Dear Editor: Despicable stance of Anglican-controlled Trinity School Board is dark irony

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“[…] That a school board, which operates under the auspices of a religion that was founded and created out of rebellion and non-conformity with prevailing rules at the time, would take the high road in the 21st century and insist that students abide by a racist, discriminatory rule that disproportionately affects students of African descent, is the epitome of irony, which in itself is a gross understatement…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the decision of Trinity College (Moka) to make several students second-tier graduates due to their hairstyles was submitted to Wired868 by Oke Zachary of Valsayn:

A Trinity College (Moka) student who was denied the chance to sit with his classmates during the 2023 graduation ceremony.

The Trinity College Anglican School Board came out guns blazing last week, to defend its despicable treatment of students who were predominantly of African descent. The whole sordid affair occurred, because these students dared to defy the Anglican School Board, by sporting plaited hairstyles.

Anyone with a computer and an internet connection in the 21st century will know that the plaiting of hair by both male and female persons of African descent is a cultural practice that began in Africa over 5,000 years ago.

Unfortunately, due to the transatlantic slave trade, it was crucial for the European slave owners—who then operated under the auspices of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches—to break the spirt of and dehumanize the African slaves they brought to the new world.

And so, there was a concerted effort by these slave owners, to strip the African of his identity, which included his customs of hair style, his religion and his language.

Slavery brought not only physical and psychological trauma, it also brought erasure, and the colonizers effectively stripped the African of his lifeline to the homeland.

A young man from the Himba Tribe, which primarily resides in northern Namibia and southern Angola.

The Anglican School Board of Trinity College, even went so far, to include this paragraph in their unrepentant public declaration:

“[…] While acknowledging the various perspectives and views surround the uniform policy, we stand firm that acceptable conduct dictates that existing rules and regulations must be followed until and unless they are altered and amended.”

With that statement, what the Trinity College Anglican School board revealed is that the 21st century Anglican seems to have forgotten that his religion, i.e. the Anglican faith, was born out of non-conformity with prevailing rules.

Trinity College chair Dr Shelley-Ann Tenia is also dean and rector of The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity.

It appears that the Trinity College Anglican School Board has forgotten that the only reason they have an Anglican religion today is because in 1534, when the Catholic Church refused to grant King Henry VIII papal support for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII rebelliously founded the Anglican Church (also known as the Church of England) and pronounced that Church independent of the Catholic Church in Rome—instead of following the rules of the Catholic Church until they were changed.

That a school board, which operates under the auspices of a religion that was founded and created out of rebellion and non-conformity with prevailing rules at the time, would take the high road in the 21st century and insist that students abide by a racist, discriminatory rule that disproportionately affects students of African descent, is the epitome of irony, which in itself is a gross understatement.

Some Trinity College (Moka) students look on from outside the main building during the 2023 graduation ceremony.

The despicable conduct of the Anglican-controlled Trinity School Board in denigrating and humiliating these young men, reminded me of one of my grandmother’s sayings: “thing to cry for does make God laugh”.

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  1. I wish to register my profound disagreement with the views expressed by Mohan Ramcharan and SherwinG.

    TTUTA (the body representative of teachers) in its newspaper column, in yesterday’s Newsday, accepted/conceded that based on the relevant provisions in the Constitution of T&T, the Education Act and the case law applicable to T&T, Trinity College cannot legally enforce those very repressive, archaic, insensitive and discriminatory school rules. In this regard, it is noteworthy that although the rules are applicable for attendance in school, none of the students were debarred from attending classes. It seem as though the school was advised that it could not lawfully do so.

    However, TTUTA sought to distinguish the RIGHTS applicable for attendance in class from the PRIVILEGE of attending a graduation ceremony. In TTUTA’s view, the organisers of the graduation ceremony had the right to enforce the very harsh, oppressive, archaic, insensitive and discriminatory rules that were unenforceable in a normal school setting. I suspect that the board of the Trinity College shares this view. However, in my considered opinion, at best, this is an unwarranted engagement in legal gymnastics in an attempt to launch a savage assault on the rights of the affected students. How despicable! This revenge tactic – for that is what it is – is bound to fail in court, if challenged.

    The board seems to agree with SherwinG that the natural hair type of the students and their African ancestry/heritage is not a valid consideration and is of no consequence in the crafting and implementation of school rules. There seems to be an inherent bias, by implications, that Africa is a backward place, and such association even with regard to hairstyle and culture will lead to a rapid deterioration of moral standards, values, law and order, and inevitable social decay.

    Given all that occurred in this country in 1970, the struggles to abolish Segregation in the USA, and Apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I really thought that we had passed that stage long ago. Clearly, I was mistaken. White supremacists colonial values are still deeply imbedded in the minds and hearts of some members of our intelligentsia.

    It is refreshing that like in 1970, the heroes of the day are these conscious and intelligent young men who stood up for what is right and just in the face of the utmost humiliation, disrespect, and an obscene assault on their dignity, integrity and character.

    I have no doubt that Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of the stance these young men have taken.

    The board and the principal must seek to educate themselves on such sensitive matters so that this fiasco is never repeated. They do not have to look very far as Khafra Kambon is an alumnus of Trinity College and was in the forefront of the “1970 Revolution”. I am sure he would be more than willing to help.

  2. Many people do not understand the concept of rights… the letter writer is obviously one of them.

    No rights have been breached by asking students to conform to rules because no applicable rights are unrestricted. I have seen the school rule on hairstyles, widely circulated on social media, and the confessions by the same students, also widely circulated, that they grew their hair during ‘lockdown’. Clearly, they knew they were contravening the established rules, which they were formerly compliant with.

    R (Begum) v Governors of Denbigh High School [2006] established that hat a person’s right to manifest a particular religious belief was qualified (i.e. it could be interfered with if there was a justification).

    That is, if they grew their hair for religious reasons, rather than ‘style’.

  3. Rules are made to create order and to establish values and standards. The students were warned well in advance and they made a choice to defy the rules. This is one of the foundational reasons why our nation’s morals, values and standards are rapidly deteriorating.
    Too many things are being allowed to go because of convenience and expediency. A stand has to be made somewhere and at sometime if the social decay has any chance of slowing down. I agree with the school. Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character reap a destiny.

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