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SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE CEREMONY CONFERRING DEGREE DOCTOR HONORIS CAUSA ON HER BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS AT PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS 

Port Louis, Mauritius, 28th April 2011  

Speech 


Your Excellency Sir Anerood Jugnauth, President of the Republic of Mauritius, 

Your Excellency Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, 

Your Excellency Dr. Rajeshwar Jeetah, Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, 

Sir Ramesh Jeewoolall, Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, 

Prof. Soodursun Jugessur, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University of Mauritius, 

Prof. Konrad Morgan, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, 

Distinguished Professors and Scholars, 

Dear Students, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I deem it a privilege to visit the University of Mauritius, an institution which has been providing quality education not only to Mauritians but also to students from countries of the region and beyond. It is acknowledged as a centre of academic excellence in Africa and Asia and other countries over the world. 

I am honoured by the decision to confer on me the distinction of a Doctorate Honoris Causa. For me, this becomes an even more momentous occasion as I get the degree in the presence of His Excellency the President of Mauritius and His Excellency the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Mauritius is fortunate to have an able and experienced statesman as its President and a capable, dynamic and forwarding looking leader as its Prime Minister. As a member of the fraternity of the University of Mauritius, the honour which I have now, I convey my warmest greetings to the scholars, professors and students, past and present, of this renowned institution. 

My programme in Mauritius commenced with paying homage to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the Father of the Mauritian Nation, and would conclude with the paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation. This encapsulation of my visit between two very significant activities does in a way remind that our relations drew and continue to draw inspiration from ideals and the lives of those tall personalities who fought for our freedom. Mahatma Gandhi visited Mauritius in 1901 and his most important message to Mauritians was to educate their children so that they were in a position to rise against the indignity of oppression and servitude. Gandhiji used to say education could bring about results which no force can. The Father of your Nation, Sir Seewoosagur, always emphasized that salvation lies in educating and training our men and women. 

Therefore, it is pertinent to note that the pursuit of knowledge and education finds a common strand in our endeavour to provide for the common good of our peoples. A University is home to scholars, academicians, and scientists, who through their intellectual and technical pursuits and imparting of knowledge, contribute to the progress of societies and nations. A University is also home for students, whose ideas and work will be the determinants of the future. Knowledge and education is an every increasing treasure in one's life. So far as wealth is concerned, if you give away a part or all of your wealth, you will lose that much of it. But, then if you impart knowledge it will multiply. Knowledge also teaches humility. A Sanskrit maxim states , which means humility adorns knowledge. So, a University is a place for the development of your future character and careers. It is here that the minds of the youth are moulded, new ideas are born and the contours of an emerging society, shaped. As a society transforms, the education system must respond to change. It is only then, that it will be relevant. Our institutions of higher learning must gear up for facing challenges of a knowledge-based and technology-driven world. It will be nations with high quality human resources, which will be counted amongst the front ranking nations of the world in the knowledge era. Education has a fundamental role to play in creating responsible, innovative and analytical citizens. I believe that as the youth acquire skills, they should also be made sensitive to the qualities of the head as well as of the heart. As Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore said, "The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence." Our Universities, therefore, should be symbols of learning, humanism, tolerance and balanced reasoning. 

In India, since ancient times there has been a great emphasis on learning. This tradition got translated into a vision, where establishing an educational infrastructure become a priority in our nation building process in the post-independent phase. It was due to the strength in our education system, with emphasis on Science and Technology, which India has been able to assume a leadership role in Information Technology and other knowledge based sectors. We continue to lay great emphasis on education. Primary education is now a fundamental right, we are working towards the universalization of secondary education and augmenting our tertiary education institutions. 

I was pleased to learn that the Government of Mauritius in its programme for 2010-2015 seeks to transform Mauritius into a Centre of Excellence in Higher Education in the region. I would like to convey my best wishes towards the success of your Plan and in your endeavour to make Mauritius a regional hub of quality tertiary education that is affordable. 

India has always been willing to share its experience with all other developing countries, particularly traditionally close friends like Mauritius. Developing countries have their unique problems and challenges. These have to be understood from their perspective. Hence, interaction between the academic institutions of the developing world is an important aspect of their partnership. Universities should study the socio-economic implications of an interconnected and a globalized world, the origin and impact of financial crises, and how our countries can work together for mutual benefits, as also areas of science and technology. 

Education is an important dimension of our bilateral relations and I would like to encourage greater cooperation in this field. I am told that over 100 scholarships are given annually to Mauritian students to pursue studies in various streams in India. Additionally, many more students enroll themselves into Indian Universities on a self-financing basis. Some Indian educational institutions, particularly from the private sector, are setting up branches in your island. With management and business institutions also coming in, the circle of quality institutes of engineering, medicine and management, all working hand in hand with their Mauritian counterparts would auger well for the development of the educational linkages between our two countries. Youth are the pillars of future development and I believe that the youth of our two countries must interact with each other not only because of many commonalities that we have but, also because the bridges of friendship built by our forefathers and leaders, must continue into the future with vigour, especially when India is fast emerging as a land of opportunity. And, one more important thing which I always say is that along with education we must inculcate moral, social and human values in our youth because education without values is like a flower without fragrance. 

I am pleased that there is a focus on gender empowerment in Mauritius, particularly in the educational sector. As the first woman President of India, this makes me feel happy and I am confident that this augurs well for your country. Gender equality and development provides an ideal platform for any country to grow and find its place with equality and dignity in the comity of nations. As everyone knows a chariot moves on its two wheels. So also, men and women are the two wheels of the chariot of the nation. If one wheel is weak, movement will be slow. Therefore, women, who are the other wheel, must be made equally strong for the nation to progress in a smooth, rapid and balanced manner. 

I once again thank all of you for welcoming me into your University. I am, indeed, proud to have received a Doctorate Honoris Causa from such a reputed University and as I will be returning home to India later in the day, I carry back with me very special memories of extraordinary warmth with which I was received by the people and the leadership of Mauritius. I have been deeply touched. My discussions and interactions in the last three days reinforce my firm view that our bilateral ties are unique and our relationship is special. I thank the University for bestowing this honour on me today and I wish the University and all those who are present here good wishes for their future success and prosperity. 

Thank you.

 
 
 


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