Ma­tric fears fi­nal exam lock-out over dreads

Hair­style con­sid­ered ‘un­ac­cept­able’ by prin­ci­pal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

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.

yazeed.kamal­dien@inl.co.za

Melk­bosstrand High School.

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