From 2004 to 2012, Harmon’s public advocacy of biliteracy in English/ Mauritian Kreol led to the introduction of Kreol Morisien in all primary schools as from 2012. Harmon is currently Deputy Director, Head of Secondary at the Diocesan Service of Catholic Education in Mauritius.
The Scramble for Language
In 2004, I was assigned the responsibility to pilot a mother-tongue literacy and numeracy programme using Kreol Morisien (Mauritian Kreol) for adolescents with learning difficulties in catholic secondary schools. The 3 Rs (Reading, writing and Arithmetics) are conducted in Kreol while the students follow the national programme whose official medium of instruction is English. The vindication of a Creole identity movement pushed the State of Mauritius to introduce Kreol Morisien in 2012 in all primary schools as an optional subject on a par with Asian/ Arabic languages which are strong ethnic markers. In a keynote address titled ‘Language, class and power in post-apartheid South Africa’ (2005), the late South African anti-apartheid activist and scholar, Neville Alexander (1936-2012), wrote ‘there are two fundamental sources from which language derives its power, i.e., the ability of the individuals or groups to realise their intentions (will) by means of language (empowerment) or, conversely, the ability of individuals or groups to impose their agendas on others (disempowerment of the latter)’. The struggle for Kreol Morisien has been underpinned by claims of linguistic and cultural empowerment. Whilst Kreol Morisien is the main vernacular of all Mauritians it has historically been associated with slavery and blackness. This situation has partly been a major handicap for its late recognition while French is considered as the language of social prestige and English of social mobility. Language is therefore a struggle for power. In a post-colonial context, I would say language is a scramble for power. Just as the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was the occupation, division and colonisation of the African territory by the European powers, the language situation in post-colonial societies such as Mauritius is a scramble by the middle class elite for language.