To admit the two Rastafarian students or not? This has been a tussle between authorities of Achimota School and the public all through this week. The Ghanaian senior high school was bent on these two students trimming their dreadlocks if they indeed wanted to be accepted as students.
To a section of the public, the school erred, especially when it was one that preaches the essence of diversity with its black and white key design of a school crest. To others, however, the decision the highly revered public school took was nothing out of the ordinary. Many had abided by it in the past and Rastafarians should abide by it, too. No student keeps long hair.
Well, everyone may be right in their position on this matter. Even though it may look like trampling on the rights of these teenagers whose long hair is symbolic of their religion, the headmistress of Achimota School may be as right as those who think she may be wrong.
The motto of Achimota School spells this out so clearly ― that they all may be ONE. Uniformity means that despite the plurality of different ideologies and religious beliefs, every student must be identified by their low haircut and similar attire. Regardless of the diverse backgrounds of students, the school requires that they are all identified as one.
It goes without saying that the school was not going to compromise on its standards because of two or three people. Rastafarians who were not ready to compromise the length of their hair have been turned away in previous years and this year was not going to be anything different.
Some foreign students intermittently visited the school who may not have necessarily been subjected to these rules. That notwithstanding, it doesn’t take away the fact that all students should be one ― both inwardly and outwardly.
Loss of concentration
Imagine a student spending all their studies period washing their hair or making sure it is in good shape. Imagine that student paying more attention to their hairstyle than their books. Imagine having students who will miss important school functions because they had to fix their hair. Imagine other students getting distracted in class by the new style of their colleague’s dreadlocks.
The priority of the co-ed school is to educate its students, not a playground for fashion. In an attempt to make students focus on this priority, they didn’t want anything to become a barrier ― at least not a student’s hair. By so doing, over the years, students (both males and females) have had to keep their hair low so as to attract little attention from themselves and other students.
There are many things that may divert the attention of teenagers. Their hair may be one of such. In a bid to give it the needed attention, their grades may end up suffering.
Now, this is why the school may have been wrong. Inasmuch as authorities had the holistic development of the Rastafarian students and other students in mind, it is noteworthy that those who think they may have been wrong in their decision may have been right.
Just like the skin, the hair is an identity of people. We have somewhat been bullied into assuming that there is something wrong with ours. Right from infancy, we try everything possible to distant ourselves from our skin and hair. With such mindset, our women end up cutting their hair only to replace it with foreign hair. It is in such that they find their pride and confidence.
Just as we admire the long hair of Caucasians, we should be able to admire ours. Today, we still kowtow to the western world because they have been able make our identity look inferior in our own eyes.
How hypocritical it is when we go chasing students around for wearing their own hair when we are wearing someone’s! Being African begins with being proud of what you are and have.
What should be the center of discussion of hair in our schools should be its unkemptness. At such a young age, we should not demonize the long hair of our teens. They should be made to understand that their hair should be trimmed to make such appear neat and appropriate.
In this day, many of us are still colonized. We have bound ourselves with do’s and don’ts we have very little understanding of. We assume everything from the Caucasian is from heaven and that from the African is from hell. Little wonder, some African women will die for Brazilian hair and while at it, they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with their own hair.
Focusing on the minors
Our education system has been bedeviled by a lot of problems of which hairdo is the least. Year after year, we are churning out graduates who have no hands-on experience in their fields of specialization. As though that is not enough, our certificates are nothing to write home about on the global market.
Our senior high school education keeps being shuffled between three and four years while those at the helm of affairs educate their wards in expensive private schools here and abroad. Our teachers spend the entirety of their lives shaping thousands of students in the classroom yet have nothing to their name when their career is done.
These are the pertinent issues that deserve the attention and detail heads of institutions give to maintaining a universal dress code and abiding by school rules. Whether a student sports dreadlocks or not in school should not be a matter of importance in the current educational plague we find ourselves in. We have coerced students in the past to conform but how has such contributed to changing our narratives about corruption?
It is great to know that the conversation on reviewing our educational system has been sparked. Discipline is important. While at it, let’s be certain we are not sacrificing the reason people want to be educated ― to make a change in society.
Kobina Ansah is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications ( www.scribecommltd.com ), an Accra-based writing firm. Connect with him on all social media platforms.