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In Defense of African Children?


By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Posted: April 27, 2005

Ever since March 15, 2005 when the National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) and intervened to protect the rights of the children at the Torrib Trace Presbyterian Primary School, it has become a target of the Presbyterian Synod, the Principal of Torrib Trace Presbyterian Primary School, the Presbyterian Teachers' Association (Presta) and, most recently, the acerbic comments of Rev. Arthur Yorke, a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church. Hiding beneath his clerical collar, Rev. Yorke had no problems in using the sanctity of Our Lord and Savior as he pointed his poisonous darts towards the African population, the government and all the decent persons of Trinidad and Tobago. In his tendentious and duplicitous locution, he offered the following formulation: "In our country today the trend seems to be to close down anything with Indians in it. Close down Caroni (1975) Ltd. Close down NBN with Mastana Bahar. Mash up the Judiciary. Is the professor at the Central Bank advocating the closure of the Presbyterian Church and school?" (Trinidad Guardian, April 20).

Mind you, this is a pastor of the Presbyterian Church; a man who is given to truth and honesty; a man for whom the words of Bible are supposed to his guide. Yet, he ends his article with an untenable generalization for which he has no evidence. In spite of his official title, the reverend gentleman behaves as any vulgar empiricist: no one should ever criticize an East Indian; no one should ever dream of prosecuting or impeaching an Indian official who may be guilty of breaking the law; no one must ever touch an industry that employs Indians even though it looses one billion dollars each year. I hope that our dear pastor can sleep at nights. I decline his wish that "God be with [me] in [my] search." I do not see him as a man of God and believes that his words reveal his duplicity and his ill intentions. I do not accept prayers from the tendentious lips of anyone, be he saint or sinner.

First, I wish to assure this unholy man that "the professor at the Central Bank" is not advocating closing down the Presbyterian Church and schools. We call this the big-lie technique. Hitler used it very effectively. I never made any such proposition nor do I subscribe to any proposition that calls for the closure of the Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Schools.

Second. The students and parents of the Citizens of Brothers Road have made over twenty charges of abuse and discrimination that they allege were committed by the teachers against their children, all of which was recited and documented in my presence. These charges are contained a report entitled, "Racism at Torrib Trace Primary School" that were presented to the Presbyterian Primary School's Board and the Ministry of Education. I even presented Rev. Cyril Paul with a copy of these charges. The Presbyterian Primary School Board is yet to report to us.

The Minister of Education has promised to report back to us within a week. Although there are over twenty charges, the twelve most dangerous charges read as follows:
a)    While she was in her class, Ms. Monica Gooljar, a teacher, called Tessa Charles a "nigger." Subsequently, Tessa's mother complained to Teemal Sharma, the acting principal of the school, about the incident. The teacher denied that she ever called Tessa "a nigger."

b)    Richie Davis catches epileptic fits and now attends the Pediatric Clinic at the San Fernando General Hospital. One day he was drinking a chubby in class. Some of it spilled to the floor, Nicola Bhagan, the teacher of the first-year class sent him to get the mop and made him mop out the entire room. She also beat this sick child with her hand, took his Reading Book and threw it to the ground.

c)    Ms. Monica Gooljar folded her fist and cuffed Ricardo Ramnarine, 6 years old, in his nose that drew blood that his mother, Cintra Sudeen, an Indian woman, discovered when her child returned from school. When she complained to Principal Sharma and subsequently to Supervisor Ramlal, nothing was done about this abuse. Today, her son is afraid to go to school. On Friday 23 April, in the presence of forty other students and parents, Ms. Sudeen pleaded: "I cannot read and write. Every day I dress my child and send him to school so that he can learn to read and write. Now, he does not want to go school." Ricardo and the other students report that the teachers now tell them that if they report these incidents to their parents they will bring the police for them.

d)    Mr. Ronald Babooran, teacher of Standard One-he has since been removed to standard Three-broke a ruler on Kyle Charles's head. Kyle noted: "Sir broke a meter ruler on my head." After completing this spectacular act, he promptly warned Kyle: "Next time I will beat your brains with the ruler." Rae-Anne Charles, a parent of the child, complained to Principal Sharma about such behavior. He denied that any such behavior took place.

e)    Cecilia Cooper, a six year old child, had meningitis, at the age of fourteen months that crippled her left hand and her left foot. She attends the Pediatric Clinic at San Fernando General Hospital monthly to take care of this condition. Ms. Gooljar continuously beats her on her crippled hand. One day, when Ms. Gooljar was beating her on her hand, the pain was so severe that the child cried out loudly in pain.

f)    One day, Cecelia Cooper wanted to ease her bowels. She asked Ms. Gooljar for toilet paper to go to the toilet to relieve herself. Ms. Gooljar did not give it to her. She defecated on herself. She called her brother Neal Edwards who subsequently called his mother, Patricia Cooper, who went to the school and took the child home.

g)    It is alleged that Ms. Anita Ramdeo-Jagessar beats the children and call them "jackasses." One day, in her exasperation, she asked Joey Swan, "Whey yo' taking in de night: man or woman?" He even takes the school books and beat the children on their heads with them.

h)    Miss Anita is Nigel Julien's teacher. He suffers from asthma. In spite of his condition, Ronald Babooram [not his teacher], hit him three times on his back. When Gabriela Julien, his mother reported the incident to the principal, he said that Nigel was lying. Next morning when Nigel returned school, Sir Ronald (as Nigel and the parents call him) promptly beat him again. He had him jump up four times and called him "a monkey" in front of all of the children. Every time he struck him with the ruler, he told him, "Jump," as he called him a monkey.

i)    One morning around ten am, Christian Peters complained to his teacher, Ronald Babooram, that he was feeling unwell. The teacher responded: "Dat good for you" and told him to go back and sit down. One parent, Malissa Peters, contrasted the difference in treatment between how the Indian and African children are treated. She observed: "The next day an Indian child got sick. They rushed him to the Health Center. This is the normal way they treat children when they get sick."

j)    It is alleged that the teachers treat some of the dark-skinned Indians in discriminating and abusing manner. Cintra Sudeen, the mother on Ricardo Ramnarine, one such child, reports, "I don't know why they treat my child so. Is it because they think he is a nigger." Nicola Gooljar called Ricardo a "jackass and an asshole." She also called him "a donkey" and asked aloud: "Why don't you stay at home and cut cane with your father." She placed him under detention by making him stand up for about four hours. While he was under detention, he asked the teacher for toilet paper to go to the toilet but she refused. While he was under detention, he defecated upon himself. The parent discovered the defecation in the afternoon when her child returned home from school.

k)    Adana Julien is eleven years old. Idris Priag teachers Standard Two. Sometimes, in the classroom, he curses the children in the nastiest way. He tells them to "Kiss his mother's arse." One on occasion, he advised Adana: "Why don't you stay at home and plant garden!" When she complained to the Principal, he said: "Al yo' have bees and flies around you. Get out of here. Yo' too stink." Such terms of abuse caused the parents of the child to ask, "What ma child do so for him to tell her to stay home and plant garden and that she so stink?"

l)    On her way to school one day in a taxi, Ms. Nicola Gooljar uttered to the other passengers, "Once ah see those African children, ah does feel to vomit." As for now, I will withhold the name of the taxi driver who made this report.
All of these allegations have been substantiated by the children and their parents. We await the official investigation by the Ministry of Education. Since we submitted our initial report, there have been other developments that should concern the Ministry of Education, the Presbyterian Schools' Board and Rev. Yorke. The teachers at Torrib Trace Primary School have initiated psychological warfare against these children that has left many of them traumatized. Some of the teachers have told the children (whose names they can identify from the Report) that they will bring the police for them if they don't tell the truth. Some children are being told they should have nothing to do with Ricardo nor should they even play with him. In other words, he is being treated as a social outcast. Ms. Gooljar and other teachers continue to beat the children. This is the kind of psychological warfare to which these young children are being subjected. Instead of trying to deal with the problems that affect these children, the teachers of the school have started a public relations campaign in which they are now going around the village asking the parents to sign a petition that says that no racial discrimination takes placed at the school.

In Defense of African Children? Part II

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