The headmaster only identified as R Sibanda of Masiyephambili Junior School in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city on Tuesday barred Mbalenhle Dube, a four year old boy from attending Grade Zero lessons at the school because of his hairstyle.
Mbalenhle was admitted by the school for the 2012 Grade Zero class and his father Khumbulani Dube paid the necessary school fees, and purchased uniforms and books in preparation for his son’s studies.
But Dube whose son and family belong to the Rastafarian religion was surprised when school authorities barred his son from attending class when schools opened for the first term on Tuesday.
Dube has now engaged the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to challenge the violation of the child’s freedom of conscience and religion.
We hasten to advise you that our client and his family belong to the Rastafarian religion, a religion constitutionally protected like any other religions in Zimbabwe. Your actions are thus in violation of our client’s son’s right under Section 19 of the Constitution whose provision gives the right to protection of freedom of conscience and religion. The issue of this nature has been put to rest by the Supreme Court of the country and your actions are a clear violation of the
Zimbabwean law,” reads part of a letter written to the school headmaster by Lizwe Jamela, the ZLHR senior projects lawyer.
Jamela reminded the school authorities that the Supreme Court has already judged that schools cannot violate students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.
“I hope you agree with us that having long hair at the school is not indiscipline or disobedience to the school staff. In this instance it is only a manifestation of a religious belief and is not related to the child’s conduct. We also believe that your actions do not only violate the constitution but Section 4 of the Education Act which provides for children’s fundamental right to education in Zimbabwe.
Jamela asked the headmaster to reinstate Mbalenhle failure of which he would approach the court for recourse.
“We believe that your actions were a genuine mistake on your part and we are under instructions to demand as we hereby do that you immediately allow our client’s child to attend class with the rest of the pupils in his class upon finishing reading this letter. We hope this matter will not end up spilling in courts as it is an issue already dealt with by the courts; however failure to comply will leave us with no option but to approach the courts.
In 2007, the Supreme Court passed a landmark ruling barring school authorities from expelling deadlocked students from learning institutions on grounds of their hairstyles. This was after ZLHR
petitioned the highest court in the land representing a six-year-old Glen Norah boy, Farai Benjamin Dzvova, who hailed from a Rastafarian family and was barred from Ruvheneko government primary school on account of his hairstyle in 2006.