GIS – 14 October 2014: An educational system’s first mission is to grow and nurture a collaborative, cultivated, intellectually-agile and responsible citizenry, the Prime Minister, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, GCSK, FRCP, said yesterday. He was speaking on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the School of Agriculture at a ceremony held at the Octave Wiéhé Auditorium in Réduit.
In his address he recalled how Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam used to quote Malcolm Forbes who said: “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” The Prime Minister pointed out that countries which have invested in higher education have made progress and experienced rapid growth adding that there is a direct link between GDP growth and tertiary enrolment.
“ We are committed to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to have access to higher education, to create an education hub in Mauritius, and to make our economy knowledge-drive”, he said.
The Prime Minister made an appeal to the students present to emulate eminent personalities and play a more effective role in the development of Mauritius so as to help us take up the new and daunting challenges relating to climate change, better land management, sustainable agriculture and food security.
In his message to the youth Dr Ramgoolam stressed that youngsters should seize every opportunity to serve Mauritius, allow their mind to venture outside the boundaries of conventional thinking; and become a strategic part of the country’s progress and success.
The Prime Minister gave an historical overview by highlighting the idea of setting up of a university in Mauritius which was first mooted by Adrien d’Epinay in the 1830’s. Remy Ollier was bitterly opposed and saw it as a ploy to close the Royal College to non-whites Mauritians. This debate went on and on for decades and decades.
He further added that in 1949 the Mauritius Legislature rejected the idea of a university as being unrealistic, utopian and unworkable. Ten years later, in 1959, the Labour Party evoked the idea of a university in Mauritius. And again there was a lot of opposition. In fact I remember one anecdote about what was going on then, said the Prime Minister.
Dr Ramgoolam recalled that according to a seminal publication issued on the occasion of the centennial of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture (1853 – 1953) the origin of the School of Agriculture can be attributed to an initiative taken in 1846 by a group of planters from Rivière du Rempart, Flacq and Grand Port who submitted a memo to the ‘Comité d’Agriculture’ suggesting the creation of an experimental farm.
He further said that in January 1880, the ‘Secrétaire de la Société d’Emulation Intéllectuelle’ made a request for the setting up of an ‘Institut Colonial’. On 10 June 1885, Sir William Newton who presided over a committee to look into the crisis of the sugar industry, suggested the creation of a ‘Station Agronomique’ to teach the principles of agronomy with a view to improving cultural practices in sugar cane plantations.
The Prime Minister rejoiced that the reputation of the College of Agriculture was well beyond the geographical confines of our tiny island with students coming from far off places like India, Pakistan, Rhodesia and later Sri Lanka and nearby Réunion Island. In the 70’s, students from Brazil came to study sugar technology in Mauritius.
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