Strong advances for Seychelles' economy, health sector: reflections on 40 years of independence
The Seychelles capital is colourfully decorated for the 40th anniversary of the island nation's independence. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles celebrates its 40th Independence Day anniversary on Wednesday June 29. The island nation got its independence from Great Britain in 1976 after decades under colonial rule.
SNA spoke to island residents who have been working in the economic, health and education sectors throughout those years for their views on how those areas have evolved.
|A collection of photos showing the event that unfolded as from midnight June 29, 1976 when the British Flag commonly known as the Union Jack was lowered and flag of Seychelles as a new independent nation was hoisted. (Mahe Publications Ltd) Photo License: CC-BY|
Bertrand Rassool, the former principal secretary in the Seychelles’ Ministry of Industry, said the island nation's economy used to rely on agriculture.
“At the time of independence, tourism had replaced our traditional industries. We were an agricultural-based economy, used to export copra, cinnamon, patchouli and spices,” said Rassool, in his late 50s.
“By the time we were independent tourism was already well established. It became difficult for traditional industries to compete and tourism became the largest pillar of our economy.”
Rassool added that Seychelles started to develop industrial fishing -- which is today the second pillar of the economy -- in the early 1980s.
Today, labour and land resources are the two major challenges the country is facing, said Rassool.
“I believe that today we have almost one out of three [people in the working force] who are foreigners, without whom our economy probably will collapse.”
|File Photo: Drying of cinnamon barks. At the time of independence, tourism had replaced our traditional industries. We were an agricultural-based economy, used to export copra, cinnamon, patchouli and spices(Joe Samy, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Marie-Ange Denis, a retired nurse, spoke about the changes in the health system.
“During the colonial times there wasn't any health centres in the districts. Today they are available to everyone, (and) have been modernized and redeveloped with additional services,” said Denis, in her late 60s.
Denis joined the Ministry of Health in 1966 and said that on Mahe there were hospitals only at Anse Royale and at Mont Fleuri.
Praslin and La Digue, the second and third largest islands, also had a hospital each.
|File photo: Patient and nurse at the Seychelles Hospital (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
In education, SNA spoke to the Special Adviser to the Minister of Education, Selby Dora.
“The biggest difference is access. Before the independence the number of children who had the opportunity to get an education for more than six years was limited compared to now,” said Dora.
Today in Seychelles, children can attend kindergarten and go up to university. The educational structure allows children in Seychelles, a 115-island nation in the western Indian Ocean, to go through eleven years of compulsory education. After secondary schooling, they have the opportunity to go to post-secondary for certificate, diploma and advance levels and if successful pursue a degree at university level.
|File Photo: Seychellois students in class. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Talking to the general public
One Seychellois who clearly remembers the day's event is Seraphin Madeleine who was among the two police officers who hoisted the new Seychelles flag on the day the island nation gained independence.
"I was an Inspector in the police force. I don’t know how it happened but I was just told that I was going to be one of the people chosen to hoist the flag," Madeleine said SNA, adding that he was 31 at the time.
"I was emotional but happy that I was given the privilege."
SNA also spoke to a few other people in the Seychelles’ capital, Victoria, who shared their sentiments about the day.
“Comparing yesteryear and today is relatively difficult because of time value of money. Today we get more in terms of money but it’s harder to make a savings. Both times had their advantages and disadvantages,” said Rudolph Young, who was a young adult at the time.
Young added that: “On the day itself, there were mixed feelings in the air. There was a big celebration and great joy as we were becoming independent. On the other hand there were tears of sadness as the British were leaving.”
“Life wasn't the same before [our independence]. Even if we worked, we were not making the same amount as we are today,” said Cecile, a 59-year-old lady who didn’t want to disclose her surname.
“The Queen was present that day and when the [British] flag was coming down, it was a little sad because we were use to the custom,” she said.
“For me, the day Seychelles became Independent is the day we were in charge of our country in the sense that we are on our own. We depend on our own self to develop and do not need to ask the approval of the Queen like as before when we were a British colony,” shared 29-year-old, Etelle Barbier.
SNA presents a collection of photos showing decorations in the Seychelles capital Victoria and its surroundings. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY