Met bann sign ansam
E souden enn gran laflam
Ekler mo lasam.

Put signs together
And suddenly like summer
Light shines with laughter.

Recently, a www.lexpress.mu reader wrote on literacy: “The figure I quoted is from UNESCO. In fact, adult literacy rate is 93.5% for male and 90% for female in Mauritius. Adult means 15 years onwards.”

The gentleman is right. But we must ask ourselves if the UNESCO figures are reliable. No, they are not. The UNESCO figures cannot be trusted. Regularly, UNESCO sends a form to be filled by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Education to update its data bank on literacy. The officer in charge regularly puts down figures related to ‘SCHOOLING’ (school attendance) and then the form is sent back to UNESCO which publishes it in their report on literacy. The figures are related to schooling, not literacy. This is how the state of Mauritius fools the world and eventually fools itself and the whole population.

This is done on purpose to hide a nasty truth: a great majority of boys and girls after 7-10 years at school remain for all intents and purposes, either semiliterate or plainly illiterate.

We cannot blame UNESCO which is misled by government and unscrupulous civil servants.


In very simple terms, it means the ability to read, write and count – a combination of literacy and numeracy in at least one language.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens created the spoken word over 200,000 years ago and consequently as a result of evolution we are genetically programmed to speak. Children start to develop language skills in the womb and by the time they are around 10 years old, they have an adequate mastery of the mother tongue to cope with their immediate environment. However, writing is a very recent phenomenon, not older than 5,000 years. Neuro-linguists are aware of difficulties to be faced by learners of literacy and they all agree that it should start in the child’s mother tongue.

This view is also upheld by Ms. Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO (2009-2017): “Mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.”

According to UNESCO, basically literate people should be able to write a text of about 150 words to say who they are in any language of their choice provided the text is grammatically correct, respects spelling and punctuation. This test has never been done in Mauritius and according to my research less than 20% of Mauritians over 10 years old would pass this test. IT’S NOT AN EXAGGERATION!

Please also note that to live in a modern society, basic literacy is insufficient. Citizens need functional literacy which are skills needed to read and understand opinion pieces and leaders/editorials in l’Express for that matter. I doubt that more than 10% of our adult population can do this (about 100,000 adults).


UNESCO also believes that literacy should start in the mother tongue of the child, not in 3 foreign languages at one and the same time, as it is done in Mauritius. Remember that English, our official language, French, our semi-official language and Hindi, Urdu (identity languages) etc. are foreign languages for most children. Mauritian (Mauritian Creole) on the other hand is the mother tongue (L1) of 90% of the whole population and the second language (L2) of the remaining 10%.

If the UNESCO figures quoted at the beginning of this piece were a reliable expression of reality, there would have been no need for political symbols on the ballot paper (key, cock, sun, heart etc.). Don’t they rather tell us that we are a nation of semilinguals, semiliterates and illiterates?

I am sure that some hysterical half-baked readers will choose anonymity to insult and slander on www.lexpress.mu. This is quite understandable because Mauritians hate to face the truth. They want to hear that they are admirable, beautiful, bright and wonderful. Is not Mauritius “All things bright and beautiful”?


Depriving children of the right to learn to read and write in their mother tongue is tantamount to a crime against humanity. Is it not a political ploy to keep people in the dark?

But if people choose to remain in the dark, what can we do?



Li ron, li ranpli
Ar manzé, ar fortifian.
Fatra pa konpran.

It’s plump and it’s full
Of goodies for life and land.
Fools don’t understand.

The economic pundits of the past thought that in line with the spirit of free trade, we should export sugar, tea and T-shirts and with our earnings import all we need, including our precious chow (chaw-chaw). Present day neoliberals adhere to this belief and practice. Food security and renewables are elements of left-wing idealism and fantasy. Land is just a commodity to be used to build sumptuous villas for foreign billionaires.

Those whose eyes are not blinded by rupee specs know that global burning and climate crisis mean that food production will be much affected and food security (FS) is an issue of utmost importance. FS is a two-dimentional problem. It concerns availability and nutrition. In Mauritius we depend on two staples: rice and wheat flower. Both are imported. The FAO has warned that global burning and climate crisis will greatly affect rice production. Mauritius will be hard hit. Wheat production will also be dramatically affected. Scientists believe most parts of the world where the crop is grown will be simultaneously hit by water shortages by the end of the century. Looking for locally grown staples is a top priority. Forget Mauritian wheat or rice! There are very good home-grown alternatives: breadfruit, cassava, potato, sweet potato, maize, arrowroot and taro. These not only give us the calories we need but also have medicinal values.


The maritime Republic will have to depend on sea food more than on livestock produce. In that context we will have to replant mangrove forests which have been cleared to make beautiful beaches for the tourist industry which will bear the brunt of the rise in sea level. Mangrove forests are home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. And they also serve as nurseries for many fish species, including coral reef fish.
Good nutrition is an equally important element of FS. Healthy eating together with regular exercise will help us solve problems of diabetes, blood pressure, overweight and obesity.


Land is not just a commodity to be disposed of to make money. It is to be considered as a sacred gift to ensure survival. Beside food and shelter, land which is properly used can free us from the chains of fossil fuels. Today we grow cane to make sugar and a by-product, bagasse, is burnt to make electricity. This must be changed through the cultivation of a highly fibrous cane whose main aim is the production of bio-energy and then sugar will become a by-product for local consumption and export if possible.
The use of fossil fuels must be banned and transport must be powered by electricity and muscle power. “Wi, bizen aprann ek kontan pedalé!” Electric public transport for long distances and bicycle ride for short distances will have to become, nilly-willy, our essential transportation and mobility culture. Our roads must be redesigned for these changes and new culture.


The neoliberal tycoons and their political doormats and propagandists will mock and reject the views expressed here. Quite understandable. This new way of life means the end of their power on society and people. BUT it also means the birth of a new civilisation based on solidarity and sharing and not on selfishness and greed. For us, common people, it’s a question of “do or die”. It’s no longer a question of whether we like it or not.