When you receive a bad news letter (a dear John letter, for example), do you shoot the post-officer who has delivered it? NO! ARE YOU SURE?
This is exactly what most of us are doing at present. Disappointed by the election results, many Mauritians are feverishly looking for scapegoats – our favourite defense mechanism. “PA MWA SA, LI SA!”
Because some 6,000 voters could not, on election day, find their names on the election register, a massive attack was launched against THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION by the public, including journalists. The commissioner and his devoted and efficient staff are held responsible when responsible citizens are duty-bound to ensure that their names feature on the register.
Why have we reached that situation? Everything which had to be done was done by the Electoral Commission. But then what happened? A very strange thing! The Commission used the written word. How dared they? Use the written word in the Polyglot Republic of Perfectly Literate Citizens? How dared they?
The electoral commissioner is a man of efficiency and integrity and the institution he runs commands national and international respect. Why are some irresponsible people attacking him; shooting the post-officer for delivering a letter whose content does not please them?
Would you believe that this furore, this pandemonium was due to the fact that hundreds of thousand men and women in Mauritius do not master basic literacy let alone functional literacy? Is the Electoral Commission to blame for this? No, we must blame governments and ourselves for refusing to address the issue.
Make believe is our national game. No one wants to admit that illiteracy is widespread in our country and it will continue to plague us. Why is that so when the education budget is substantial? Simply because we refuse to admit that literacy should start in the mother tongue of the child and in Mauritius, Mauritian (Mauritian Creole) is the L1 (mother tongue) of 90% of the population. As a result of this over 6,000 people who could not read or could not be bothered to read, were not aware that it was their duty to see to it that their names were in the election register. Several journalists joined the attack on the Electoral Commission. They too believe that Mauritius is a literate country. In fact, they should be the first to know for they write for the general public.
Aren’t we all to blame for this? Newspaper people should be the first to survey the general literacy rate in the country for the written word is their main communication tool. They should ask themselves how many can read and understand what they write.
Literacy acquisition should be concern of one and all. Without functional literacy there can be no global development. Let us hope that the new government will seize the bull by the horn and not keep on postponing the issue. If they take this progressive path, let us also hope that the main papers of the country will support and assist.
Let us face the truth and not cop out.