Hair we go again!Tuesday, June 22, 2021
It is hard to comprehend that in 2021 educators are still fixated with the idea of policing students' hairstyles within the classroom.
Is it to be understood that the length of one's hair is a barrier to learning or to sitting an exam? I must be missing something here.
I am not advocating that rules made by schools for discipline and uniformity should be flouted or disregarded; however, rules that seek to discriminate ought not be disguised under the veil of conformity.
In 2010 I was a victim of this discriminatory practice of being asked to cut my hair just minutes before the start of my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate mathematics examination at a prominent all-male high school in the Corporate Area. I recall feeling vulnerable, nervous, and desperately trying to retain a variety of equations, while the principal in all his wisdom enquired about my hairstyle.
A group of us were marched to the principal's office and given strict orders to have our hair groomed as soon as possible, lest we could not sit our external exams. I was most distraught as I watched some of my Caucasian, Indian, and Chinese peers with long, straight hair begin their exams without any enquiries.
The obsessive regulating of hairstyles in school is, in my view, a backward way of thinking. Perhaps, the problem lies in our perception of what texture of hair is considered to be acceptable in society. Many people have been socialised from an early age that straight hair is considered to be “good hair” and that Negro hair must be physically or chemically altered to make it acceptable. Girls at an early age are given dolls with long, straight hair and, very often, these dolls are light-skinned. I have even heard women say that they want an Indian, white or Chinese man for the sole purpose of their child being born with “pretty hair”.
It is abhorrent that our educators would promote an ignorant way of thinking, but it is precisely what they are doing by the current regulations. A person's hair forms a part of their identity. It defines who we are as people and, for many, offers a sense of beauty and crowning glory. We are reminded of the story of Samson, where it was revealed that the source of his strength came from his hair. We all know what happened next.
Section 13(3)(i) of the Constitution of Jamaica provides that every citizen of Jamaica has the right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of race. Do we not derive the texture of our hair from our particular race? It would seem to me that for educators to ask students of African descent to cut or otherwise change the natural appearance of their hair while the Caucasians, Chinese and Indians are left undisturbed is racial discrimination.
It is against this background that I applaud the Ministry of Education for their recent intervention issuing a warning to the ill-advised approach of shutting out students from school and barring students from sitting their exams because of their hair. The Ministry of Education needs to do more than just warn educators, but put in place a clear policy in regards to the limitations on schools in regulating hairstyles.
The heavy-handed approach of leadership is misguided and has no place in a post-colonial society like Jamaica. Educators should focus on what is important and not major in the minors.
Stop the brainwashing of our children. It is time to break away from the Eurocentric standard of what is considered acceptable or beautiful. So, please, educators, just hair me out.
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