The parents of a teenage girl who was suspended for wearing locks to school yesterday went to court to challenge the suspension.
The 15-year-old reported for From One at Olympic High School and had gone through her first geography and mathematics lessons on Thursday last week when she was summoned by the deputy headteacher and sent away for wearing locks.
She was yesterday accompanied to the school by her parents, who said they were members of the Rastafarian movement, wearing their trademark long locks, and Thirdway Alliance party leader, Ekuru Aukot.
“I do not understand why a public institution would discriminate against a child. There are Akorinos, Sikhs and Muslims who are allowed in school,” Dr Aukot said.
In his case against Olympic High School, the Education ministry and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, the girl’s father claimed that his daughter’s locks were not a fashion but a way of professing her Rastafarian faith.
His lawyer, Shadrack Wambui, told High Court Judge Pauline Nyamweya that the suspension had denied the girl her right to education. The court heard that the girl wore the locks throughout primary school.
“The petitioner, his wife and five children are members of the Rastafarian Society of Kenya and ardent followers of the Rastafarian religion. Significant to their beliefs, the petitioner and his family keep dreadlocks, not as a fashion statement but as a clear boundary or distinction between them and non-rastas,” argued the lawyer.
According to the man, his daughter reported to school on January 10 and indicated in her admission papers that she belonged to the Rastafarian group.
The principal of the school, who only identified himself as Waichiga, gave scanty information on the matter and said the case was being handled by the Kibra sub-county director of education.
“There are school rules. There is a dress code and hairstyle for the girls. We told her to go and bring her parents and then go and see the sub-county director,” the headteacher said.
The court heard that efforts by the parents to seek the intervention of the school’s management and the Kibera area education officer had failed.
“Unless this court moves with speed and orders unconditional return of the minor to class, her right to education, freedom from any form of discrimination, dignity, fair administrative action, religion and culture will continue being trampled on,” the lawyer said.
“The minor is now at home feeling sorry to herself while her peers are in school,” argued the lawyer.
He urged the court to find that dismissing her from class because she sported locks was a violation of her right not to be discriminated against based on her religion.
Justice Nyamweya ordered the parties to appear before Justice Chacha Mwita tomorrow.