news Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 05:30

Paras Ramoutar (IANS) | The News Minute | October 30, 2014 IST

Port-of-Spain: The mehndi remains on the hands of this girl in Trinidad and Tobago, yet she was allowed to return to class.

The Caribbean nation's Minister of Education, Tim Gopeesingh, said in an interview that his ministry was looking into the regulations on this matter according to the Education Act.

"The chief education officer will give me a report over the next few days, following which I will make a statement," the Indian-origin minister told IANS.

The issue on hand is that of seven-year old Chelsea Balgobin, a pupil of St. Gabriels Roman Catholic Primary School on Lord Street, San Fernando, who was barred from entering her class for wearing mehndi on both hands following the Diwali celebrations, the Indian festival of lights.

Her mother, Sandy Mahadeo, was apprehensive about whether Chelsea would be allowed into class with the mehndi still visible on her hands.

Christian Pereira of the Roman Catholic Church said that the school principal would do what is best in the interest of the school in terms of discipline and uniform.

"It is just my thought that parents should want what is best for the children as well in terms of discipline and conformity," he said.

Chelsea's plight was highlighted at the closing session of the annual Diwali Nagar celebrations last Wednesday at Chaguanas on the island of Trinidad, which has a large population of Indian descent, by Deokienanan Sharma, president of the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC).

Surujdeo Mangaroo, public relations officer of the NCIC, said that Diwali Nagar has become an integral factor in the concept of multiculturalism and national diversity, and he was a bit "saddened by this minor infraction, especially since it involved our young children in whose hands are enshrined to enhance cultural and religious diversity in our multi-racial and multi-religious state".

Mahadeo complained that her daughter should not have been rejected because of her culture. "This is not supposed to happen, because this is a multicultural society and people's culture should be respected. When we do our prayers they remove the rakhi thread from my child's hands."

She said that she was not aware that mehndi was against the rules, and was fearful that similar activities could recur in the future, and was seeking a transfer to another school.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer of the Catholic Education Board, Sharon Mangroo, said it was not "a matter of discrimination".

Ethnic Indians comprise nearly 40 percent of Trinidad and Tobago's population of 1.3 million. They are descendants of people brought from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917 to work in the sugarcane plantations here.

With IANS

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