Principal: No religious discrimination at SAGHS

The rakhi is­sue at the St Au­gus­tine Girls' High School was blown out of pro­por­tion in me­dia re­ports, ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­pal of the school.

The school was put in­to the na­tion­al spot­light af­ter Pun­dit Satyanand Ma­haraj claimed that a Hin­du stu­dent was brought be­fore the school and shamed for wear­ing a rakhi, a sym­bol of broth­er­hood love in the Hin­du re­li­gion.

In a press con­fer­ence at Ed­u­ca­tion Tow­ers, both Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion An­tho­ny Gar­cia and the school's prin­ci­pal Lin­da Dhar­rie said at no time did she sin­gle out a stu­dent, nor did she in­struct any stu­dent to re­move their rakhi.

"In no way was the stu­dent em­bar­rassed, in no way was the stu­dent sin­gled out for spe­cial men­tion and in no way was the stu­dent hu­mil­i­at­ed," said Gar­cia.

The prin­ci­pal said she made com­ments about how spe­cif­ic items should be worn as part of the school uni­form dur­ing an as­sem­bly at the school last week.

One of the items men­tioned was the rakhi, but Dhar­rie ex­plained that this was done in re­sponse to stu­dents tak­ing ex­tra lib­er­ties with ex­ces­sive adorn­ments on their hands' friend­ship bands and jew­ellery.

She de­nied it was a case of re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion.

"It is not a ques­tion of the rakhi, per se, it's a ques­tion of as the Min­is­ter said, and I want to re­peat; ex­ces­sive — be it jew­ellery or any kind of —adorn­ment to the uni­form. Right now what ex­ists is that some stu­dents are wear­ing the rakhi on both hands, some are wear­ing friend­ship bands, some are wear­ing ex­tra ear­rings, ex­tra chains and bracelets. It's a ques­tion of at­tire," said Dhar­rie.

"The school rule is the rakhi is to be worn on the same hand as the watch, which all par­ents in Form One are told dur­ing reg­is­tra­tion," said Dhar­rie.

Pres­i­dent of the Pres­by­ter­ian School Board Chris­t­ian Dookhoo said it was not a case of re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion, point­ing out that Chris­t­ian stu­dents are al­so told to con­ser­v­a­tive­ly wear items con­nect­ed to their re­li­gion.

He said stu­dents wear­ing neck­laces or chains bear­ing cross­es are usu­al­ly re­quired to wear un­der their shirts.

Gar­cia al­so con­firmed that the par­ents of the girl did not speak to Ma­haraj as he had claimed in his so­cial me­dia post.

The par­ents, who were present at the con­fer­ence but were shield­ed from ques­tions by the me­dia, nod­ded in agree­ment when the Min­is­ter made that an­nounce­ment.

- by Peter Christopher

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