Amerindian Peoples Association position on Mae’s Schools’ discriminatory action

The Amerindian Peoples Association supports today’s peaceful demonstration in front of Mae’s Schools in support of the young student who was told by the school’s administration that his indigenous wear was “inappropriate” for the school’s Culture Day. The Association condemns the actions by the school for exposing one of its students to this form of cultural discrimination.

The action by the school to single out and publicly humiliate the student, while other students were allowed to wear their cultural clothing, is disgraceful. As a person of indigenous heritage, the young student had a right to dress in his indigenous wear without discrimination from the public, but especially from an educational institution like Mae’s Schools.

Demonstrators in front of Mae’s Schools

Traditional indigenous clothing should not be deemed inappropriate in a country that celebrates its rich cultural diversity. It is enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana that every citizen has a right to their religion, cultural beliefs and practices. The Constitution specifically states in Article 149G that indigenous peoples “have the right to the protection, preservation and promulgation of their languages, cultural heritage and way of life”.

Moreover, Guyana is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This Declaration states that indigenous peoples have the right “to be free from any kind of discrimination… based on their indigenous origin or identity” (Article 2) and that “indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs” (Article 11). As a signatory, this type of discrimination should not be upheld by any institution, especially those to whom we entrust the care of our children.

The school’s administration last Friday impinged on the right of the student to practice his culture and freely express his identity through its discriminatory actions.

The Association is calling for a public apology from the school’s administration to the student and his family and that preventative measures are taken to prevent this from happening in the future. The Association recommends that cultural sensitization sessions be conducted at the school so that students, teachers and staff understand the cultural traditions and human rights indigenous peoples possess. The Amerindian Peoples Association has capable personnel available to conduct such training and would be willing to facilitate such sessions should it be contacted to do so.