MAURITIUS: State might cancel 'useless' courses

The Ministry of Tertiary Education announced last week that it might cancel some humanities and social sciences courses at the University of Mauritius. The news sparked an uproar among students and intellectuals on the Indian Ocean island.

Anthropology, history, international affairs and political science courses might no longer be taught at the national university in the near future.

These courses, said the authorities, do not offer students job opportunities at the end of their studies.

In an awkward attempt to handle dissatisfaction at the news, the ministry declared that it would soon initiate a survey to identify courses that would no longer be available at the university.

"It's hard to understand such a decision because the success rate in these subjects has been around 100% during the last years," said one University of Mauritius staff member who did not want to be named, referring to a course in international affairs. Introduced in 2006, the course was meant to train diplomats and international law experts.

But according to the ministry, students who completed this and some other humanities courses had been unable to find a job in their field of study. "Most of them finally took a job in a call centre", said a ministry official.

"I'm totally horrified. I have never heard such things before. It's absolutely ridiculous," Vijaya Teelock, an historian and vice-president of the Truth and Justice Commission, told local media.

"The Truth and Justice Commission recently submitted a document in which we talk about the compensation to be given to slaves' descendants and in which we pinpoint the importance of the teaching of island history."

If the news of cutting courses was true, said Teelock, then "these people don't understand anything about this country".

Minister of Tertiary Education Rajesh Jeetah announced earlier this year his intention to introduce new courses such as philosophy, architecture, sociology and art.

"Those subjects would be more useful to students, who would be able to find a job more easily," declared a ministry official.