One of the trending topics in Ghana over the past three weeks is the rejection of two Rastafarian students by Achimota School because they have dreadlocks.
The students, Tyrone Marhguy and Oheneba Kwaku Nkrabea, were placed at Achimota School through the Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) having satisfied the entry requirement by creditably passing their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
However, authorities at Achimota denied them admission because they had dreadlocks (which the students attribute to their belief), asking them to cut their hair before their admission status can formally be guaranteed.
Nikita and Amrita, who are triplet sisters of Tyrone Marhguy, are also facing a similar situation at St. John’s Grammar School also because of their dreadlocks.
Their parents who are unhappy about Achimota’s stand have indicated that they will seek justice for their wards in court.
With that yet to happen, there are have been similar cases in four African countries in the past, and the affected persons had ruling of the court in their favour.
Here are four African countries where dreadlocks have been approved by courts:
In 2013, five men of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU), a union of law officers, were dismissed for wearing dreadlocks. E.J. Lebatlang, T.R. Ngqula, L.T. Kamlana, C. Jacobs and M.W. Khubheka were accused of maintaining an unprofessional appearance while on duty, in contravention of the Department of Correctional Services’ dress code.
But the South African Supreme Court judged that “a policy is not justified if it restricts a practice of religious belief – and by necessary extension, a cultural belief that does not affect an employee’s ability to perform his duties.” The five men were then re-admitted to their positions in the service and were compensated.
The ruling constituted a landmark call for the right to wear dreadlocks anywhere in South Africa.
A high court in Malawi ruled last year that a student, Makeda Mbewe, was unjustifiably dismissed from school for wearing dreadlocks. The court issued the order following an application sought on behalf of Mbewe who wanted to be enrolled at Blantyre Girls Primary School. She was prevented on the grounds of improper appearance.
The court order in a statement directed to Malawi’s Attorney General, Ministry of Education and the school read: “Ensure that the applicant is fully supported and not subjected to any hardship due to the injunction, otherwise the court shall hold the school authorities in contempt.”
The Kenyan ruling on a 15-year-old student’s suspension from school pending the shaving of her dreadlocks essentially declared Rastafarianism a religion in the country.
Makeda Ndinda was asked to choose between her hair and books by her school. She suggested to wrap it but was told that privilege was only given to Muslim students. When she insisted that she would like to uphold the tenets of her faith, Ndinda was sent packing from the Olympic High School in Kibera.
However, Kenya’s Supreme Court asked that Ndinda was taken back and not discriminated against on the basis of her religion.
Six-year-old Farai Dzvova was sacked from the Ruvheneko Government Primary School in 2007 for the hairstyle he kept. Dzvova’s parents sued the school and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Education for discriminating against their ward.
But a unanimous decision by the Zimbabwean Supreme Court meant that Dzvova could go back to school with his dreadlocks.
Will the Ghanaian Rastafarian kids also have the ruling in their favour when their parents eventually take the case to court?