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Rastafarian family drags school to court

by Staff reporter
12 Jan 2013 at 04:30hrs | 3365 Views
A Rastafarian family in Bulawayo has dragged a school to court after authorities sent away its child for being a Rastafarian and wearing dreadlocks.

The girl, who is aged 13, and has been wearing dreadlocks since she was three years old, finished Grade Seven last year at Hillside Primary School and attained seven units.

She applied for a Form One Place at the Seventh Day run Bulawayo Adventist Secondary School (BASS) and was invited for entrance tests, which she passed.

The girl was enrolled in Form One North, but was expelled from the school on the opening day on Tuesday, as the school accused her of having locks which it said was against its rules.

The girl's father made an Urgent Chamber Application to the High Court on her behalf since she is a minor and the matter was heard in acting Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Meshack Cheda's Chambers yesterday.

He cited the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, BASS and the school's headmaster, a Mr N Marandure, as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents respectively.

However, Justice Cheda reserved judgment saying he wanted to go through the submission, but did not specify whether in the meantime the child should be reinstated pending the finalisation of the matter.

He could not grant the interim relief to order the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to allow the child to attend classes and interdict them from interfering or harassing the minor child for having dreadlocks after it emerged that on the admittance form she had written that she was SDA.

The girl's stepmother, who sometimes goes to the SDA Church, is the one who had gone with her to the school and completed the form on her behalf.

The applicant accuses the respondents of trying to force the girl to denounce her religion and to cut her dreadlocks, which is against her religion, as a Rastafarian.

The grounds on which the application was made are that the minor child has been barred from entering the school premises and from attending classes until she complies with the "illegal" demand made by the 2nd and 3rd respondents to cut her dreadlocks, which is contrary to her beliefs as a Rastafarian.

The father further said he would suffer financial prejudice if the child is not admitted into class and above all it will not be in the interest of the minor child to be denied education, which is an inherent right of any child of her age.

The applicant, who is represented by Mr Jonathan Tawona Tsvangirai, of Dube-Tachiona and Tsvangirai Legal Practitioners, said the minor girl's continued absence from class is highly prejudicial and extremely psychologically disturbing.

The father said soon after the child was accepted as a pupil, he paid fees in full. He said the school authorities saw the girl with dreadlocks, which she had not cut since birth.

He said he had previously communicated with the school's deputy head, who told him that the child would not be discriminated on the grounds of her religion.

He said he believed the deputy head's words, as the girl was offered a place and her money accepted.

The father further averred that he went on to buy school uniforms, shoes, books and other provisions.

"I aver that I am a Rastafarian, my child is also a Rastafarian and our religion entails keeping long locked hair, which manifests our religion's beliefs as much as keeping the Sabbath manifests the religion of the Seventh Day Adventists," said the applicant.

He said he was shocked on the opening day when he accompanied her to school and the senior mistress and deputy head took him aside and told him that his daughter could not be admitted with locks.

The applicant further alleged that he was advised to take her home and only bring her back to school after cutting the hair short.

When I advised them that this was tantamount to me asking them to leave their religion, they offered to refund me the school fees, as they could not accept the child as a Rastafarian. I rejected the suggestion and I still insist that my child has the right to learn at the school and conversely Respondents have no right to discriminate my child on the basis of her religion. Once her hair is cut she ceases to be a Rastafarian and the Respondents cannot be allowed to strip her of a religion when such right is vested in her by the highest law in the country," he said.

The Applicant alleged that he was not shown a copy of rules stating that dreadlocks were not allowed at the school.

The Applicant prayed for intervention of the court to show the SDA Church that Rastafarianism was of equal importance to other religions, adding that the church's actions had affected the child psychologically.

The family's argument is that it was the Rastafarians, who first lifted the country's flag at independence, adding that Rastafarianism music preached the gospel of liberation hence the need to be respected like any other religion.

The father argues that barring his child from school is in violation of Section 19 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which is illegal.

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