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Cases of student absences from school are recurrent. The authorities and the heads of the various secondary schools have put measures in place to find a solution to this situation. Report.

The Education Act of 1957 (section 37) is clear: schooling is compulsory until the age of 16 in Mauritius. Thus, parents who do not send their children to school risk a fine of Rs 10,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years.

However, many parents say they do not know whether their child is going to school. Rakesh, whose son attends a middle school in the capital, says he trusts his son. “My son is in Grade 9 and is a diligent student. However, I never get any message from the middle school when he is absent. At the beginning of the year, the headmaster encourages us to give our phone number to notify us of absences and lateness. Unfortunately, he was absent for two days last month due to flu and no message…”

To ensure that all children attend class regularly, the Ministry of Education has set up a system to notify parents of any delays or absences.

The e-register to notify parents

At the level of public colleges, Harrish Reedoy, the president of the United Deputy Rectors and Rectors Union, emphasizes the e-register. This is a measure that began in February 2011 and which combats absenteeism and truancy. It consists of sending a message to parents when their child has not shown up for class. Thus, every morning, an attendant is responsible for retrieving the attendance register for each class. He checks the names of the absent students in the school computer software and the parents receive a message on their mobile phones.

“The e-register is a centralized system of the Ministry of Education. Daily attendance is taken manually by a teacher and around 10 a.m., an attendant takes all the information to place it in an application. Parents are then notified via a message on their mobile phone.”

Parents don't have to worry if they know their child is home. However, Harrish Reedoy laments that school officials don't always get the cooperation of parents. “Some parents don't cooperate with officials. They don't respond to messages. When you get to the root of the problem, you find out that they've changed their phone number without telling the school administration.” He explains that parents used to send an apology note when their child returned to school. Nowadays, many don't do that.

Harrish Reedoy insists that all students are important. Thus, in the event of a prolonged absence, or a minimum of three days, the names are communicated to the social worker attached to the establishment. The latter then contacts the parent. Unfortunately, says the rector, they are often confronted with a change of address of the parents, which has not been notified to the management of the college.

If the situation is not manageable, the case is reported to the Family Protection Brigade or the Child Development Unit.

Absence management at private secondary schools is done differently. The president of the Federation of Unions of Managers of Private Secondary Schools, Ramdass Ellayah, says that each institution adopts a method that seems ideal to it. “There was a pilot project, set up by the Ministry of Education: student tracking. It had positive results, but was not followed up. We try as much as possible to find solutions at our level…”

This is why some college managers call parents to warn them of their children's absences and follow up.

An application has been set up by Labourdonnais College. Its director Houmayoun Soobadar explains that the parent is notified in the event of a delay, absence or homework that is not done by the students. “Labourdonnais College has set up a computer system that allows parents to be notified as soon as there is a problem with their child. Unfortunately, there are parents who do not cooperate. We then carry out home visits.”

Welcoming school environment

At the college level under the direction of the Diocesan Service of Catholic Education SeDEC, educator Lindsay Thomas, rector of Collège Saint-Esprit in Rivière-Noire, advocates student safety and upstream work. “We strive to make the school environment a welcoming place that interests the student. To do this, our teachers are trained to try to understand the students we welcome.”

The teacher emphasizes activities that are regularly organized to meet the needs of students. “The SeDEC and the Cardinal Jean Margéot Institute organize activities for teachers during the holidays. This helps us enormously, since not only are we aware of the latest practices that need to be implemented, but we also learn from the experience of other colleagues. We support each other and the exchanges are fruitful in the interest of the students.”

In the case of lateness and absences, Lindsay Thomas points out that there are some that are too frequent on the part of certain students. “In these cases that we identify with the help of teachers, we talk to the student concerned. We call the parents to find solutions, but there is a part of absenteeism that we cannot fight against. Sometimes the parents are permissive or the students are interested in something else…” “With children it is an eternal restart. We can have results only for a few weeks, but we have to come back to the same problem from time to time. I remain confident that all is not lost.” he maintains.

90% to benefit from the government subsidy

The Ministry of Education has imposed a 90% attendance rate since 2015 to benefit from free School Certificate and Higher School Certificate examinations in order to reduce the absenteeism rate. However, absenteeism in these classes has been a problem for several years. And it tends to intensify in the third term. Some students who want to excel or obtain a state scholarship prefer to be absent from school for revision or private lessons. In these particular cases, the examination fees are covered by the parents.

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