The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Toni Ni­cholas

He was named Boaz, af­ter a bi­b­li­cal fig­ure, a man whose name meant “swift­ness”. Ac­cord­ing to the Bi­ble, Boaz proved him­self to be a provider, a pro­tec­tor, an in­ter­ces­sor, a cov­erer, and a redeemer.

Though Boaz was a man of wealth and power, he was hum­ble enough to re­spect a con­verted Gen­tile woman, and wise enough to ad­mire her courage, de­vo­tion, kind­ness, and fi­delity to Naomi. He was a prince who was hum­ble enough to be part of the thresh­ing process of the grain in his barn.

I walked into the of­fices of the STAR on Wed­nes­day morn­ing to find a young Boaz, the sub­ject of this story, along with his mother wait­ing to be in­ter­viewed. I had seen them on tele­vi­sion sev­eral times be­fore as mother Louina Joseph com­plained about the dis­crim­i­na­tion to­wards her son be­cause of his skin.

Boaz, who is now eight years old, was born with a rare skin con­di­tion which his mother was in­formed is con­gen­i­tal cu­ta­neous can­didi­a­sis that presents within the first six days of life. The man­i­fes­ta­tions in­clude dif­fuse skin erup­tion with­out any sys­temic symp­toms and skin erup­tions at birth in­volv­ing head, face, neck, trunk, and ex­trem­i­ties.

“The doc­tor told me that it is not con­ta­gious but has to be treated,” Joseph says. She too was born with the con­di­tion, which she said cleared up when she was twenty. In the case of Boaz she was told that his skin would clear up by the age of 12. How­ever, in the mean­time she says her son is be­ing de­prived of a proper ed­u­ca­tion be­cause the teach­ers at his school have prac­ti­cally ex­iled him from the rest of the class.

“Just Tues­day I went to the school and when I got there my son was sit­ting out­side in the hot sun while the other chil­dren were in their class. I asked him what did he do to cause the teacher to put him out. He told me, ‘noth­ing’,” Joseph says. At that point the dis­traught mom went to the school prin­ci­pal who said she would look into the mat­ter. But, ac­cord­ing to Louina Joseph, this is the same line she has been get­ting from the prin­ci­pal and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, to no avail.

In 2015 af­ter sev­eral ap­pear­ances in the news me­dia to com­plain of how Boaz was be­ing treated by teach­ers at the Pa­tience School, his mother was granted a meet­ing with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“At that meet­ing was Ru­fina Charles, Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer Mar­cus Ed­ward, DEO Gabriella St. Paul, Pres­i­dent of SLTU Ju­lian Mon­rose, the teacher in ques­tion and three wit­nesses I brought with me,” a well-spo­ken Joseph says. “They did not al­low my son to speak and they had him sit in an­other room. They did not even want my wit­nesses present but I in­sisted that they stayed,” she went on. “Af­ter ex­press­ing that my son was be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against, in­stead of ad­dress­ing the mat­ter in the pres­ence of the teacher, I was told that I was para­noid,” Joseph al­leges. Ac­cord­ing to her, Ed­ward said he would give her a let­ter to take to the Dis­trict 5 of­fice where she would re­ceive coun­selling. “In­stead, when I went to col­lect that let­ter from the prin­ci­pal at the school, the let­ter I got stated that I was barred from com­ing on the school com­pound,” a frus­trated Joseph says. Fol­low­ing a sub­se­quent meet­ing with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion Joseph says she was al­lowed to go to the school to meet her son. “I do not want my son to walk the streets alone. I know how chil­dren can be so I pick him up and drop him off ev­ery day,” Joseph says. “But this has not stopped my son be­ing de­prived of his work-books, his lessons and any at­ten­tion a stu­dent at that level de­serves,” the mother says. She has also sought a trans­fer for her son,in vain.

Boaz was ab­sent through­out most of our con­ver­sa­tion. He pre­ferred to in­ter­act and con­verse with our re­cep­tion­ist. When he walked in on the in­ter­view, his mother asked him to ex­plain what he was go­ing through. Hardly au­di­ble, he spoke of not be­ing treated kindly by teach­ers (not the chil­dren). In tears now, Boaz whis­pered: “Some­times I feel like killing my­self,” words his mother said she had heard com­ing from her son many times be­fore.

Des­per­ate, frus­trated and at her wit’s end, Louina Joseph is cry­ing out for help from wher­ever it may come so that life for her son, whom she loves dearly, can be as nor­mal as pos­si­ble.

Boaz suf­fers from CCC with vis­i­ble signs on his head, face and hands.

Louina Joseph cries for help.

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