Wednesday 15 July, 2020

Labour Minister: Principal agreed to place Nafisah

Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said the principal of Lakshmi Girls' Hindu College had agreed to Nafisah Nakhid's training after Nakhid said she was asked to remove her hijab upon arriving for her first day of work.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Baptiste-Primus said that the On-the-Job Training Programme (OJT), through which Nakhid had been given the training assignment, reviews applicants based on their educational qualifications and does not judge based on religion, race, gender or any other factors. 

Baptiste-Primus said she empathised with Nakhid, a mechanical engineer, over her experience, saying it was regrettable.

"The Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development deeply regrets the experience that Ms. Nafisah Nakhid, an On the Job Trainee, encountered on Monday 21st May, 2018 when she was denied entry onto the Lakshmi Girls Hindu School Compound, because of her religious attire.

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"This incident is certainly an unfortunate one especially in this Holy Month of Ramadan and also it being her first day on the Job. I therefore empathise with Ms. Nakhid on this most unfortunate experience.  This young lady who is a qualified Mechanical Engineer is clearly articulate and highly intelligent."

"I assure that the On-the-Job Training Programme, which was integrated as a Division of this Ministry effective May 2017 based on a Cabinet decision, would have undergone the appropriate assessment which would have qualified Ms. Nakhid as a fitting Trainee for placement at the College."

"The Programme utilises specific guidelines when considering the placement of any Trainee which primarily entails their educational qualifications.  Consideration may be given to their geographic location and the requests for Trainees from registered Training Providers in the Trainee’s particular field of interest."

"Guided by these procedures, the Placement Officers of the On the Job Training Programme would have placed Ms. Nakhid based on the aforementioned guidelines and not based on religion, race, gender or any other factors," she said. 

Baptiste-Primus said the request by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha for a Teacher's Aide was discussed with the principal of the college who agreed to accept Nakhid as a trainee for two years which is the established limitation for anyone to participate in the Programme.

Baptiste-Primus said the treatment meted out by the school was not ideal.

"It is to be noted that this is not the experience that we anticipate for any Trainee enrolled in the On the Job Training Programme, as the programme was created with the intent of producing a cadre of trained professionals between the ages of 16 to 35 years with relevant job exposure who can, upon leaving the programme access sustainable employment and contribute to our country’s continuous development."

She said that the Ministry is in the process of arranging a transfer for Nakhid over to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government to ensure she "operates in a healthy and safe working environment".

"I am also taking this opportunity to remind the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and other employers that the focus should be placed on Trainees’ qualifications, skills, competencies as well as the invaluable contributions that they can make to their respective organizations and the country at large as we strengthen our journey towards a more peaceful and all-inclusive society."

"We wish Ms. Nakhid the very best in her future endeavours and urge her not to allow this incident to shape her perception of future employment experiences and to continue to shine as Allah has destined," Baptiste-Primus said. 

Nakhid said she is discussing her legal options after she was barred from entering the compound of Lakshmi Girls Hindu College while wearing her hijab because of a policy established by the Board of Education of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Saba.

Nakhid said she was given a choice to either remove her hijab or leave, so she left.

The Secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Saba, Satnarayan Maharaj told media that anyone who seeks training must conform to the code of conduct and behaviour standards of the school that they want to be a part of, adding that it was unreasonable for schools to have to conform to the code of conduct or behaviour of persons who seek training.

Lakshmi Girls' Hindu College is partially funded by the State and run by the Board of Education of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.


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