There are three sentences on the Internet that say something negative about this country. One could spend half an hour trying to find these sentences that are in the third paragraph near the bottom of the webpage that is halfway on the second page of Google Search. The sentences casually mention the usual go-to words for discussing development in impoverished foreign nations – you know, the words that you place in an essay to sound smart and meet the word count – words like “urbanization”, “achievement gap”, “educational gap”, and “cultural divide”. Words that, adjacent to the pictures of paradise beaches, gorgeous mountains, fantastical resorts, and beautiful Mauritian women are meaningless and do little to discuss actual progress in Mauritius.
As we drove to the Fellows’ apartment from the airport, I asked Vedant to fill in the gaps left by the Internet. A stray dog with its ribs showing through its mangy fur scurried alongside a police car that searched hungrily for a speeding car that could be pinned with overpriced ticket. Vedant said that the corrupt police force, stray dogs, and general disorganization, fail to highlight Mauritius’ main problem, which is the failing educational system. Although I have only been in Mauritius for a week, it is apparent that Eli Africa proposes a solution to this problem.
The office smells dusty; but it is not that decrepit dust smell. It smells of a room yet to be filled with big ideas. It smells of week-old paint, plastic wrapped chairs, dusty brooms, and espresso. Since the electricians are still wiring the office for Internet, we have been working in the conference room a floor above for the past week. Although we are eager to move into our office space for the next seven weeks, working in a conference room with four other Eli Fellows, an Eli Scholar, and an awesome Eli Africa management team really gives the organization a start-up grassroots feel. It has been motivating to see how young people (everyone is 23 or younger) have set out to make a difference in Mauritius, united in their belief that education should not be withheld from any child, regardless of that child’s natural ability. I look forward to moving into the office, but I am even more excited to work within – what Vedant terms – this Eli Culture of progress and change. Hopefully we can begin to shed some light and improve this aspect of Mauritius that is hidden behind the beautiful island mountains.