These 3 skills are vital for the good running of a modern society and the full enjoyment of the benefits of modern living by its citizens. Unfortunately, in the Republic of Mauritius, these skills are not understood and are confused with basic schooling or the basic utilizations of a mobile phone.
The motor speech area of the human brain is called Broca’s area. It is believed that human speech emerged some 100,000 years ago after a very long process of evolution and neurolinguists, who study the neural mechanisms in the human brain that controls the comprehension, production, and acquisition of language, think the learning process starts in the womb. This is why the child’s first language is called mother tongue. It must be noted that what we call speech organs, are in fact breathing and eating organs adapted to produce a variety of phonemes (vowels, consonants and tones) combined to produce socially and culturally meaningful strings of sounds.
The human genome is equipped to produce speech or oral skills.
If speech in humans is ‘natural’, the acquisition of literacy skills (reading and writing) is a different cup of tea. There is no brain area responsible for mastering literacy. A learner has to build a mental bridge between their Broca’s area and visual cortex and that is not an easy task specially when basic literacy is taught through a foreign language. This is why specialists believe that initial basic literacy should start in the learner’s mother tongue (L1) and should not be confused with functional or advanced L2 literacy (literacy in second or foreign languages). When the bridge between Broca’s area and the visual cortex has been built through L1 literacy, then the doors are open for L2 or L3 literacy.
What is happening in our Republic? In 1994 about 30,000 children took the then CPE and about 15,000 (50%) moved to secondary schooling and 7 years later only 5,000 obtained the HSC certificate. We can safely assume that 50% of our children remain non-literate after 6-7 years at primary school; that 8 out of 10 fail to reach functional literacy after 13-14 years at school. Are our kids stupid or are our schools to blame? Do we have the political will to change? Do our kids fail or have our schools failed?
What is numeracy?
Numeracy means understanding how maths is used in the real world and being able to apply it to make the best possible decisions. It’s as much about thinking and reasoning as about ‘doing sums’. It means being able to:
• Interpret data, charts and diagrams
• Process information
• Solve problems
• Check answers
• Understand and explain solutions
• Make decisions based on logical thinking and reasoning (https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/what-numeracy)
Numeracy is not to be conceived as the ability to use a mobile phone to chat, to buy some veg at the market or to play dominoes.
My Babam, grandmother on my father’s side, was functionally orate in 3 languages (Telugu, Bhojpuri and Creole, which she called Kirryol) but non-literate and non-numerate. Yet it was impossible to trick a single cent from her ‘sannchi’ – her waist-moneybag. My uncle Samy, non-literate and non-numerate, was a domino champ.
We may have a smattering of 2 or 3 languages but generalised non-literacy and non-numeracy or low standards thereon will certainly hinder economic, political, social and cultural progress.
When will party symbols disappear from our ballot papers?

Date: 19.02.22

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