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.