The Kenyan teen who was denied admission to high school at a local school has been admitted, after taking the school to the courts of public opinion and the law courts. The parents of the teenager sought legal address for their girl’s suspension from Form One at the Olympic High School.
The 15-year-old girl had only sat through just one geography and mathematics class before the school’s deputy headteacher sent her home for wearing dreadlocks. The girl comes from a family of Rastafarians, who wear long locks. The family claims Rastafarianism is as much a religion as Christianity, Muslim, Akorinos (local denomination), and Sikhs.
If members of the other religions are allowed to come to school with trademarks of their religion, why would a Rastafarian asked to cut his or her locks. Take, for instance, Muslim girls are allowed in public schools across Kenya to wear their hijab. So why would a Rastafarian be denied admission on the basis they refuse to cut their locks, which is synonymous with their religion?
How things played out in Courts
The girl’s father took to court the Olympic High School, Kenya’s Ministry of Education, and the Attorney-General. He claimed his daughter’s locks were not for fashion but a way of the family’s religion Rastafarianism.
“The petitioner, his wife, and five children are members of the Rastafarian Society of Kenya and ardent followers of the Rastafarian religion,” argued the family’s lawyer.
“Significant to their beliefs, the petitioner and his family keep dreadlocks, not as a fashion statement but as a clear boundary or distinction between them and non-rastas.”
The father further said that during filling out of the admission form, his daughter clearly indicated she was a member of the Rastafarian group.
“Unless this court moves with speed and orders unconditional return of the minor to class, her right to education, freedom from any form of discrimination, dignity, fair administrative action, religion and culture will continue being trampled on.
The minor is now at home feeling sorry to herself while her peers ware in school,” argued the lawyer.
When the school’s headteacher was approached by members of the press, he had the following to say:
“There are school rules. There is a dress code and hairstyle for the girls. We told her to go and bring her parents and then go and see the sub-county director.”
The school said the girl was only allowed back to school after shaving off her dreadlock.
Education Cabinet Secretary tells Olympic High to admit the Rastafarian girl
While addressing a section of local media, the Education CS Amina Mohamed said the Rastafarian girl “is entitled to education” and “should be allowed back to school.”
“It is not right to interpret to other how they are supposed to live.”
The CS further pointed out the fact that Muslim girls are allowed in public schools with their hijabs or headscarves. In 2016, the Appeal Court ruled that hijab-wearing was permitted since the Constitution provides for the freedom of religion and cultural practices while at the same time right to education. Learners are not supposed to be discriminated based on their religion.