BY Theodora Aidoo, 10:00am January 15, 2020,

Malawi high court orders government to allow dreadlocks in schools

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A high court in Malawi has ordered the country’s ministry of education to allow Rastafarian children with dreadlocks to enroll in public schools.

The court issued the order following an application sought by a pupil who wanted to be enrolled at Blantyre Girls Primary School but was denied due to her dreadlocks. The school had asked the 8-year-old Blantyre resident, Makeda Mbewe, to cut her hair.

According to Nyasa Times, an injunction granted by Judge Zione Ntaba at the High Court in Zomba orders the Attorney General, Ministry of Education, Education Division Manager (South) and the Headmaster of Blantyre Girls Primary School to allow the applicant to enroll as a pupil at the school.

In its order, the court said the child should be allowed to enroll at the school and extra classes should be given her to make up for the classes she lost.

“Ensure that the applicant is fully supported and not subjected to any hardships due to the injunction, otherwise the court shall hold the school authorities in contempt,” the order stated

Rastafarians in the country have, over the years, intensified their push for the government to lift its ban on students attending school wearing dreadlocks.

Rastafarians march to protest a ban on dreadlocks in primary schools, Lilongwe, Malawi. (Lameck Masina for VOA)
Pic Credit: Lameck Masina/ VOA

They argue it is unconstitutional to deny their children an education because of their religious practice, which calls for wearing their hair in that style, VOA reported.

Their push soon gained support from some legal experts. Even though there is no legislation on hair length or its appearance in Malawi, Rastafarians in the country were banned from wearing dreadlocks in public primary schools. They were told to remove the locks or risk being denied entry.

The Zomba High Court order means that Rasta children are now free to enroll in any government school of their choice, Makeda’s lawyer Chikondi Chijozi said.

Chijozi, who is the deputy director at Centre for Human Rights Advice Assistance and Education (CHREAA), said the organization received overwhelming complaints from the Rasta community who said their children were denied admission into government schools.

“Even though the court granted an injunction on the matter in 2018, the parents were turned back because the order only applied to that one case. So, most of the parents had to take their children to private schools and some of them had to cut their dreadlocks while some of them were not even going to school,” she said.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: January 15, 2020


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