The indigenous outfit controversy at Mae’s

Photos and interviews by David Papannah and Shamar Meusa

This week we asked the man and woman in the street to comment on the recent issue where Mae’s Schools objected to a student being clothed in his indigenous outfit.   Their responses follow:

William Johnson – ‘Everyone deserves to be respected for their culture. What the school did was wrong, to condemn his clothing. What they did was strictly out of line.  As teachers and a school who are role models teaching the children they should not have done that.  I believe the school should have apologised in the first place before allowing it to get out of hand. They have to now put changes in place to ensure this would not happen again. They also should have gone the extra mile to make the child feel comfortable and accepted once again.’

 

Melissa George– ‘It was a culture day and the child dressed in his cultural wear and as an Amerindian I feel disrespected. We as Amerindians dressed like that long ago. Only because we are living in a (modern)  society you don’t see people dressing like that now. When we celebrate Heritage Month or Heritage Day in the village people would dress like that. I believe it was totally wrong for them to object to it. The child was showcasing his culture and everybody has a right to showcase their culture. The issue is now resolved but I think they should have apologised from the beginning. They waited until the ministry got involved and people protested before they said they were sorry.’

Nadine Singh– ‘I don’t think it was right for them to object to the child’s cultural wear. The school said it was a cultural day and the child dressed in his cultural wear. The Toshao met the president in his cultural wear and nobody never said anything about that because we know it is his cultural wear. It was very inappropriate of them to do that. For the school to object to how he was dressed … you wonder what they are teaching. This whole thing was an embarrassment for the child and saying sorry was not enough to me. They could have done it more meaningfully.’

 

 Shiv Charan– ‘For the culture day, I think it was appropriate for the child to wear the outfit. If that is the way the Amerindians dress, they should have allowed it. It’s good that they issued a public apology to the student and the indigenous community.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

M. Thomas– ‘I was vex about it, they should have let him in the culture day. That is how Amerindian people dress, they just wear the natural dressing, the traditional Amerindian people don’t know about these American garments. At carnivals, everybody participating wear skimpy clothing and nobody objected to that.’

 

Shaunea Mc Leod– ‘I think it’s wrong, cause if it’s culture day and they want each child to dress in the ethnic wear, so if the child has to dress as an Amerindian, they have to dress as an Amerindian, you can’t expect the child to wear what Amerindians don’t wear. Even if you check back you would see that’s the way the Amerindians dress, I think they should have apologised earlier, the head teacher could have spoken with the parent that same day.’

Stowell Bentham- ‘If the school wanted to keep a dress code they should have told the parents in advance, that way this wouldn’t have happened.  The parent would have known to maybe have the child wear a jersey or vest to be covered but still display the Amerindian wear.’

Rihanna Ameir– ‘For a school like Mae’s to make objection to a child in an indigenous outfit makes you wonder what is really being thought at that school. It is absolutely ridiculous, we are a country of six races and we are free to showcase our culture. I was really disappointed when I heard the news and the fact that the school distanced itself from the issue is even worse. Children should be allowed to express and find their identity, what the school did was just wrong. If they wanted the children to be fully clothed they should have informed the parents in advance. They should have accepted responsibility and immediately apologize to the parents, child and Indigenous people, but they chose not to.’

Natasha Smith – ‘I think it was an unfortunate situation. Here we have a school where everyone was encouraged to be cultural and on that a day a little boy who chose to dress in his indigenous outfit was teased about it and was frankly told his outfit was not appropriate. We are the first people of Guyana and that is now we dressed. I would have been angry if a little boy or girl was told wearing their African or Indian outfit was inappropriate. The situation was not handled professionally at all. The school failed to apologize immediately after the situation got out of hand. They waited for us to protest and then responded in what seems to be a fluff. The statement never said anything like the school don’t discriminate it was very unapologetic. The law of the country should govern private and public entities and the school ought to respect the rule.

The issuance of a second apology only came after a meeting and it should be said that the administrator Stacey French was a bit humbled but I can’t recall if they offered a general apology to the indigenous people. Not the child alone … but the entire indigenous population. The school should now compensate the child and his parents for the trauma they faced. Agreeing to allow the Amerindians to come into the school and host a few sessions is a step in the right direction, I believe.’

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