The Achimota Judgment: Do away with discrimination against minorities in schools

Feature Article The Achimota Judgment: Do away with discrimination against minorities in schools
JUN 1, 2021 LISTEN

The Rastafarian student’s victory

I've observed the issue involving the Rastafarian students, Tyron Iras Marhguy and Oheneba Nkrabea, who were denied admission by the Achimota School because of their dreadlocks in March. First, was it necessary for the school to say and do what they did? I believe that every right-thinking Ghanaians will be in the cream of the crop position to answer this.

I'm glad that the Accra High Court Ruling was in favor of the Rastafarian students. Indeed, the status quo has been challenged. I applaud the teenager’s parent for not letting the issue die a premature death. They fought a good fight. This will enrich the jurisprudence of our country!

A Victory For The Right To Education

The order by the High Court for the School to admit the Rastafarian students is a victory for the Right to Education. “No child shall be deprived by any other person of medical treatment, education or any other social or economic benefit by reason only of religious or other beliefs”. This is emphatically enshrined in Article 28 (4), 1992 Constitution.

This judgment is good and progressive. Now, the governing board, and the headmistress of Achimota School have seen their level in the context of proper application of human rights law. I am happy these two Rastafarian students have won against the School which still wants to remain in the stone age. These boys, have effectively become our Rosa Parks and this judgment opens the gate for a bigger discourse that must be had.

Allow Ghanaian Girls To Keep Braided Hair In School

In Ghana, young girls, especially those in public Senior High Schools (SHS) do not braid their hair when attending school. This long-held practice is such that students who have braided their hair since infancy have to cut their hair before they enroll in any SHS. Much as education authorities might have a reason for insisting on this practice, I believe that many do not realise how traumatising it is for some girls to cut their long braided hair.

I have heard many arguments justifying the rule of cutting the hair. Rules like braiding hair in neat cornrows, backward and keeping it in a tight bun at the nape can be introduced and enforced so that there will be uniformity and decency.

Allow Muslims To Wear Their Hijab In School

Years ago, Muslim activism ensured that their women got the rights to wear the Hijab on campus. However, some educational institutions still treat these young girls as though they were not Ghanaian. Throughout my encounter with Muslim friends, I can say that on this part of the world, they're the loveliest and brainiest people you'll ever meet.

They should allow Muslim girls to wear their Hijab and stop forcing them to be at church services. What kind of bias is this? Why is no one screaming about that too? Article 17 (2) of the 1992 Constitution is unambiguous: “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.”

Moving forward, Article 21 (1) (C) further provides: “All persons shall have the right to – freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.” In SHS, I remember how Muslims were forced to be at church services and how they’re punished when they refused to be there. It's high time, we disentangled ourselves from the shackles of religious bigotry and division.

Ghana Is For All Of Us

If educational institutions that are supposed to be bastions of enlightenment fail to demonstrate sterling and enlightened decision-making, then Ghana will be doomed. What is education if it is not inclusive, encouraging and reason-oriented rather than focusing on what I believe is needless, like cutting the hair or not cutting the hair?

Let us move ahead in unison and synergy as a nation, and continue to strive to be better. Let us accept diversity and live in harmony with each other devoid of the differences in our religious beliefs. We are one people and must love each other as well as ensuring the supremacy of the Supreme law of the land.

The author, Bright Philip Donkor is a Student Journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). He's a Social Activist, Columnist and a Prolific Feature Writer.

Writer's email: [email protected]