School readmits learner  after long hair dispute

Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent

AUTHORITIES at Chogugudza Primary School in Domboshava have re-admitted a 12-year-old female pupil whom they barred from attending classes for having long hair.

The school head only identified as Mr T Phiri, had on January 9, 2024 barred the child from attending lessons because she had not cut her hair.

While many schools have quite strict rules for short hair for boys, most allow girls to have longer hair although most will insist that this is tied back or otherwise kept under control.

The child’s parents engaged lawyer Mr Kelvin Kabaya who on February 5 wrote a letter to the school authorities complaining about the child being denied entry into the school premises because of her religious beliefs which require her to have long hair.

In the letter, which was also copied to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Kabaya said attempts by the pupil’s parents to convince the school authorities to allow the child to attend lessons had been futile.

The school administrators insisted that the learner should shave her hair before she could be allowed to attend classes.

In the attempts to engage the school authorities, the parents specifically highlighted some pertinent issues stating that the pupil and her family were devout members of the African Apostolic Faith Mission church, and in terms of the doctrine of the church, female members must not shave their hair as a means of expressing their beliefs and religion, alone and together with other members of the church.

Mr Kabaya said the school authorities’ conduct of barring the pupil from attending her lessons was a clear violation of several of her constitutional rights, more particularly, the right to freedom of thought, opinion, religion and belief guaranteed in section 60(1)(a) of the Constitution, the freedom to practice and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others provided for in section 60(1)(b) of the Constitution.

The lawyer also said that the authorities had violated the pupil’s right to education guaranteed in section 75 of the Constitution and that her fundamental right not to be discriminated against by imposition of onerous terms and conditions and by being excluded or expelled from school, on the grounds of her opinion or religious belief as provided for under section 4(2)(b) of the Education Amendment Act, 2020 had also been breached.

Mr Kabaya then gave the school authorities a 24-hour ultimatum to admit the child back in school and to allow her to attend lessons in the ordinary manner, failure of which he would institute legal action against them.

After the delivery of the letter, the school authorities immediately allowed the pupil to attend lessons after Mr Phiri relented on his hard line stance.

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