Monday, 2 June 2014

A Hair Principle

Recently, a fourth form male student at Kingston Technical High School was prevented from doing
his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination because the school authorities
were of the opinion that his hair was too “high”. While I am support the notion that students should
obey the rules of their respective educational institutions I strongly believe that in this instance the
punishment outweighs the crime. I am very much aware of the challenges many of our schools
undergo daily in trying to get students to adhere to the regulations, however, there comes a time
when good sense and one’s initiative should prevail when dealing with youngsters.

It is most unacceptable that a few minutes before this young man was to sit his examination he was
told by senior managers at the school that his hair was too and that he had the option to go and get
a haircut and return to sit the examination. We all have been through examinations and we all know
how nervous and tense one can be prior and during examinations. A better solution would have
been for the school authorities to get a pair of scissors and cut off some of the youngster hair and
allow him to sit his examination. Had this been done we would not be having this discussion.

As a result of the actions of the school a number of questions are left to be answered. Among them are who will pay the entry and examination fee for this young man to sit the examination next year?
Was his right to an education breached in terms of denying him access to sit this external examination? What exactly does too ‘high’ means regarding his hair? Who set this too high hair rule?  What if any is the role of the Ministry of Education regarding the hair cut/height of male students? Would a Rastafarian student be told the same thing? Would a female student be treated in a similar manner?
What if this young man was from a prominent family would he have been told the same thing or
would some allowance be made for him to sit the examination? What message are we sending to our students when we are so rigid on one hand while denying our students access to an education. Interestingly, Jamaica is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child which clearly state that every child has a right to an education which includes access, therefore influencing a student not to sit an examination is an infringement on the Rights of the Child.
No one is arguing that schools should turn a blind eye to students breaking school rules, however, it
how we approach and handle such incidents which speak volume and which set us apart in terms of
being good managers and role models.

Clearly, the Office of the Children’s Advocate needs to further examine this matter.  This is certainly
not the way we should end Childs Month 2014.

“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy” –St Matthew chapter 5 verse 7.

Wayne Campbell