‘SA school hair protests an op­por­tu­nity to fos­ter di­ver­sity’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

PRE­TO­RIA — The South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (SAHRC) says the re­cent protests at schools over black pupils’ hair should be used as an op­por­tu­nity to fos­ter di­ver­sity.

“The re­cent al­le­ga­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the schools con­cerned and for other schools to re­view their Codes of Con­duct to en­sure that they pro­tect the ba­sic rights of learn­ers, deepen un­der­stand­ing, and in­crease tol­er­ance, re­spect, and pro­tec­tion for all in the school com­mu­nity,” spokesper­son Alu­cia Sek­gath­ume said.

“Ideally, in a demo­cratic and open so­ci­ety, School Codes of Con­duct should en­able the ex­er­cise of di­ver­sity to the great­est pos­si­ble ex­tent. School Codes of Con­duct should prefer­ably in­clude pro­vi­sions that recog­nise our di­verse re­li­gious and cul­tural be­liefs and al­low for the ex­er­cise of all re­li­gions and cul­tures.”

The SAHRC’s com­ments come against the back­drop of the School Codes of Con­duct com­ing un­der the spot­light after pupils com­plained about racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion over their hair.

Learn­ers from Pre­to­ria High School for Girls started a chain re­ac­tion when they opened up about the abuse they al­legedly re­ceive from their teach­ers over their nat­u­ral hair and use of their mother tongue.

That re­sulted in Gaut­eng Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi in­ter­ven­ing and say­ing Codes of Con­duct would be re­viewed in the province.

Sek­gath­ume said Codes of Con­duct were im­por­tant mech­a­nisms through which schools could cre­ate a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment con­so­nant with con­sti­tu­tional val­ues, and should cater for rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tions of de­vi­a­tions on re­li­gious or cul­tural grounds.

“The Com­mis­sion notes al­le­ga­tions of dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment as re­gards lan­guage and hair­styles, and al­le­ga­tions of the use of deroga­tory and racist lan­guage against black learn­ers by both ed­u­ca­tors and fel­low pupils.

“The Com­mis­sion is of the view that schools are the pri­mary in­sti­tu­tions for the re­al­i­sa­tion of the right to ed­u­ca­tion for most learn­ers. They pro­vide a place of learn­ing, so­cial de­vel­op­ment and so­cial en­counter for chil­dren from var­i­ous eth­nic­i­ties, re­li­gions and back­grounds.

“Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, schools are also places where the ex­er­cise of au­thor­ity may ren­der cer­tain groups vul­ner­a­ble,” Sek­gath­ume said.

Sek­gath­ume added that schools have an obli­ga­tion to adopt rea­son­able mea­sures to avoid painful psy­cho­log­i­cal and, some­times, trau­matic im­pact on mi­nor learn­ers.

“In an open and demo­cratic so­ci­ety based on hu­man dig­nity, equal­ity, and free­dom, spe­cial pains must be taken by all ac­tors in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor to en­sure these val­ues and rights are pro­tected.

“The Com­mis­sion is of the view that it is in­cum­bent on prin­ci­pals, ed­u­ca­tors, School Govern­ing Bod­ies, and par­ents to pro­vide lead­er­ship in de­vel­op­ing a cul­ture of re­spect for ba­sic rights and val­ues at schools,” she said.

Sek­gath­ume said the re­cent al­le­ga­tions against Pre­to­ria High School for Girls and other schools could not be viewed in iso­la­tion. She said, glob­ally, re­li­gious and cul­tural in­tol­er­ance re­sulted in wide­spread vi­o­la­tions of ba­sic rights, man­i­fest­ing in con­flict and loss of life.

“Un­for­tu­nately, chil­dren are too of­ten the vic­tims of such con­flict. The Com­mis­sion con­sid­ers it most ur­gent and nec­es­sary that tol­er­ance for di­ver­sity be ac­tively pro­moted and en­cour­aged in chil­dren from a very young age.

“This can only be achieved if those who guide chil­dren through­out the de­vel­op­men­tal phase of child­hood are them­selves com­mit­ted to such a cul­ture of re­spect to be in a po­si­tion to cre­ate a healthy ba­sis for this growth through ex­am­ple,” she added.

Sek­gath­ume said the com­mis­sion would not be launch­ing its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter as the provin­cial depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion had al­ready started work.

“The Com­mis­sion pledges its sup­port to the process and looks for­ward to par­tic­i­pat­ing in the process as a key stake­holder tasked with up­hold­ing rights in the Bill of Rights.

“Given that the MEC’s in­ter­ven­tion is at an ad­vanced stage, and given that an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­tiga­tive team has been con­sti­tuted, the SAHRC does not in­tend to run a par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How­ever, the Com­mis­sion pledges its full sup­port and com­mit­ment to the Depart­ment’s probe, in line with our man­date,” she said. — Sapa

Iran has urged the Mus­lim world to unite and pun­ish Saudi Ara­bia as the bit­ter war of words between the two coun­tries es­ca­lates ahead of the an­nual Hajj pil­grim­age. On Mon­day, Ira­nian Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei crit­i­cised Saudi Ara­bia over how it runs Hajj after a stam­pede last year killed more than 750 peo­ple. He said Saudi au­thor­i­ties had “mur­dered” some of them, de­scrib­ing Saudi rulers as god­less and ir­re­li­gious. “This in­ci­dent proves once again that this cursed, evil fam­ily does not de­serve to man­age the holy sites,” Khamenei said. In re­sponse, Saudi Ara­bia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ab­du­laziz al-Sheikh said he was not sur­prised at Khamenei’s com­ments. Magi refers to Zoroas­tri­ans and those who wor­ship fire. Pre­dat­ing Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam, Zoroas­tri­an­ism was the dom­i­nant re­li­gion in Per­sia be­fore the Mus­lim con­quest. Cus­to­dian of Is­lam’s holi­est sites in Mecca and Me­d­ina, Saudi Ara­bia or­gan­ises the an­nual Hajj, one of the five pil­lars of Is­lam which ev­ery able-bod­ied Mus­lim who can af­ford to is obliged to un­der­take at least once in a life­time. Mil­lions of Mus­lims from around the world have al­ready ar­rived in Saudi for this year’s pil­grim­age, which cul­mi­nates on Sun­day. Al Jazeera

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