The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, on Saturday (August 1) issued a statement which noted that his administration was not in favour of any school rules that barred students with dreadlocks.
Holness made the comments on the heels of a supreme court ruling, which though not yet available in writing, seems to suggest that the rights of a 5-year-old girl where not breached when she was barred from attending a primary school in St Catherine due to her dreadlocks.
“While we await the written judgement to determine the basis of the ruling issued by our Supreme Court, which by media reports, have suggested that the child’s constitutional rights were not breached. This Government does not believe that there should be any law, which could be interpreted to deny access to a citizen merely on the basis of their hairstyle,” said Holness.
” We have, as a rights sensitive Government, always maintained that our children must not be discriminated against, nor deprived of their right to an education because of socio-economic issues – such [as] inability to afford the school fees, or socio-cultural issues such as their hairstyle,” added Holness in the statement.
Holness went on to note that the Ministry of Education had over the year’s asserted that schools’ grooming rules must be rights-based.
While it is unclear what rights-based means he noted that such rules could not prevent a student’s admission or attendance at a public educational institution by reason of non-conformity with a school rule prohibiting a particular hairstyle, in circumstances where the wearing of that hairstyle by the student is based on religious or health reasons.
“In the present context, this Government believes it is time to review and amend the Education Act to reflect a modern and culturally inclusive position that protects our children from being barred from any educational institution on the basis of wearing locs as an ordinary hairstyle irrespective of religious reasons,” said Holness.
“Acutely aware of the importance of this issue, especially in an era of great social and political change that is awakening our consciousness of who we are as a people,” added Holness.
The PM also used the occasion to wish Jamaicans a happy Emancipation Day.