Matric fears final exam lock-out over dreads
Hairstyle considered ‘unacceptable’ by principal
A MATRIC pupil at Melkbosstrand High School has allegedly been banned from writing his final exams at school because he braided dreadlocks into his hair.
In addition, the principal allegedly tried to prevent Jaden Erasmus, who lives in Atlantis, from attending his matric ball at the end of last term. He was also told he could no longer act as master of ceremonies at the school’s talent show.
School principal Daneil Ross was not available when Weekend Argus visited the premises this week and a secretary said: “they’re all in meetings until next week.”
The provincial education department has meanwhile said Erasmus will not be banned from writing his exams.
It all started when Erasmus decided on Heritage Day – September 24 – to have short dreadlocks braided into his hair.
“I wanted it for the matric ball,” he said.
But when he went to school after his weekend hairstyle change, the principal confronted him.
“The principal saw me and said I can’t come to the school ever again with ‘that hairstyle’. I had to go to the deputy principal’s (Tjaart du Plessis) office. He said my hairstyle was not acceptable,” said Erasmus.
He said when he asked the deputy principal how his hair had any influence on his school work, “he told me I knew I’d done the wrong thing”.
Erasmus added: “There are other boys at school with long fringes, dyed hair and even piercings, but they don’t get called into the office. I feel like this is discrimination against me.
“I sat in the office thinking what will happen now. I wanted this hairstyle for my matric ball that was going to be on the Friday night.”
Erasmus was sent home and could not go to the talent show the next night. When he told his mother, Henrietta Erasmus, about the situation, she went immediately to the school to talk to the principal.
“I wanted to know how they could punish someone like this. Where’s the governing body? They didn’t even tell his parents about it first. We were not given anything in writing,” she said.
“I wanted to see the principal but he was in a meeting. He’s always too busy to see parents. The deputy principal phoned me later that day and said Jaden’s hair does not look ‘nice’.”
She then went to the school’s district officer, who apparently said she would call the principal. The officer later confirmed speaking to him.
Erasmus went to his matric ball later that week as he had already spent R1 000 on the tickets to the event, and thought the matter had been resolved.
When he returned to school for the start of the new term earlier this week, however, he was again reprimanded for having dreadlocks.
“One of the teachers called me out of class and told me to sort out my hair. They want me to cut my hair,” said Erasmus.
“I like my hairstyle and it cost a lot of money to get it. Why should I cut it off ?
“I went back to the office of the deputy principal. He told me: ‘Oh, I thought this problem was already sorted out.’
“I had to sit in the library waiting for my parents to fetch me.”
Henriettta said:When I went to the school to fetch my son, the principal just walked past me. I felt so unwelcome at the school. They think nothing of us.
“We met the deputy principal and he said our son’s hair is unnatural. We said there are other boys at the school with long hair.
“He then said Jaden must write his matric exams in a separate room or at another school.”
The pupil said he was extremely stressed.
“I will feel nervous or maybe uncomfortable because I’m not used to that place.”
Provincial education department spokeswoman Jessica Shelver confirmed yesterday that the “learner has not been denied access to (write) the exams”.
She said the department had contacted the school, which said Erasmus had agreed to “remove the dreadlocks”. The pupil denied this. Shelver said the school was also “busy with a consultative process of reviewing its code of conduct”.
“Currently, there is nothing in the school’s code of conduct around braided hairstyles,” she said.
Karam Singh, provincial manager for the SA Human Rights Commission, said that while they had not investigated the matter, the “actions of the school would appear to be unlawful”.
“This would appear to be a violation of the learner’s right to education. The learner has his right to lodge a complaint with the commission if he wishes the SAHRC to investigate the matter,” said Singh.
Melkbosstrand High School.