.
Est-ce que le ministre est au courant qu’on est en train d’avoir du beurre gâté et même fondu.
Dr. Bunwaree: Du beurre?
Mr Jhugroo: Gâté et même fondu!
Dr. Bunwaree: Je ne suis pas au courant de cela.
APEIM – SCHOOLS – CLOSURE (23/04/13)
Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal): Merci M. le président de m’accorder le temps de la Chambre pour faire la voix des enfants handicapés.
En effet, M. le président, je parle des enfants des écoles de l’Association de Parents d’Enfants Inadaptés de l’Ile Maurice (APEIM) dont la fermeture de neuf écoles spécialisées a été annoncée, mettant presque 250 enfants handicapés dans une situation très, très difficile. Une lettre a été envoyée, M. le président, le 8 mars 2013 au ministère de l’Education. A hier, lundi 22 avril, aucune réponse du ministère n’a été reçue.
M. le président, hier deux officiers du ministère ont fait une visite surprise dans les neuf écoles. Et pour aller très rapidement et très brièvement, c’est quoi la demande de l’APEIM ?
Que le gouvernement, à travers son ministère de l’Education, assume sa responsabilité vis-à-vis des jeunes handicapés. C'est-à-dire, s’assurer que ces enfants aient accès à l’éducation. Que le gouvernement respecte ses engagements pris à travers la ratification de la Convention des droits des enfants et la Convention relative aux droits des personnes handicapées. Je vous fais
l’économie de cet article 24 (2) (b) - « L’éducation est obligatoire jusqu'à l’âge de 16 ans (…) »
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle, your time is up. Please round off!
Mrs Labelle: Yes. Dois-je rappeler à la Chambre que l’État Mauricien, à travers son ministère de l’Education d’alors, avait pris l’engagement de parité en 2005 tout en disant que les enfants handicapés doivent recevoir plus que les autres enfants? Cette décision n’a pas été mise en pratique et l’APEIM est fatigué de se battre pour que les enfants handicapés aient accès à l’éducation. Le même sujet a été pris dans cette Chambre en 2010 et le ministre de l’Education avait déclaré…
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle, you’ll have to round off! I am sorry.
Mrs Labelle: Mais, M. le président, c’est un…
The Deputy Speaker: No, you have been given…
Round off, please!
Mrs Labelle: Non, mais si on ne peut pas parler des enfants handicapés…
The Deputy Speaker: We have got a time constraint; we should allow the other hon. Members to intervene!
Mrs Labelle: Oui, mais, M. le président…
The Deputy Speaker: Time is very limited as I have said, I am very sorry!
Mrs Labelle: M. le président, il est clair que les enfants handicapés n’ont pas…
The Deputy Speaker: I am sorry! I am sorry!
Mrs Labelle: … l’intérêt de ce gouvernement!
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle, you have got to round off!
Mrs Labelle: Les enfants handicapés n’ont pas l’intérêt de ce gouvernement et vous le confirmez en m’empêchant de terminer en quelques secondes!
The Deputy Speaker: No, I am not doing that at all. I am not doing that!
Mrs Labelle: Yes, parce que si on ne peut pas 250 enfants qui n’auront pas d’écoles.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Mrs Labelle, I am on my feet now!
It is no question of restraining anyone from expressing himself or herself. You understand that we have got a time constraint; we have got as many as fourteen hon. Members who are going to express themselves. That is why time is limited!
Yes, who is going to react?
No, no that is not the question. I am sorry!
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): M. le
The Deputy Speaker: Order, Mrs Labelle!
Dr. Bunwaree: M. le président, il y a beaucoup de choses qui…
Il y a beaucoup de choses à dire sur ce que vient de mentionner l’honorable membre. Je viendrai avec une déclaration à la Chambre en temps et lieu, mais je dois dire que si les lettres n’ont pas été répondues, il y a beaucoup de contacts qui ont été pris auprès des uns et des autres. Mais il y a beaucoup de choses qui n’ont pas été dites aussi à cette Chambre aujourd’hui. Je n’ai, en tout cas, aucune leçon à apprendre pour défendre les enfants handicapés. La Chambre pourra compter
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Obeegadoo !
APEIM – CHILDREN’S RIGHTS (23/04/13)
Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal): Merci M. le président. L’appel que je fais, cela n’intéresse pas beaucoup de monde, ce que je comprends. Cela concerne les enfants handicapés, nous avons l’APEIM qui a une expertise depuis les 40 dernières années et l’appel est qu’on respecte le droit des enfants et que nous ayons quand même un environnement approprié pour leur éducation.
Merci M. le président.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Je voudrais dire rapidement que je n’ai jamais laissé les handicapés tomber, l’APEIM peut laisser tomber mais pas les enfants handicapés.
APEIM SCHOOLS – GRANTS (28/05/13)
Mrs L. Ribot (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill): Mr Speaker, Sir, my request is addressed to the hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources. Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to come back on an issue that has been raised by one of my colleagues on 23 April 2013. I am referring to the issue of the grants to the APEIM schools.
For some time now APEIM has been threatening to close its nine schools and this
concerns 250 students having a handicap and 600 others benefitting directly or indirectly from the help of APEIM and it also concerns more than 50 employees. If this happens, of course, Mr Speaker, Sir, those children will have no access to education which would be contrary to the existing regulations concerning children and handicapped children’s right to education.
On 23 April 2013 the hon. Minister announced and I quote –
“Je viendrais avec une déclaration à la Chambre en temps et lieu…”
And we are still waiting !
Je voudrais faire un appel à l’honorable ministre de l’Education afin qu’il ait à coeur le sort de ces enfants et afin que ces enfants et leurs parents et enseignants n’aient pas l’impression d’être en train de mendier et que ces enfants ne se sentent pas être des second grade citizens. Ce n’est pas une faveur que nous demandons pour ces enfants, M. le président, nous demandons que le droit de ces enfants soit respecté.
Mr Speaker: Yes!
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): M. le président, je crois que l’honorable membre est en retard sur les événements à moins qu’elle n’ait pas suivi tout ce qui a été dit au niveau de cette Chambre parce que je suis venu et j’ai expliqué qu’il n’y a pas de problème. Le ministère a reçu à très haut niveau les représentants de l’APEIM est le problème a été réglé. Mais s’il y a d’autres petits problèmes, je suis tout à fait disposé à les entendre mais il n’y a aucun problème. J’ai déjà annoncé ouvertement qu’il n’y a pas de fermeture d’APEIM. Il y avait des petits problèmes qui ont été pris. Je ne suis pas venu avec une déclaration parce que j’ai fait l’annonce à un autre moment. Je le dis haut et fort qu’il n’y a aucun problème au niveau de l’APEIM et tout continue. S’il y a d’autres petits problèmes…
.…je vais voir. Au moment où je parle, je n’ai reçu aucune autre plainte de la part de ceux qui sont impliqués.
EDUCATION SPECIAL NEEDS SECTOR – SALARY STRUCTURE(11/06/13)
(No. B/491) Mr E. Guimbeau (First Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment whether, in regard to the Education Special Needs sector, he will state if his Ministry has been requested to invite the National Remuneration Board to prescribe a salary structure and conditions of service therefor and, if so, indicate the actions taken in relation thereto.
Reply: Following a request received on 08 May 2013 from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources to take steps to regulate the terms and conditions of employees of the Special Education Needs (SEN) sector, and given that no arrangement exists in the sector for the effective regulations of wages, terms and conditions of employment by collective agreement or otherwise, I have referred the request to the National Remuneration Board for consideration.
APEIM – HANDICAPPED CHILDREN- GRANT-IN-AID (25/06/13)
Mrs F. Labelle (Third Member for Vacoas & Floreal): M. le président, ce n’est pas de gaieté de coeur que je me vois dans l’obligation de prendre le temps de la Chambre pour parler à nouveau du problème de l’APEIM.
Presqu’un mois de cela, le 28 mai, l’honorable ministre de l’éducation, en réponse à la préoccupation de ma collègue, l’honorable Madame Ribot, déclarait qu’il n’y a pas de problème, que le problème a été réglé. Cette déclaration de l’honorable ministre, M. le président, rend perplexe plus d’un. L’honorable ministre peut-il être un peu plus explicit sur la nature du problème qui, selon ses dires, a été réglé et sur le tout qui continue? Est-ce à dire que le ministère a décidé de respecter la question de parité en ce qu’il s’agit des frais de scolarité des enfants souffrant d’un handicap? Est-ce à dire que l’honorable ministre a pris en considération le ratio profs-élèves et par conséquent le gouvernement, à travers le ministère de l’éducation, a décidé d’accorder un grant-in-aid plus élevé pour les enfants handicapés? Est-ce à dire que le ministère a signé un MoU avec les organisations qui s’occupent de l’éducation des enfants handicapés, y compris les plus déficients, les grabataires les handicapés, etc qui sont suivis à la maison ? Ou est-ce à dire, M. le président, que le ministère a déjà enclenché un processus de validation des acquis du personnel ? Ou peut-être le ministère a-t-il établi un calendrier de travail, lequel calendrier a été communiqué aux parties concernées ?
M. le président, d’après les informations dont je dispose, la menace des fermetures des écoles de l’APEIM est toujours présente. Les parents des enfants préparent une marche à present parce que l’APEIM n’a rien reçu de concret. Il y a eu certes des réunions, mais rien de concret n’est sorti de ces réunions. Les parents de ces enfants qui fréquentent les écoles de l’APEIM et le personnel sont dans l’angoisse et attendent des réponses aux questions que je viens de poser.
Je vous remercie, M. le président.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree) : M. le président, je pense qu’il y a eu une confusion quelque part. Je ne sais pas d’où cela émane. Je crois que je viendrai avec une déclaration, parce qu’il n’y a pas le temps - à la Chambre juste pour dire qu’il y a eu plusieurs réunions importantes qui ont été organisées au niveau du ministère, mais il y a une qui est très importante, et à la suite de laquelle les dirigeants de l’APEIM nous ont envoyé une lettre pour dire qu’ils ont compris qu’il y avait une confusion quelque part. On est en train de revoir le grant-in-aid complètement. Donc, ils savent qu’ils doivent attendre un peu. On a référé une partie du travail au ministère du travail pour le Remuneration Order pour les personnes qui travaillent là-bas. Il y a beaucoup de choses qu’on est en train de faire. Je viendrai avec une déclaration à la Chambre et je remercie l’honorable membre.
CHILDREN & YOUTH WITH DISABILITIES – EDUCATION FOR ALL (02/07/13)
Mr S. Obeegadoo (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands): M. le président, je demanderais le droit de m’adresser à la Chambre, ce soir, à propos du…
Mr Speaker: The hon. Member may proceed now.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, I asked for the right to address the House, this evening, on the issue of the urgent need to address the situation of children and youth with disabilities within the perspective of education for all and out of fairness, I sought to give notice to the three Ministers concerned about the issue which I am going to raise. I was wondering whether, Mr Speaker, Sir, you have been informed that the Minister in charge of Child Development would not be in attendance…..
Mr Speaker: I can’t see the Minister.
Mr Obeegadoo: I am informed she is not in the country. So, fair enough!
Autrement j’aurais été très déçu.
M. le président, l’éducation pour tous est un droit. Pourquoi l’éducation pour tous est un droit? C’est parce que l’éducation, aujourd’hui, définit la possibilité de vivre dans la dignité.
L’éducation nous permet d’affirmer notre humanité. L’éducation est importante sur le plan économique. Soit dit en passant, il a été estimé que, si tous les handicapés – j’utilise le terme ‘handicapé’ - autrement capables, si vous voulez, travaillaient au Canada, par exemple, le produit intérieur brut augmenterait de 7.7%. L’éducation est importante sur le plan social pour des raisons que nous savons tous, et je ne vais pas m’étendre dessus, ce soir. Cela explique pourquoi depuis 1948, la déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme, le droit à l’éducation pour tous est reconnu, et par la suite, l’Etat mauricien a pris des engagements, en 2000 à Dakar Education pour tous, l’adoption de l’agenda de Dakar, l’objectif du millénaire pour le développement ayant trait à l’enseignement primaire pour tous et ensuite en 2006 la Convention sur le droit des personnes handicapées qui a été ratifiée par l’Etat mauricien.
Chez nous-mêmes, à Maurice, je voudrais rappeler que l’Education Act, tel que nous l’avions amendé en 2003, prévoit le droit de tout jeune d’être scolarisé jusqu’à l’âge de 16 ans.
Quelle est la situation, aujourd’hui, à Maurice, M. le président? Selon les statistiques officielles, malheureusement, nous savons que près de 10,000 enfants – je crois que c’est, plus précisément, 9,300 enfants, entre l’âge de 5 et 16 ans qui ne sont pas scolarisés. Nous savons que 2% des enfants entre 5 et 12 ans ne vont pas à l’école et que 28% d’un groupe d’âge n’obtient pas le CPE. Donc, non scolarisation! Pourquoi ? Deux cas de figure. Des enfants qui, à l’âge de 5 ans, ne s’inscrivent pas à l’école et, malheureusement, il n’y a toujours pas un mécanisme pour s’assurer, puisque toutes les naissances sont rapportées désormais à Maurice, que tous ces enfants intègrent l’école.
Puis, le deuxième cas de figure, ce sont les enfants qui décrochent, qui abandonment l’école, à un certain moment, au cours de leur scolarisation. Encore une fois, il n’y a toujours pas un mécanisme, malgré tous nos appels, pour faire le suivi des enfants qui, subitement, disparaissent de l’école. La question qui se pose est: quelle est la part occupée par les enfants handicapés parmi ceux qui ne sont pas scolarisés ou ceux qui se retrouvent déscolarisés ? Nous avions posé la question, M. le président, de savoir combien d’enfants handicapés, en âge d’être
scolarisés, y-a-t-il à Maurice? En 2011, quand cette question fut posée, ici-même, le ministre de l’Education répondit qu’il y avait eu un relevé, qu’il n’était pas satisfait des résultats et qu’il verrait comment faire pour avoir des chiffres, des statistiques plus crédibles et il avait parlé du ministère de la Sécurité sociale qui avait été, paraît-il, impliqué dans ce relevé. Il nous avait promis de faire le nécessaire et de revenir avec une déclaration à la Chambre. Cela remonte à novembre 2011. Et puis plus rien ! Aujourd’hui, si l’on pose la question: combien d’enfants handicapés y-a-t-il à Maurice en âge d’être scolarisés ? Statistics Mauritius nous dit: 3,900 et quelque, dont 3,500 enfants seraient scolarisés. Donc, 12% ou 13% des handicapés qui ne vont pas à l’école. J’ai de forts doutes quant à la véracité de ces chiffres, d’autant plus qu’on a demandé aux gens, à eux-mêmes, de dire s’ils étaient handicapés.
Et quand nous savons la psychologie des enfants, un enfant n’ira pas rapporter un handicap et les difficultés d’apprentissage qu’il aurait nécessairement si les parents ne le font pas. Donc, le problème majeur c’est qu’il n’y a pas eu un recensement précis du nombre d’enfants handicapés en âge d’être scolarisés. L’UNESCO estime qu’un tiers des enfants nonscolarisés dans le monde sont des enfants avec des besoins éducatifs spéciaux, des enfants handicapés. Qu’elle est la situation à Maurice? En 2013, nous n’avons toujours pas de réponse précise! Les ONG - auxquelles nous avons parlé - avancent le chiffre de 6,000 enfants handicapés. Selon elles, il y a seulement 1,850 qui sont inscrits aujourd’hui dans 50 institutions, dont 44 relèvent du privé, chiffre de 2011. Qu’elle est la situation exacte, nous ne savons pas!
Mais que faire? Si nous sommes tous d’accord - et j’espère que nous pouvons tous être d’accord au sein de cette Chambre - que, selon les obligations que nous nous sommes imposées en tant qu’Etat, nous devons assurer que tous nos enfants, que tous nos jeunes, indépendamment du fait qu’ils aient ou non des handicaps, doivent être scolarisés. Que faire ? D’abord ce recensement, savoir combien il en existe et où ils se trouvent ces enfants. Cela n’a toujours pas été fait !
Deuxièmement, c’est d’avoir des structures d’accueil appropriées pour ces enfants selon les besoins spécifiques de chaque enfant, prenant en compte la diversité des situations et la diversité des besoins. Cela, M. le président, commence par la petite enfance et c’est pour cela que j’avais souhaité que la ministre, l’honorable Madame Martin soit là, parce que vous savez comment cela se passe, chaque ministre fait porter le chapeau à l’autre en disant que ce n’est pas de son ressort.
Nous l’avons entendu souvent au sein de cette Chambre.
En Angleterre, par exemple, en Grande Bretagne il y a un programme qui s’appelle le Early Support Pilot Programme qui cherche à accorder un soutien accru aux bébés, aux enfants handicapés dès la naissance, c'est-à-dire, il y a une prise en charge par l’Etat dès la naissance pour s’assurer que ces enfants aient les mêmes chances que tout enfant, quelque soit les handicaps. Cela n’existe pas à Maurice. Nous savons que le diagnostic pose toujours problème.
On peut parler de diagnostic précoce même à l’école primaire. Les facilités n’existent pas encore même s’il y a eu quelques efforts, et je ne le nie pas.
Donc, il y a le besoin de recensement, il y a le besoin de structure d’accueil dès le plus jeune âge et, troisièmement, se pose le problème du financement. Je vous rappellerai, M. le président, qu’avant 2003, l’Etat ne contribuait pas financièrement au fonctionnement de toutes ces ONG qui s’occupent des enfants handicapés. L’Etat prend en charge dans ces écoles uniquement ceux qui ont de légers handicaps, qui peuvent être intégrés dans les classes normales.
Il y a quelques écoles - je crois qu’elles sont trois - primaires publiques où il y a quelques facilités spéciales ; l’école de Solferino est un exemple et il y en a deux autres encore. Mais, généralement, c’est le privé qui s’occupe de la majorité de ces enfants handicapés.
Ce n’est qu’en 2003 que le ministère de l’Education d’alors établi un registre de ces ONG et, pour la première fois dans le Budget de 2003, une dotation budgétaire fut prévue pour ces écoles. Je crois que c’était R 5,000 par tête d’élève par mois. En 2005, pour la première fois, nous étions parvenus à la parité, c'est-à-dire, garantir à chaque enfant, qu’il soit handicapé ou pas, le même montant de financement de l’Etat.
Et nous avions alors pris l’engagement de donner plus aux enfants handicapés dans les années à venir. Malheureusement, cela n’a pas été fait. Depuis 2005, en ce qui concerne la dotation budgétaire, cette parité n’a pas été respectée. C’est pour cela qu’aujourd’hui - et j’ai parlé à différentes ONG avant de m’adresser à la Chambre ce soir - le financement de l’Etat compte pour à peine 20% du budget de ces organisations. Demandez au Society for the Welfare of the Deaf ! Demandez à différentes organisations et ils vous diront la même chose ! Les jeunes qui ont plus de 18 ans n’ont pas de financement. Demandez à l’Association Arc-en-Ciel, aucun financement ! Pourtant, les bien-portants qui iront à l’Université de Maurice seront subventionnés par l’Etat, mais pas les handicapés ayant 18 ans !
Pour revenir à mon propos, l’APEIM est l’illustration parfaite d’une ONG qui s’occupe aujourd’hui de 250 enfants directement dans neuf écoles ; 600 enfants bénéficiant de leurs cours.
L’APEIM est aujourd’hui menacée de fermeture et les honorables membres Mme Ribot, Mme Dookun-Luchoomun, Mme Labelle et moi-même avions soulevé cette question semaine après semaine. L’APEIM va toujours vers la catastrophe et il y a une marche de solidarité le 10 juillet, M. le président. On ne comprend plus rien de ce qui se passe ! Le ministère de l’Education adresse une lettre aux organisations au mois de mai pour dire que la question avait été confiée à l’Office for Public Sector Governance. Et puis, quelques semaines plus tard, on écrit à ces mêmes organisations pour dire que c’est maintenant le ministère qui a mis sur pied un comité pour étudier la chose et on demande – surprise, surprise - à ces organisations de dire au ministère, en juin 2013, de ‘give the number of pupils on roll, details of their levels of impairments, number of teaching staff, respective qualifications, salary paid, number of nonteaching staff, financial statement for the last two years’.
A croire que le ministère de l’Education n’ait jamais détenu ces informations !
Alors, comment parler du droit à l’éducation des enfants handicapés quand le ministère ne s’en soucie guère !
M. le président, le problème du financement est au coeur même de la question. Je pourrais vous parler d’enseignants spécialisés. Ces organisations ne sont toujours pas dotes d’enseignants spécialisés et dépendent d’enseignants du primaire qui leur sont prêtés. Il n’y a toujours pas de Special Educational Needs Coordinators pour s’occuper de ces enfants.
M. le président, je suis tombé sur un document soumis par la Federation of DisabledPeople’s Organisations (DPO) Mauritius au Universal Periodic Review, en date de 2013, qui vient dire tout simplement, et je cite –
« The Educational System is supposedly free for all Mauritian children, but it is not sofor children with disabilities. »
Parce que nous savons que ces enfants et les parents de ces enfants ont besoin de moyen très conséquent pour assurer l’accès à l’école, si encore les structures existent ! Ils ne peuvent souvent pas bénéficier du transport gratuit qui est disponible, de tout ce dont ils ont besoin en plus d’un enfant dit normal. Ici, je voudrais soulever l’attention de l’honorable Madame la ministre de la Sécurité sociale, une question que j’ai déjà évoquée ici. Vous savez que les enfants handicapés bénéficient d’un Carer’s Allowance si c’est certifié par le panel médical. Ce Carer’s Allowance a pour condition que les parents ne gagnent pas plus de R 150,000 par an. Vous voyez ce que cela veut dire. L’honorable ministre des Finances nous a parlé aujourd’hui du poverty line de R 11,000.
Donc, même des parents qui gagnent moins que ce poverty line n’ont pas droit à ce Carer’s Allowance ; R 150,000 par an ! Si un parent fait des heures supplémentaires qui l’emmènent au-delà de R 150,000, il perd le tout. R 150,000 seulement ! Et ce montant - l’honorable Madame la ministre nous le confirmera - n’a pas été revu depuis sept ou huit ans, M. le président ! Je suppose que je ne suis pas le seul à recevoir la visite des parents, ayant des enfants handicapés, qui éprouvent énormément de problèmes pour prendre en charge l’éducation de leurs enfants.
M. le président, je ne vais pas être beaucoup plus long. Je vais demander un changement d’attitude avant tout de la part de ceux qui nous gouvernent. A chaque fois que cette question est évoquée ici, nous témoignons d’une désinvolture qui ne fait pas honneur à la République.
En 2010 déjà, suite à une question de mon collègue le député Ramano, l’honorable ministre de l’Education admettait que, there is still much to be done. Il disait qu’il allait étudier la possibilité suggérée par le député Abdullah Hossen, qu’il faudrait avoir des bourses specials pour ces enfants. Je n’ai vu rien venir en deux ans. Il nous parlait de ce relevé qu’il allait entreprendre avec le ministère de la Sécurité sociale. Rien ne s’est passé ! Il avait dit : ‘je ne vois pas pourquoi on me pose la même question encore une fois, à moins qu’on n’ait pas compris’. Mais rien n’est fait en un an et demi, M. le président !
Et il nous dit, évidemment, comme toujours : ‘Je viendrai avec une déclaration à la Chambre en temps et lieux’. Un an et demi plus tard, nous attendons toujours cette déclaration. Lorsque la question est soulevée à nouveau avec l’histoire de l’APEIM cette année-ci, en avril, meme réponse ! Au mois de mai, l’honorable Madame Ribot a soulevé la question. On lui dit : ‘Je crois que l’honorable membre est en retard sur les événements, à moins qu’elle n’ait pas suivi tout ce qui a été dit au niveau de cette Chambre’. Et cela continue ainsi et dans la pratique rien ne se passe. Aujourd’hui, l’APEIM est toujours au bord de la faillite et l’APEIM annonce la fermeture de toutes ses écoles, M. le président.
Il nous faut un changement d’attitude au plus vite pour que, all children and young people with disabilities have the right, comme tous les autres enfants, to free and compulsory education that is accessible and meets their individual needs.
Je vais donc, M. le président, conclure en faisait un appel au nom de cette humanité qui nous rassemble tous, ici, au-delà des clivages politiques qu’enfin finalement l’on reconnaisse que les enfants handicapés ont le même droit à l’éducation et que pour cela ils ont besoin non seulement de la parité, mais de plus de ressources par tête d’élève, j’entends bien. Plus de ressources pour pouvoir accéder et réussir leur scolarisation, M. le président ! J’adresse donc un
appel en ce sens au ministre concerné.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr Speaker, Sir, I have listened very attentively to hon. Obeegadoo talking on this issue of urgent need to address the situation of children and youth with disabilities, although he has also talked about other children as well, out of school children.
So, I will limit myself mainly to children and youth with disabilities.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to thank the hon. Member for giving me, at least, the opportunity to make better known what my Ministry has done, is doing and is considering doing, to address the situation of children and youth with disabilities within the perspective of Education for All.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I agree with the hon. Member on all that he has said insofar as the importance of education is concerned for our children - in fact, for all the population and especially Education for All. So, I won’t stay too much on this aspect of the reasoning. I also agree on the importance of the right to Education for All.
Mr Speaker, Sir, let me situate the context in its proper perspective. Despite what we have heard from the hon. Member, we, in Mauritius, are in the forefront in the attainment of most of the Education for All Goals - EFA Goals - and also the two education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Basic education for all, Mr Speaker, Sir, is a reality in Mauritius and equitable access does exist for all to gain a quality education.
I agree, though, that we have still efforts to put in insofar as to the EFA Goals, especially as to one of the six EFA Goals, that is, the attainment of the 50 percent target on Adult Literacy.
If we put this one aside, as I was saying, if not all, at least most of the EFA Goals have now become a reality for the country. I must, before going further, Mr Speaker, Sir, spell it out loud and clear that a real revolution is very surely taking place in the domain of the education of our children with special needs.
Inclusion, Mr Speaker, Sir, is the leitmotiv that runs across the education system of the Republic. We have always believed in the provision of equality of opportunities to all students - and this explains the diversity of actions and projects and programmes mounted to ensure that there is no exclusion whatsoever.
Keeping in view the theme of the motion of the hon. Member, I will concentrate today on the case of children with special education needs. I must point out, Mr Speaker, Sir, while referring to children with special education needs being catered for by Ministry, the age bracket is 3 to 20 years.
Mr Speaker, Sir, my Ministry has undertaken a series of affirmative actions in order to improve the plight of children with disabilities and bring them as far as possible at par with their peers in the mainstream schools. The Education and Human Resource Strategy Plan 2008-2020 places a premium on Special Education Needs (SEN) and enunciates policy guidelines to ensure that, by 2020, all children requiring Special Education Needs (SEN) in Mauritius enjoy access to relevant and high quality SEN education.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I will, for the edification of the House, highlight some of the measures taken, articulating the four major thrust areas that are the cornerstones of the SEN policy. These are –
(i) The issue of increased and improved access;
(ii) Partnership with NGOs;
(iii) Capacity building and Support services, and
(iv) The adoption of International best practices.
My Ministry, Mr Speaker, Sir, has put up new Integrated Units in Government primary schools around the island so as to reach out those who have to travel long distance. In fact, since 2012, that is, last year, eight Integrated Units have been set up to cater for different disabilities.
These Integrated Units are –
• D. Hurry Government School (Goodlands)
• Montagne Ory Government School
• Henry Buswell Government School (Rose Hill)
• Rose Belle South Government School
• Gandhi Government School (Flacq)
• Nouvelle France Government School
• G. Chuttur Government School (Ecroignard)
With the exception of Rose Belle South, Mr Speaker, Sir, all the other Integrated Units are fully operational in active collaboration with NGOs, more specifically Autisme Maurice, Society for the Welfare of the Deaf, Loïs Lagesse Trust Fund for the disabled, Lizié dans la main, Association des Parents de Déficients Auditifs (APDA) and Association des ParentsD’enfants Inadaptés de l’Ile Maurice (APEIM).
In addition to the above, eight new SEN schools run by NGOs have been registered in 2012, bringing the total to 61.
In addition, my Ministry had to fight an uphill battle to remove the stigma that had traditionally been attached to children with disabilities. We have had recourse to an Outreach Exercise for the registration of children with Special Education Needs (SEN). This exercise was initiated for the first time in 2010 and I am happy to state that if at the time of inception and commencement of this programme in 2010, the enrolment response was just five pupils and it rose up, however, to 68 pupils in 2011 and 59 additional pupils in 2012. For this year, 58 pupils have been admitted in schools. With this measure we have ensured that 190 children are taken on board in the education system.
A special team has been set up at my Ministry to channel these children to those institutions that can best address their specific needs, of course, including the mainstream school system. The team is constantly monitoring the situation and is working in close collaboration with the NGOs engaged in SEN activities.
In addition, with regard to children with mild disabilities admitted in mainstream Government schools, the following facilities are provided -
(i) library services, laboratories and Computer Rooms are located on the ground floor;
(ii) classrooms that include pupils suffering from disabilities are also located on the ground floor;
(iii) ramps and handrail facilities and adapted toilets are being provided in a phased manner;
(iv) enlarged print school books/manuals and question papers are produced for children suffering from visual impairment;
(v) candidates with hearing defects are provided with the service of sign language interpreters for the purpose of examinations;
(vi) children with disabilities are benefitting from extra time for examinations;
(vii) there is flexibility to release pupils with disabilities earlier than other students so that they do not face any movement difficulties, and
(viii) a flexible approach is being adopted to allow parents who wish to call at schools during the day to provide any extra assistance that may be necessary for their children with disabilities.
These are supplemented by a set of positive measures by the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions and these include -
Mr Speaker: Hon. Minister, you are left with three more minutes.
Dr. Bunwaree: Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, Sir, I have...
Mr Speaker: Proceed until the three minutes are over.
Dr. Bunwaree: My hon. friend has talked for 20 minutes.
Mr Speaker: Well, I am applying the Standing Orders. I am sorry!
Dr. Bunwaree: I bow to your ruling. I will have to come again with that. But, it is such an important point that the nation will appreciate, Mr Speaker, Sir.
As I said, these are supplemented by a set of positive measures by the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions and these include -
(i) The provision of a scholarship to children with disabilities who have passed their CPE by the National Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (NCRD).
Presently, some 116 students with disabilities are benefitting from the Francois Sockalingum Award.
(ii) Payment of the examination fees for students with disabilities who come from low-income groups;
(iii) As a further assistance to parents who are registered under the Social Register of Mauritius, a sum of Rs750 is paid for each disabled child attending school, and who has a 75% monthly attendance;
(iv) Furthermore, such support is not restricted to schooling alone but is also extended to the TVET sector. In this context, the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions is integrating youths with disabilities in vocational training programme.
The Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions also has a scheme whereby it provides financial assistance to parents for meeting transport cost. The bus fare of accompanying parents is refunded. The number of beneficiaries under this scheme is about 2,000 and a sum of more than Rs14 m. is spent under this item annually.
In the same context, the taxi fare is refunded for students with disabilities who cannot travel by ordinary means of transport to attend classes at the University.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I have got quite a lot to speak on that.
Mr Speaker: You have one more minute.
Dr. Bunwaree: What I will suggest is that I will come with a statement to give further details on all the points that have been raised by the hon. Member and to speak also my heart. I only wish to end for today by saying that there is, in fact, a real revolution going on insofar as children who have got special needs are concerned and we are trying our best to bring them on board in the mainstream as far as possible, and in other cases in specialised schools as well.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Speaker: Time is over!
At 10.58 p.m., the Assembly was, on its rising, adjourned to Tuesday 09 July 2013 at 11.30 a.m.
ZEP SCHOOLS – HOT MEALS (09/07/13)
(No. B/650) Ms S. Anquetil (Fourth Member for Vacoas & Floreal) asked the
Minister of Education and Human Resources whether, in regard to the schools in the Zone d’Education Prioritaire, he will state if consideration will be given for the reintroduction of the scheme for the provision of daily hot meals to the students thereof and, if so, when and, if not, why not.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, in my reply to PQ B/22 on 26 March 2013, I had
outlined the measures taken by my Ministry for the implementation of the ZEP Hot Meal Project following the Budget Speech 2013. The project started at the beginning of the first term, and the pupils of ZEP schools were provided with a daily hot meal.
However, following a case of food poisoning at Bambous ‘A’ Government School on 07 February 2013, where pupils fell sick after having consumed the hot meals provided during that day, the contract of the caterer was cancelled forthwith. Subsequently, upon visits of the Inspectors of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life in other ZEP schools and testing of food samples consumed, it was found that in some cases, the food served was not in compliance with the sanitary norms of the Food Act. As such, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life had detected a high level of E.Coli which was beyond sanitary norms. As a result, the provision of hot meals in all ZEP schools was suspended with effect from Saturday 16 February 2013.
I wish to inform the House that, in the immediate term, alternative arrangements had been made to provide a meal to pupils with bread/butter/cheese, a fruit and water as from Monday 18 February 2013, and this is still ongoing.
However, in May 2013, following discussions with the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, it has been decided to further supplement the meal with plain biscuits, dried fruits and more fresh fruits. Advanced notice had to be provided to potential suppliers for this arrangement. Steps have already been taken to ensure that as from the third term, the meal being provided is supplemented.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in the medium-term, it is proposed to invest schools with the proper facilities so that they may resume provision of hot meal in salubrious conditions. In this context, a survey has been carried out at the level of my Ministry to identify schools where a kitchen with the basic requirements can be put in place so that daily hot meal can be provided to the pupils.
One ZEP school in each of the four Zones has already been identified for the construction of a kitchen on a pilot basis.
With a view to resuming the provision of hot meals in ZEP schools, several avenues are being explored, inter alia, for provision of hot meals by well established food caterers holding the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certificates. It is also proposed that the caterers should have a Plan de Maîtrise Sanitaire which gives the norms and standards to be adopted right from procurement of ingredients to production of food items to transport and
delivery to schools and pupils as per the norms of the European Union. The caterers will need to have the required facilities and will be called upon to abide strictly to all sanitary norms for the production, transport and handling of food items.
In the long term, Mr Speaker, Sir, it is proposed to have eating areas annexed to the school kitchens to promote ‘Eating Together’ - a Project which is very close to my heart - and to strengthen the community of learning and sharing.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to add that all necessary precautions are being taken to prevent recurrence of the incident involving food poisoning. Several options have been studied at the level of my Ministry in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life prior to re-introducing the ZEP Hot Meal Project. In this context, a plan is being worked out to resumethe Hot Meal Project. However, as highlighted earlier, this will necessitate provision of appropriate infrastructure facilities and proper handling and distribution.
Mr Speaker, Sir, it should be stressed that the health and security of our pupils are indeed of utmost importance to us.
Ms Anquetil: Mr Speaker, Sir, can the hon. Minister state if any implementation plan visant à organiser de bout en bout le bon déroulement du projet has been prepared before introducing the free hot meals in the ZEP schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir. In fact, as I mentioned in my reply itself today, we had an implementation plan. But, I must admit that it is a plan which did not work.
Mr Obeegadoo: Will the hon. Minister, in the light of past experience, agree that the most cost-effective and safest way to approach this issue is by the provision of cooking and refrigeration facilities in each of the schools concerned, and, if so, will he undertake that the next Budget will provide for such an initiative in the ZEP schools?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is exactly what I mentioned in my reply!
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that before the introduction by his Ministry of the project of hot meals, there were schools which had volunteers who prepared hot meals for the students, namely at Reverend Espitalier Noel, where, for example, there was a group of women who prepared hot meals for the children? It is the case for one or two other schools too. May I ask the hon. Minister whether he has considered this option because it worked well and nobody got poisoned, etc. Has he considered this as one
among the different options?
Dr. Bunwaree: This option was in fact applied partially, I must say, in certain cases. As I mentioned in my reply there were Health Inspectors who went to certain places where such food was prepared and it was, in fact, found that the food was not up to standard. So, we have reviewed the whole situation and we are coming with a very structured way insofar as the hot meals are concerned. But, we are presently continuing with meals in those schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to remove this confusion, that some people think that because we have stopped the hot meals there is no food at all. Ce n’est pas du tout le cas! Il y a un repas que j’ai mentionné et qu’on va d’ailleurs améliorer dans l’autre trimestre. On a déjà donné des directives aux responsables pour aller de l’avant et diversifier le repas davantage.
Ms Anquetil: Can the hon. Minister reveal the figures and the names of the caterers for the 30 ZEP schools and can he state if the distribution of hot meals will be restricted to a maximum of 300 meals per day per caterer, as mentioned dans son communiqué de presse?
Dr. Bunwaree: The figure of 300 which was mentioned was for hot meals, not for the present type of meals being given. But, I will circulate the list of all these caterers; I have no problem with that.
Mr François: Pending the construction of a kitchen and being given that there is only one ZEP school in Rodrigues at Rivière Coco, the Ste Thérèse de L’Enfant Jésus with only 224 students, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he will consider a discussion with the Executive Council of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly to proceed with the hot meal scheme in the meantime?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, we can always consider this, as there is only one school with 250 pupils approximately.
Dr. Sorefan: May we know from the hon. Minister why all the norms that he is
mentioning now were not taken into consideration in February? After so many problems, I get the impression that this Government deals after management by crisis!
Mr Speaker: Leave your impression, put the question!
Dr. Bunwaree: Sir, I have already replied to many questions in this House and I did mention once that when we came forward with the implementation of the project, we did also take into consideration what was done in the past. In fact, I mentioned that there had been problems in the past as well - not to blame anybody …
Justement, on a essayé de ne pas faire ce qui avait été fait avant et qui avait causé des problèmes! Mais malgré cela on a des problèmes et je l’admets. On est en train de prendre toutes les précautions nécessaires …
We are doing according to what happens in other countries. I have myself visited some countries.
In fact, I was surprised to learn that even in Reunion Island - which is not far from us - depuis dix ans ils sont en train de …
Ils ont trouvé la formule depuis dix ans et ils sont en train de faire un travail qui n’est pas mal.
Donc, nous allons nous inspirer de tout ce qui est bien fait ailleurs.
Mr Jugnauth: Le ministre vient de nous dire que son implementation plan n’a pas
marché dans le cas de Bambous. Peut-il nous dire spécifiquement ce qui n’a pas marché et, à ce jour, qui est ou qui sont les responsables à ce manquement?
Dr. Bunwaree: On ne peut pas parler de responsable en tant que tel, M. le président.
D’après les surveys qui ont été faits après, il se trouve que l’école n’était pas prête pour la distribution de ces aliments dans les meilleures conditions - aliments qui été transportés d’ailleurs. This is why I said we need infrastructure. Dans aucune école cela n’existe aujourd’hui. J’ai dit dans ma réponse qu’on est en train de travailler, on a déjà sélectionné quatre écoles ZEP et on ne va pas tarder à démarrer dans ces écoles. Mais je voudrais que ce soit dans toutes les écoles ZEP, y compris peut-être dans d’autres écoles aussi.
Mrs Ribot: M. le président, j’aimerais demander au ministre s’il est au courant, valeur du jour, qu’en attendant l’arrivée du nouveau projet, les étudiants reçoivent du pain rassis ou moisi et qu’ils le jettent ? Y a-t-il eu une étude faite sur le nombre de pains jetés dans la cour des écoles ZEP par jour?
Dr. Bunwaree: Ce qui est en train d’être avancé par l’honorable membre je ne suis pas au courant. Mais, maintenant qu’elle est en train de me le dire, je lui demanderais de me donner le nom de l’école concernée car ce n’est pas acceptable parce que nous sommes en train de dépenser gros pour les enfants. On ne voudrait pas que ce soit comme ça et je demanderais à l’honorable membre de revoir ce que moi j’ai dit. Mais si ce projet n’est pas en train d’être réalisé comme je l’ai prévu, on va à ce moment là take the bull by the horn, on va prendre des sanctions contre les responsables.
Ms Anquetil: Mr Speaker, Sir, can the hon. Minister state if school caterers have been made aware of pupils with food allergies and if they provide food in accordance to pupils’ beliefs?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, this is, in fact, done everywhere in all schools and not only food allergies, but there are children who are vegetarians, for example. Tout cela a été pris en compte et la responsabilité est à l’école et au Parent-Teacher’s Association pour que cela se passe dans l’ordre.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I heard the hon. Minister saying that in his medium plan, he is constantly discussing with the Ministry of Health. Doesn’t the hon. Minister think it appropriate at this juncture to have an involvement of the community as well through the PTAs?
Dr. Bunwaree: They are already involved; they are not left behind. I said Ministry of Health because they have got expertise there. I meant the expertise that has to be tapped but no decision is taken at the back of the PTA’s; they are working together.
Mr Obeegadoo: Will the hon. Minister agree that until we have provision of hot meals, the priorities not to provide any food or meal but a balanced and nutritious meal and if so, will he agree that white bread, butter and processed cheese or biscuits that, of course, traditionally contain a lot of saturated fat and salt, do not foot the bill?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, he is speaking to a doctor who is aware of all this and I must say...
C’est bon, il faut le dire. I’ll say that we go according to the norms; all that is provided to the children are, in fact, in conjunction with what is mentioned in the papers, in the documents which are sent by the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education and, of course, with meetings carried out regularly. Not only meetings but the Health Inspectors are going as and when to visit the schools to see that what is done is according to the norms.
Mr Issack: Est-ce qu’on peut avoir une idée de ce que coûtent ces repas par jour au gouvernement?
Dr. Bunwaree : Oui, on peut vous donner une idée mais c’est R 75 par meal, mais on n’est pas arrivé à R 75 as for hot meal. Le repas qui est offert pour l’instant est dans les alentours de R 35 à R 40 par tête par enfant. En ce qui concerne le nombre d’élèves dans les ZEP schools, ça on peut faire le calcul et vous donner.
Mrs Labelle: Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission, the hon. Minister mentioned that inspections were made and seen that the standards were below but I don’t think it was when the parents were preparing. My question is Mr Speaker, Sir: does not the hon. Minister think it is also an opportunity to empower the community because it would be the mothers of some kids at the schools who will prepare, where it is possible, where there is this opportunity, is it not to be
considered not only the kids will be better cared for but also it is an opportunity to empower the community.
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, empower the community to provide the food you mean. Well, of course, but then the community will have to agree to all the conditions that the Minister of Education spelt out avec le concours du ministère de la Santé and then as I said the food caterers will have to hold the certificate of hazard analysis. We are not going to take any risk at all. Will the parents be able to do that? Le plan de maîtrise sanitaire d’après les normes de l’Union européenne. So, we are going into another direction. I wish the House to be aware of that.
Mr Bhagwan: May I ask the hon. Minister whether there are still some private firms which are offering fruits to ZEP schools, whether this project by certain firms is still on and whether this can be encouraged to other ZEP schools island-wide?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes, there are. I am going to circulate the list and the hon. Member will see in all ZEP schools that are providing the food.
Mrs Hanoomanjee: The hon. Minister has said that all the time he is discussing with the Ministry of Health, but I still find it strange as to why, up to now, white bread is being distributed.
Mr Speaker: The hon. Member must put a question!
Mrs Hanoomanjee: Can I ask the hon. Minister whether he has been advised by the Ministry of Health to serve brown bread instead of white bread?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have said, Mr Speaker, Sir, that there is a balance diet that is proposed by the Ministry of Health. So, this can be brown bread, it can also be white bread because the children are not diabetic already. So, it is a question of balance, of equilibrium. So, all this is taken care of by the Ministry of Health and they provide the diet balanced meal to the schools.
Mr Ganoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister started to answer the question by
reminding the House about what happened in Bambous school when hundreds of children approximately were food poisoned. Can I ask him because this question was raised some months back in this House by myself and I think my friend hon. Mrs Radegonde-Haines? Can I ask the hon. Minister whether he has provided the necessary services to these children because their parents, in fact, went to school, most of them were on bed in hospital for a few days afterwards; traumatised and some of them are still suffering from the sequel of this food poisoning? Can I ask the hon. Minister whether the needful has been done to compensate these children or their parents materially or in some other way?
Dr. Bunwaree: Compensation, the point did not arise as such but then the children have been followed up and are still being followed up until now and this has been done jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.
Mr Speaker: Last question hon. Ms Anquetil.
Ms Anquetil: Merci, M. le président. Dans un communiqué de presse du ministère de l’Éducation, il est indiqué que si le projet de repas chaud est maintenu, l’inspectorat sanitaire aura à adopter le système HACCP comme indiqué par le ministre tout à l’heure. Est-ce que le ministre pourrait indiquer à la Chambre s’il aurait vérifié auprès de son collègue, le ministre de la Santé quand est-ce que cette formation sera dispensée et si la commande a été faite ? Merci.
Dr. Bunwaree: C’est une affaire de technicité. Les techniciens sont en train de
considérer ce problème mais je dois dire qu’il y a des compagnies dans le pays qui le font déjà et qui ont déjà le certificat. Mais on voudrait que ceux qui vont coter pour le travail quand le moment va venir, pour les tenders, à ce moment là tout le monde doit avoir ce certificat.
EDUCATION FOR ALL – CHILDREN & YOUTH WITH DISABILITIES (09/07/13)
The Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions (Mrs S. Bappoo): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I wish to make a statement on the matter raised by the hon. Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands on the urgent need to address the situation of children and youths with disabilities within the perspective of education for all.
Firstly, the NGO Trust Fund was set up under the aegis of my Ministry in 1999 for the provision of grant-in-aid to NGOs including those dealing with the disabled children.
With regard to the payment of a Carer’s Allowance to children with disabilities, I must point out that there are two categories: one concerning children with mild to moderate disability and the other concerning children with severe and multiple disabilities.
Regarding the children with mild to moderate disability, the income ceiling is presently Rs150,000, and as for those with severe and multiple disabilities, the ceiling which was Rs200,000 in 2000 was raised to Rs250,000 in 2006.
We are conscious of the fact that both of these ceilings need to be revised in the light of the on-going developments and, in this connection, a committee has been set up in my Ministry to work on concrete proposals to be submitted to the Ministry of Finance in the context of the next budget exercise.
In addition, I would like to mention that since 2007, we are providing new and additional allowances for bed-ridden children, children who have severe problems and those who are incontinent. Most of them benefit from all the 3 allowances of Rs 408 each and this amounts to Rs1224 which is paid on top of their Social Aid.
Furthermore, this year we are paying an additional allowance of Rs750 for a child with disability whose parents’ income does not exceed Rs6,200 monthly and who registers a 75% attendance at school.
We have also extended free domiciliary medical visits to these children, that is, children with severe disabilities since 2010.
Lastly, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, regarding the refund of transport costs for disabled children - despite the fact that transport is free for such children since 2005, but in a spirit of solidarity, my Ministry refunds the cost of full bus-fare to accompanying parents of severely disabled children also. This Policy enables parents to meet the cost of travelling expenses by van for the children up to around 90% of their budget.
The above measures clearly show, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, that we effectively care for the well-being of disabled children and we are committed to enhancing their access to education as a matter of right.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Minister of Education and Human Resources.
The Minister of Education and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree):
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I also wish to make a statement on the issue raised by the hon. Third Member of Curepipe/Midlands, regarding the urgent need to address the situation of children and youth with disabilities within the perspective of education for all subsequent to my reply on 02 July 2013 as Members will recall.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I highlighted some of the measures taken, which revolve around the four major thrust areas that guides SEN policy – Special Education Need policy. These are -
(i) increased and improved access to schools;
(ii) partnership with NGOs;
(iii) capacity building and support services, and
(iv) the adoption of international best practices.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I spoke on measures taken by both my Ministry and the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity & Reform Institutions regarding the issue of increasing and improving access. I need to emphasise some additional measures in this issue.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the House will appreciate that I am providing the information to indicate that we, at the Education Ministry, are going the extra mile so as to capture all the learners, such that they are given the same opportunities for quality education.
I must highlight that there exists a database for SEN Children at my Ministry. This is being constantly updated in view of the emergence of new cases. In a concrete manner, my Ministry carried out a survey in all primary, secondary and SEN schools last year and the data are being cleared.
The House will appreciate that it is not an easy task to capture all children with disabilities as it is a constant struggle to encourage parents not to see a disability as a stigma. We have to put in a big effort to bring the disabled away from their cloistered existence that had been their fate for a long time. We must also work on societal mindset change: without this, we will only further condemn children with disabilities to remain within four walls.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Government has always worked in collaboration with NGOs operating in the SEN Sector, and my Ministry will continue to seek the support of these NGOs as privileged partners. Indeed, caring for those with disabilities is a national concern and I am the first to recognize the contribution of our partners.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, our goal is to move towards a situation that is almost normative in highly developed countries. There, children with serious disabilities are also mainstreamed instead of finding themselves in special schools. I concur that we are not there yet but the determination is there. The movement has already started and is on but this takes time; it requires resources - financial, human and otherwise. But then, this is where we recognize that, while it is the cardinal responsibility for the State to provide education for all, it is also true that this country has a history of partnership with private providers for Special Education.
Let me put the record straight. It is common knowledge that all SEN Schools run by NGOs registered with my Ministry are benefiting from a Grant-in-Aid. The review of the grantin- aid formula last year by the Office of the Public Sector Governance (OPSG) has resulted in an increase in the budget from Rs26.4 in financial year 2011 to Rs 30.4m for financial year 2013.
The NGOs also benefit from assistance from the NGO Trust Fund in the form of an annual grant-in-aid. The total grant-in-aid provided by the Trust Fund amounts to some Rs12 m. annually. It also funds micro-projects of these NGOs with a view to strengthening their capacity.
As regards APEIM, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that it caters for some 257 children with disabilities. These children are mostly accommodated in Government Integrated Units. APEIM is not the only NGO engaged in the education of children with special education needs. There are 37 others that are equally active and registered with my Ministry. While reviewing the grant-in-aid, the concerns of all these 38 NGOs are being looked into.
Recently, representations have been received regarding the insufficiency of the amount of assistance provided under the Grant-in-Aid scheme. On 03 May 2013, my Ministry approached the Office of Public Sector Governance (OPSG) to review the grant-in-aid formula to provide for differentiated funding for the different categories of impairment. The OPSG, in its reply, dated 22 May 2013, requested my Ministry to set up a Committee, to assess the categories of impairments of children attending SEN schools requiring additional expenditure in terms of grant-in-aid. The OPSG has also informed that it will provide assistance as member to that Committee.
My Ministry, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, has accordingly set up a Committee to review the Grant-In-Aid formula with a view to catering to the differentiated needs of children with disabilities.
All the NGOs have already been invited to submit their proposals and are being invited to depone before the Committee. As at date, 24 proposals have been received and 5 NGOs including APEIM have already deponed before the Committee. The financial situation of all the NGOs is not in the red zone. Many NGOs have expressed satisfaction both verbally and in writing regarding initiatives taken by my Ministry to address this issue.
Let me also inform the House that the same Committee will also look at the norms and standards and quality assurance in SEN schools.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I consider it equally important to also inform the House that my Ministry has approached the National Remuneration Board through the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment to regulate and prescribe the salaries and conditions of service of all staff working in NGOs running SEN schools.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will now come to the third policy thrust: Capacity Building and Support services for SEN Sector - It is understood that SEN is a sector that necessitates a building and strengthening of capacity for efficient and effective intervention actions. It is in this context that the MIE, the training arm of my Ministry, has run and is running various courses for different categories of officers from the level of Lecturers, Educational Psychologists, Educational Social Workers, Teachers, Educators and also courses for parents and carers.
I will spell out some of these ongoing courses -
(i) Post graduate Diploma in Special Education for lecturers of MIE, educational psychologists and educational social workers;
(ii) Certificate in Special Education for teachers working in the SEN Sector, including NGOs;
(iii) Teachers’ Diploma in SEN for primary school teachers;
(iv) Teachers’ Licence in SEN for teachers already working in SEN schools.
In order to ensure sustainability, the MIE will continue providing the appropriate courses, after constantly enriching them. Yet another innovation brought to the Diploma Course being dispensed by the MIE to all trainee teachers for the mainstream is a module on SEN, which empowers them to profile the children for an early identification of impairment.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we are adapting the curriculum of the mainstream to cater for children with hearing and visual impairment.
The Mauritius Institute of Education is reviewing the curriculum and they will take on board, as usual, our partners, the specialist NGOs, with a view to benefiting from their expertise.
For such other types of impairments, as autism, dyslexia, intellectual and physical impairment, the MIE has been requested to develop and adapt curricula, so that at the end of their education cycle, these learners are in presence of a certificate which will raise their selfesteem and eventually help them become independent in life.
On another note, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we have to respond to the different learning needs of children with disabilities. In fact, we have to ensure that the right kind of equipment is provided to them for their overall development. Assistive devices and, as far as possible, stateof-the-art technology have to be placed at their disposal.
True, this will require some investment; but because even children with disabilities have to learn in a modern way, we simply have to make this investment, and we are already moving in the right direction.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, here, let me inform the House that, as per the Government Programme, all children with visual impairment will soon be provided with a Braille PC.
Tenders have already been launched and if everything goes smoothly by the end of October 2013, this measure will be implemented.
I must also inform the House that the new grant-in-aid formula, which was revised last year, provision is made for the grant of 5% of the total grant-in-aid for specialised equipment and furniture.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, my Ministry has embarked on the setting up of five Resource and Development Centres at Ferney, Beau Bassin, Plaine des Papayes, Flacq and Rivière des Anguilles. These centres will provide proximate services to children with disabilities according to their needs.
The main objective of SEN Resource and Development Centres is to reach out to children who require Special Education Needs, especially children living in areas where there are no such facilities, and to operate as a one-stop-shop to provide specialised and relevant services and support to SEN children.
Let me inform the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, that, with effect from 10 June 2013, the SEN Resource and Development Centre at Ferney has had a soft take off with the active collaboration of APDA and Lizié dan la main.
Two other SEN Resource Development Centres at Beau Bassin and Plaines des Papayes will be operational as from the third term of this year, with the collaboration of NGOs registered with my Ministry.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with a view to profitably gain from the experience and good practices already taking place in some countries, my Ministry has sought the assistance of other countries.
In this context, a study visit by officers working in the SEN sector of my Ministry was effected in Norway in June 2011 to gain exposure to the state of play of SEN in that country, and for deeper insight into the operation of Resource and Development Centre for Special Needs.
Equally, a Consultancy Assignment was conducted by the European Union on the organisational set-up and functioning of the SEN Sector. With the assistance of the European Union, a Train the Trainers Workshop was organised for some 37 professionals with the objective of enhancing capacity building in the SEN sector, with focus on visual impairment, hearing impairment and dyslexia.
My Ministry is also working with the EU for further training in other areas, namely autism, physical and intellectual impairment.
The French authorities - Reunion essentially - have been approached to share their expertise in the field of SEN. An Avenant setting the modalities of the cooperation framework between Reunion and Mauritius was signed in December 2011. I must say that a team of three officials was in Reunion Island week before last week to benefit from the French expertise in the running of SEN Resource Development Centres.
In conclusion, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I must say that I am appreciative of the hon. Member having spoken on this issue. Certainly, it was also an opportunity for our fellow countrymen and women to know what are the several actions already undertaken and/or targeted.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, true it is that in 2010 I stated that, I quote -
“There is still much to be done”.
True also it is that lots have been done since 2010, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. And that will continue to be the case because this is a sector that poses new challenges on a daily basis.
Children with special needs demand an approach that is both humane and guided by goodwill. It cuts across all barriers, and I couldn’t agree more...
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo, don’t interrupt the Minister!
Dr. Bunwaree: And I am speaking of children requiring special education needs.
It cuts across all barriers, and I couldn’t agree more that it certainly is a non-partisan issue. It behooves us, therefore, to ensure that the interests of these children prime above any other consideration.
Inclusion and integration to facilitate adaptation, Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, should become the bywords that should – and do guide us, in fact – our commitment to those children who will become the full-fledged citizens of tomorrow.
Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, I believe nobody can possibly gainsay the fact that our country has made a big leap ahead in the endeavour to make of children with disabilities full-fledged citizens of the country. In our genuine conviction to provide education, and specially quality education for all, we are unflinching in our doing to ensure that no child with a disability of any kind is left behind.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
The Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare (Mrs M. Martin): Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission, I wish to make a statement on the matter raised in the National Assembly by the hon. Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands on Tuesday 02 July 2013 on the urgent need to address the situation of the “Children and youth with disabilities” within the perspective of “Education for All”.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Republic of Mauritius acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 26 July 1990. Government, as a body, is highly committed to protecting and upholding the rights of all children. And they also include children with disabilities.
Article 23 of the CRC provides, inter alia, for the disabled child to have the right to special care and services, education, assistance and training, to help him or her enjoy a full and decent life in dignity, and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration.
In line with the Articles of the CRC, Government adopts a child-centred approach with a view to enable stakeholders to bridge the gap in services and activities for the welfare of children. My Ministry works with actors fostering a common vision of the Mauritian child. The actions of THE CDU are based on the five themes of the CRC which are: Survival, Protection, Participation, Development and Welfare of Children. Our programmes and projects are geared towards ensuring that resources are directed towards the attainment of this common vision. All children of Mauritius, irrespective of whether they are disabled or not, are children of our Republic, and we endeavour to provide them with support, as appropriate.
Children with disabilities are a cross-cutting issue which is considered in policies, plans of actions, programmes and activities of my Ministry. Education, more so for children with disabilities, is viewed as multipronged and wide encompassing, not only academic. For example, the Early Childhood Development Policy Paper, prepared by my Ministry in collaboration with UNICEF as far back as in 1998, is geared towards enhancing the development of children of the age cohort of 3 months to 3 years.
This Policy Paper provides for the integration of children with special needs into regular institutions. This is also mentioned in the Institutions for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Regulations 2000, under the Child Protection Act, whereby Managers have to ensure that adequate facilities are available for children with disabilities.
It is easier in the early years of development of a child to detect forms of disability and initiate corrective measures, if any. My Ministry is currently consolidating a database on institutions providing child care services that will also include details on children with disabilities. This information will form the basis for the formulation of appropriate policies as regards these children.
It is to be pointed out that at the time of registration of Child Day Care Centres, my Ministry ensures that the norms and standards are respected and that the carers are equipped with the required skills to identify and cater for children with slight disabilities. The training is provided by para public and private institutions.
More specifically, as regards the aspect of protection, the National Children’s Policy and its Plan of Action, elaborated by my Ministry in 2003 and 2004 respectively, cater for all reported cases of children victims of violence as well as disabled children removed from their immediate environment and placed under court order in alternative care, be it foster families or shelters or Child Residential Institutions. The protection services offered to all children victims of violence, including disabled ones, comprise counselling, medical, psycho-social and legal assistance as well as family rehabilitation programmes. Presently, there are 516 children placed under Court Order in 19 Child Residential Institutions. Out of which, 11 institutions are accommodating 41 children, 17 boys and 24 girls with disabilities.
It is to be pointed out that Child Residential Institutions, by virtue of their concept and philosophy are meant to be temporary shelters, for a priori, the main objective of the Ministry is to reunify these children with their rehabilitated families.
I would like to reassure hon. Obeegadoo that my Ministry endeavours to provide a sense of normalcy to all children in distress, including children with disabilities. For example, we take into account the nature of disability of the child under our care when making arrangements for their schooling.
The degree of the disability is also considered when decision is taken, whether to integrate the child in mainstream education or institutions with specialised care.
There are 38 children who attend nine specialised schools. All efforts are made for the children to attend schools nearest to their residential institutions. Regarding those with heavy impairments, necessary arrangements are made with the institutions to provide for in-house rehabilitative activities.
My Ministry undertakes follow-up in those institutions with a view to ensuring that the needs of these children are met. To strengthen the monitoring mechanism at the level of both, Child Day Care Institutions and Child Residential Institutions, my Ministry is proposing to set up an Enforcement Unit staffed with Enforcement Officers who will carry out regular inspections to ensure that norms and standards are met, including those related to disabled children. The scheme of service of the Enforcement Officer has been worked out and the clearance of the Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms will be sought soon.
In addition to educational measures, the overall development of the disabled child is also looked into. My Ministry collaborates with various stakeholders to ensure access to recreational and leisure activities to these children.
My Ministry promotes the social integration of children with disabilities in the 22 children’s clubs across the island. At the Mahebourg Creativity Centre, children actively participate in creative, social and recreational activities, thereby enhancing their overall development.
The Child Protection (Amendment) Act 2005 provides for higher penalties, to the tune of Rs100,000 for sexual offences committed on victims with intellectual impairment and penal servitude not exceeding 30 years. The forthcoming Children’s Bill will also make provision for protection and development of disabled children, including higher penalties for perpetrators of violence against these children who are particularly vulnerable.
Furthermore, I would like to inform the hon. Member, that under the Special Collaborative Programme for Support to Women and Children in Distress put in place since 2009 at my Ministry, NGOs providing services to children with severe disabilities have received funding. This is done with a view to enhancing the livelihoods of children and integrating them into mainstream development. For the period 2010-2013, 20 such projects have been approved for a total sum of Rs16.8 m. Twenty NGOs supporting 900 children with all forms of disabilities have benefitted from this Programme. I thank you.