HC Deb 25 March 1904 vol 132 cc747-8

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies what provision is made for the primary education of the children of labourers imported from India (under indenture or otherwise), into Natal, British Guiana, Mauritius, Fiji, and Trinidad, as well as the Straits Settlements and Ceylon; and whether there are any restrictions in the colonies referred to respecting the age at which these children may be employed, and their hours of labour.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Lyttelton.) (1.) In British Guiana and Trinidad the elementary schools are open to the children of labourers imported from India equally with those of the rest of the population. Education in these schools is free in the lower standards in the case of British Guiana and throughout in the case of Trinidad. In Trinidad there are about fifty elementary schools receiving Government assistance, the main object of which is the instruction of Indian children, and there is a certified Indian training school under Government inspection for orphan, deserted, and other Indian children. No child under fifteen in British Guiana or under sixteen in Trinidad can be indentured or bound to perform any service on a plantation with the exception of children introduced into the colony with parents or friends who may be deemed between the ages of ten and fifteen in the case of British Guiana and sixteen in the case of Trinidad to be indentured to the employer to whom the parent or friend, under whose charge they were introduced is indentured. In British Guiana such children can be indentured only if the employer has made all available provision for their instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic. In neither colony does there appear to be any provision other than those applicable to all indentured labour limiting the hours of employment of children. (2.) In Natal there are schools for the children of Indian immigrants which are administered under the ordinary Education Acts of the colony. Under the Natal Indian Immigration Law of 1891 the assignment of younger persons to applicants for the services of Indian immigrants is only allowed for such lighter varieties of labour as they are fitted for. The minimum age for contract labour is ten years. (3.) In Mauritius the children of Indian immigrants are educated in the ordinary schools of the colony. Under the Labour Ordinance of 1878 no written contract of service shall be allowed with any minor under the age of ten, nor with any minor between the ages of ten and fifteen for more than one year, or without the consent of parent or guardian. A minor of fifteen or upwards is free to engage if a parent or guardian makes no objection. (4.) In Fiji, as in the other colonies, ordinary schools are open to the children of Indian immigrants. Such children, if they have come over with their parents and are over five years old at the date of arrival, are indentured to serve at the age of ten on the plantations to which their parents are indentured. (5.) The minimum age at which contracts may be entered into under the Indian Immigration Ordinance, 1899, in the Straits Settlements is sixteen. In this colony also the ordinany schools are available for the children of immigrant. (6.) The hon. Member is aware that in Ceylon the whole subject of the education of the children of labourers imported from India has been for some time past under the consideration of a Committee. The Report of this Committee is understood to be in the printer's hands in Ceylon, and will shortly be sent home.