Indigenous wear matter being investigated, says subject Minister

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… as Junior Minister says ‘Mae’s owes the child an apology’

The Ministry of Education is presently investigating the circumstances surrounding a primary school child attached to Mae’s – a private school- reportedly being turned away from the institution last week after dressing in his Indigenous wear on Culture Day.

File photo: Minister Sydney Allicock

This is according to Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock on Wednesday at the sidelines of an interview at Parliament.

In his comment to the press, Allicock expressed concern that the incident even occurred, especially at a time when Guyana seemed to be more ethnically diverse.

“It is something that I would not have expected since we are embarking upon Social Cohesion and unifying for the country and we are a multi-ethnic, multi-racial community and we should be more understanding, more respectful for the citizens of this country. But we have the authorities who are addressing this as I speak. The authority for…education, because it’s a private school, it’s education so that’s where we’re focusing. They are already on the ball,” he said.

Meanwhile, at another social gathering, the Junior Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, maintained that the private institution should apologise to the primary school student who is the subject of the matter.

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe

“I am so sorry that little boy had to go through such a terrible event. I think the Mae’s School owes him an apology,” she told the media.

Moreover, the Junior Minister chastised the educational institution for the way in which they handled the reported situation.

“I think they should have thought it through and viewed it as his culture and invited him in and explained it to the other students who may not have understood.  They should have taken the opportunity to teach the children about the indigenous culture,” she asserted.

While highlighting that ‘Culture Day’- an event which is celebrated annually by schools countrywide- is a special day for children as it allows them a chance to attire themselves in clothing that depict their heritage.

“I think the boy was very proud to wear his indigenous wear. I see nothing wrong with that…It is not every day that an indigenous person walks down the road wearing their Tibisiri skirts, necklaces and headdress, but that’s culture day you want to wear something that depicts your heritage.”

Yesterday, several members of the Indigenous community stood in front of the Mae’s Private School holding placards and calling for a public apology to be made to the affected child.

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 and Red Thread.

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 culture day.

Unless an apology is issued, the protesters are calling for the complete banning of cultural day in school countrywide if persons are not allowed to wear indigenous outfits to depict Guyana’s diversity.

Others are also calling for indigenous education to be a part of the educational curriculum as a primary school student was reportedly mocked for his attire.

However, the administration of Mae’s in a statement on the issue said that the 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, among other things, 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.”

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.”

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