Rastafarian father prepared to face his fate
The Rastafarian father who is before the court with his partner for refusing to send their children to school, said he would accept whatever punishment handed down when he returns to court on Friday.
Last month Ijui Jah and his partner Isartes Ibre were found guilty of breaching Section 41 of the Education Act on the grounds that there was no record of the children attending formal classes.
The children have since been placed in the custody of their paternal grandmother. However, the couple insisted that their son and daughter were being homeschooled.
“I leave it up to the magistrate. I am prepared for anything. If he say I guilty I am prepared to go to prison and serve the time and come out and get on with things,” he told Barbados TODAY at the end of a meeting last night hosted by the African Heritage Foundation.
The meeting, which was held at the Israel Lovell Foundation to discuss the family’s plight, heard messages of solidarity and support from members of the Rastafarian and Muslim communities.
A defiant Ijui Jah told the packed hall of the Israel Lovell Foundation that he would not back down from his decision not to register his children in the public school system, claiming he was following his religion.
He also insisted that he did not approve of the current school environment, claiming there was deviance, including sexual activity, illegal drugs and bullying.
Those present were equally resolute in their support for the family, saying the parents had a right to homeschool their children if they wished to.
Gender Specialist Danielle Toppin shared her experience with the gathering, saying she had homeschooled her daughter in Jamaica from age two to five. It was done through the Ministry of Education in Kingston, using the standard education curriculum.
A number of proposals were also put forward during the three-hour meeting, in an effort to resolve the matter.
The recommendations included petitioning the Ministry of Education to have the children returned to their parents, and for a change in the law so that the decision on homeschooling did not rest solely with the Ministry of Education.
Another suggestion was for all Rastafarian families to pull their children out of school until the matter was resolved.
“I think a large statement could be made if all Rastafari family pulled their children out of school . . . we gather in Queen’s Park with whoever can be there and have sessions with the children at school at the park,” one member of the audience told the meeting.
However, while he welcomed the suggestion, Ijui Jah said he did not want them to take any decision with which they were not comfortable, especially as there may be implications for the wider community.
One member of the Muslim community, Abdul Rahman, also offered to host the children at his school, the Muhammad University of Islam, until the issue was settled. He maintained that while the family must respect the system under which they live, they must also be willing to stand up for their beliefs.
Another individual also called for a petition against the Child Care Board, branding the institution “unsuitable” to make any decision on the welfare of the children.
Ijui Jah told the meeting that he and his partner, who remained silent throughout the proceedings, were willing to work with the Ministry of Education to resolve the matter.
The African Heritage Foundation is to draft a paper stating that the removal of the children from the custody of their parents and any moves to incarcerate the parents were not acceptable to the community.
A working committee is to be established to examine guidelines for homeschooling. That committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday at Pelican Village to discuss their plans.