Several members of the Indigenous community stood in front of the Mae’s Private School on Tuesday morning, holding placards and calling for a public apology to be made to the child who was reportedly turned away from the institution last week for dressing in his Indigenous wear, which was deemed “inappropriate.”
The picketers, some of whom were clad in their traditional Indigenous wear, have deemed the school’s action as “disgraceful.”
Among parents, the protest demonstration consisted of members from the National Toshoas Council (NTC),the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) and Red Thread.
The representatives all joined in criticizing the actions taken by the administration of Mae’s school to prohibit a student from displaying his Amerindian traditional outfit at the institution’s culture day event.
“The National Toshaos Council condemns such an act by this institution,” Joel Fredricks, Chairman of the NTC told media operatives.
Moreover, another commentator identified as Jude Da Silva said “I am very happy to be an Indigenous woman so I would expect that they issue an apology to us and to that little child…I hope they can do it, like now.”
This matter first caught the public’s attention last week, when a parent vented her frustrations on social media explaining that her child was prevented from entering the school dressed in his indigenous outfit for the Schools culture, in commemoration of Independence Day.
Since then, Guyanese, have expressed their rage at the apparent unfair treatment.
“This is a child who has come here to learn. A child who is paying you to teach him and this is what you’re teaching him? Disrespect? Indifference? It is not right and it’s totally unacceptable and we demand a public apology from Mae’s, to the child, and also to the Indigenous Peoples as a whole,” Michael McGarrel, a representative from the Amerindian People’s Association said.
Furthermore, even the Department of Public Information’s Presenter, Natasha Smith joined the demonstration in front of the school.
“That child represents an entire race of people. The first people of this country and you don’t have the decency to come and apologise or say ‘we made a mistake and we’re sorry’ and that is why we’re here because people have to stop disrespecting us. Mae’s school is just an example of the daily discrimination that we receive in this country,” she asserted.
Unless an apology is issued, the protesters are calling for the complete banning of cultural day in schools countrywide if persons are not allowed to wear indigenous outfits to depict Guyana’s diversity.
Others are also calling for indigenous education to be apart of the educational curriculum as a primary school student was allegedly mocked for his attire.
When media operatives attempted to obtain an official comment from the school administrators, all that was offered was “no comment.”
However, in a subsequent release, the administration of Mae’s Schools said that fact that this student is made the subject of national headlines is regrettable, since, according to them, “Mae’s has never, and will never, engage in discriminatory behavior.”
In relating their version of what transpired at the school, the administration said that all children were told that plain t-shirts and tights/shorts should be worn under clothes that would otherwise expose them for their Culture Day.
Moreover, Mae’s outlined that on the morning of the event, “the child, accompanied by his mother, came to the school dressed as has been portrayed. The mother was told at the gate that there MAY be an issue with the fact that he was exposed, but he was nevertheless allowed to enter the school as-is. The student then ascended the stairs to continue to his classroom.
“However, we speculate that he may have been subject to gawking by students, because shortly after he exited the school building and met with his mother, who helped him don a t-shirt already in her possession. At no point was any teacher engaged on this issue either by the child or his mother. The child settled into his classes without incident. There was no crying or other discernible upset displayed by him that warranted the attention of the class teacher, Head Teacher or Administration of the school then or at any other time throughout the school day.”
Moreover, the school outlined that “we recognize that our first duty is to look after the best interest of the children we serve. We are particularly conscious of fostering social cohesion and encouraging children to be proud of their heritage, as well as learning of the different ethnicities that make us one Guyanese family, hence the willingness to host Culture Day.”
Nevertheless, the institution said that there is “no clear cut national policy that is consistently enforced on what is acceptable in terms of exposure for BOTH boys and girls when representing our very diverse culture, especially in this climate where gender equality is being promoted, and specifically in a school environment. This incident lends itself to a larger discussion amongst schools and government entities about what truly is the acceptable social standard in our evolving country.”