WINDHOEK – The Namibia National Student’s Organisation (Nanso) has written a letter to the acting education minister Martin Andjaba seeking clarity on increasing incidents of beating of learners for refusing to trim their hair.
The 16th Nanso Elective Congress held in December, resolute that the National Executive Committee advocate for the end of the arbitrarily banishing of learners from schools because they refuse to trim their hair.
Many schools-both in rural and urban demand that learners should cut off their hair-refusal to do so result in them being sent home.
Last year October, a group of Mariental High School boys had a rude awakening when they were forcibly shaved off their funky hairstyles.
Police arrived at the school and shaved off their hairstyles-apparently at the request of learners’ parents.
Nanso says there is no concrete evidence the reformation of such hair policies would not lead to unnecessary disruption in learning environments as contented by critics.
They say its more disruptive, not just to the child’s education but of all the children’s education, to pull that child out, and have them harassed and denied access to the classroom until their hair is cut.
In pursuit of the above congress resolution, Nanso this week wrote a letter to Andjaba as instructed by its highest decision-making body.
Instead, they suggest that it stipulates that learners style their hair neatly.
Nanso leadership threatened if they do not get a positive response from the minister’s office by the 5th February at 17h00, they will be forced to exercise their constitutional right and launch an urgent application to the High Court to declare such a practice unlawful.
Andjaba was unavailable for comment, while education ministry acting spokesperson Absalom Absalom said he was unaware of the said letter.
Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp was also not available yesterday.
“Honourable minister, as the only legitimate and recognised student movement, we on behalf of our constituency reject to the highest level such oppressive rules which impede the right of the Namibian child to education, and the opportunity to end the cycle of poverty in their families,” Nanso secretary for legal affairs, Ester Shitana wrote.
She said the schools’ arbitrary action is in direct violation of learners’ rights amongst others their right to education, human dignity, freedom of expression and constitute the crime of assault; which are all jealously protected by the Namibia Constitution, Child Care and Protection Act and Human Rights instruments.
In fact, Shitana opined there is no provision in the law that empowers schools to send a child home, away from school or exclude them from their lessons unless the learner has been lawfully suspended.
“We cannot deny the fact that hair is intrinsic to each individual and to their identity. Some even regard it as their crowning glory. Taking away learners’ option as to whether or not to keep it, is in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression and personal autonomy,” she stated.
Nanso leadership said they are fully aware that schools have the right to craft school rules, codes of conduct and policies.
However, they feel those instruments are subject to the provisions of the Namibia Constitution, which is the supreme law of Namibia as per Article 1(6).
Thus, Shitana noted all secondary laws are subject to the constitution and if they are found to be in conflict with any provision within it, they are deemed unlawful. Nanso stressed the schools’ action is an outright violation of learners’ articles 20(1), 8 and 21(1) rights.
Ultimately, she maintained school codes of conduct must celebrate diversity and be conscious of their potential to exclude, particularly in relation to hair, but also more comprehensively.
Nanso, therefore, appeals to Andjaba to take strong action against this oppressive rule.
The student body specifically urged the minister to send a directive to all schools to stop banishing learners from school until they cut their hair, but most importantly that no school rule or hair policy should require that a learner cut off their hair.
2020-02-03 07:25:45 | 18 days ago