Absolute poverty in Mauritius can be eradicated in one generation. The problem is that families are locked in a poverty trap: disadvantaged children are poorly educated, their parents fail to encourage them and are inadequate role models, consequently the children grow up to be socially dysfunctional adults. In the past, interventions have concentrated on trying to make parents more responsible and placing their children in special schools such as Zone Education Prioritaire (ZEP). Re-educating parents is extremely difficult and any progress made with the children is undermined by their home environments.
We propose special schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds where they will stay during the week as boarders. By ensuring that they remain within the school premises for at least five days per week, the cycle of parents passing on socially dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours will be interrupted, without breaking family bonds.
Boarding schools are normally reserved for the elite whose parents’ lifestyles are incompatible with bringing up children or who want the very best education for them that money can buy. Responsibility for the day-to-day education of their children is passed on to professionals. Similar schools can be created for children from disadvantaged backgrounds whose parents tend to abdicate responsibility for their proper upbringing.
Specially trained teachers would live in the boarding schools with the children, fulfilling the supportive roles that their parents have neglected. Students would be encouraged to complete their homework, participate in sports and extra-curricular activities and contribute to the well-being of the school community. Those children who are identified as having special needs could receive therapeutic interventions on site without the need to be removed from the school.
At the end of their period of education, these children would emerge as mature adults who can take responsibility for their own lives. They would be employable and, with good jobs, would not only contribute to the prosperity of the society, they would also have the financial means to lift their own parents out of poverty. The setting up of such schools may require a significant initial investment, but if it eradicates absolute poverty completely, the total cost to society will be much lower than continuing the current interventions and dealing with their failures.