SAGHS denies religious discrimination after rakhi 'shaming'
The Education Ministry claims that an incident, in which a Hindu student was 'publicly shamed' for wearing a ‘rakhi’ (Hindu prayer bracelet) by a school official at the St Augustine Girls' High School (SAGHS), never happened.
The response came from Chief Education Officer, Harrilal Seecharan, who said during a media briefing on Wednesday that the school has denied that the incident ever happened and that they have also asked that the Facebook post on the matter be removed.
“The Facebook post was brought to our attention. We communicated with the school’s supervisor. Our information was that was not so - no students were asked to remove any symbol or was singled out in assembly. In fact the principal indicated that she contacted the individual in person and requested that he remove the posting since there was no basis for it,” Seecharan said.
However, according to reports from some students, the incident did occur during the morning assembly.
On October 9, 2018, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, said via a social media post that a Form One student at the St Augustine Girls High School was pulled onto an assembly stage by a senior official and ‘publicly shamed’ for wearing the religious bracelet.
The girl was allegedly told that the ‘rakhi’ (worn after completing a puja) could not be worn as SAGHS is a Christian school and that the bracelet should be hidden.
“The young girl was humiliated in front of her peers, friends and teachers for just being a practicing Hindu. This is Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 and not 1918 when the Presbyterian Board was busying itself in forcibly converting Hindus in exchange for teaching jobs and for access to education.”
“The official of the school told the Assembly that Hindus don’t know what they believe as sometimes the rakhi is worn on the right hand as well as the left hand further heaping scorn on the Hindu religion openly,” he said.
Pundit Satyanand also referred to another incident in which OJT trainee, Nafisah Nakhid, was forbidden from entering the Lakshmi Girls Hindu College while wearing her hijab.
“As a pundit I supported the position of Ms. Nakhid and as a result drew the public wrath of the Maha Sabha which continues today, yet I did it because it was the right thing to do. I anxiously await all those who supported Ms. Nakhid to equally support this innocent Hindu girl who was embarrassed and shamed by a senior official at SAGHS for her religion. I hope that the media treats with this matter equally on its front pages as it did Nakhid,” he said.
He added that at SAGHS Muslim students are allowed to wear hijabs and long pants.
“If Muslims are allowed to practice expressions of their faith by SAGHS then why is the school biased against Hindus?”
Satyanand called for an in-depth investigation, saying the act is a violation of the Ministry’s regulations.
He added that the 1960 Concordat should also be reviewed, and said he intends to file a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission.
“This official of SAGHS not only is a religious bigot but also violated the official regulations. It is my immediate intention to also file an official complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission against SAGHS for this naked act of religious bigotry against the Hindu community.”
“With religious bigots like these still existing in the educational establishments perhaps it is time that the Government begin the discussion to terminate denominational schools and end the Concordat,” he said.
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