President of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, Dr. Vindhya Persaud has expressed her support for the Ministry of Education’s commitment to reviewing Christian prayers within public schools.
Persaud said that sections of her organization had brought up the issue of having universal prayers in public schools with previous Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand. She recalled that while promises were made, no follow up action was taken by the Ministry.
Persaud, a sitting People’s Progressive Party Member of Parliament, opined that exposing children of different religions to one specific religious prayer will most likely foster negative feelings towards other religions.
“It has always been a belief of mine that we should have universal prayers within our schools,” said Persaud. “By using such a prayer, it promotes tolerance and respect for each other’s cultures, especially in a country such as ours.”
She said that she would like to see the Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine act on his promise quickly. She suggested, however, that before he begins to make such changes within the school system, he should first hold meetings with various religious bodies and organizations.
Despite the various religions existing within Guyana’s society and the country’s position of being a secular state, children recite Christian prayers in most public schools, despite their religious affiliation.
According to the Constitution of Guyana, the practice of having Christian prayers in public schools across the country is in contravention of laws set out in relation to the separation of church and state.
The Ministry of Education has over the years never addressed the issue despite many requests for universal prayers. By allowing public education to accommodate the Lord’s Prayer, the Ministry was seen as being oblivious to the Constitution of Guyana.
Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, stated that the practice is not one which will be condoned by his Ministry. He made his intentions clear to do away with it and implement interdenominational prayers across the Public school system.
He added that the reciting of Christian prayers in schools may be a preference of the teachers and to his knowledge has never been the policy of the Ministry.
“If that’s the practice that is going on in these public schools,” the Minister stated, “it is not a practice we condone. We are a multi-religious country and we have to realize that we have multi-religious children so that whatever prayer is used in schools should not exclude any of the religions.”
Roopnarine said that the Ministry will soon review the practice which could possibly be detrimental to social cohesion. He revealed that he will soon start disseminating information countrywide to inform teachers of the need to have interdenominational prayers in the Nation’s schools.
Interdenominational prayers were said to be the only policy with regards to school prayers that the Ministry embraces as they can apply to all religions rather than to any single denomination.
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