Professor George K. T. Oduro, a former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, says management of Achimota Senior High School did not infringe on the religious rights of Rastafarian students who were asked to trim their fair.
He said the School only ensured that the students complied with its rules and regulations regarding dress code, specifically, hairstyle.
“Insisting that the students removed their dreadlock and trimmed their hair to fit the School’s identity is no discrimination and should not be construed as suppression of minority rights of the students,” he said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency.
He advised that playing the religious card on the hairstyle issue at the Achimota School should be stopped, saying, issues indexed to religion, only aroused emotions and shrouded objectivity.
Prof. Oduro argued that dreadlock was not a monopoly of Rastafarianism, saying: “I have read Martin Daubney’s 2016 article titled, ‘The Hairstyle Truth, Dreadlocks Don’t Belong to One Culture’ and this is explicitly the case.”
Prof. Oduro explained that Rastafarianism did not depend on dreadlocks and that with or without it, one could still practice the religion.
“My search suggests strongly that dreadlocks provide an identity to Rastafarianism but Rastafarianism doesn’t depend on the wearing of dreadlocks. The literature suggests that Marcus Garvey and Emperor Haile Selassie were both very committed Rastafarians but neither of them wore dreadlocks.
“…We should also not forget that some young people wear dreadlocks just for fun or to attract attention.”
Prof. Oduro, who is also an Educational Leadership Scholar, said he did not think that the management of the Achimota Senior High needed to be put under pressure to admit the two students with their dreadlocks on.
“Every school has an identity which helps to distinguish its students from students of other schools. Because of this, what the authorities of Achimota School did was not wrong at all. They never said they were not going to admit the students based on their religion. They were only enforcing the hairstyle rules of the school,” he emphasized.
He noted that comparing Western culture as a benchmark for determining values for young Ghanaians at the pre-tertiary level was inappropriate.
“I acknowledge that in some advanced countries students wear any dress that pleases them to school. But, let’s note that every country has its own culture that defines the identity of its citizens. At the centre of the culture of most Western countries is individualism, so individual values supersede that of communal values. In our part of the world, however, we cherish communal values. Whatever you do as an individual has implications for the community or the society,” he said.
The Educational Leadership Scholar said his observations notwithstanding, students with peculiar needs linked to ill health or any other need could negotiate with the management of the school for concession, instead of taking it from a human rights angle.
“Maybe if the parents of these Rastafarian students had taken the negotiation approach, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion”.