The Ghana Education Service (GES) has lost a battle of wits with the adamant headmistress of the Achimota High School, Ms. Joyce Rhodaline Addo, over her refusal to admit two dreadlocked students on accounts of their hair.
In a stance reminiscent of the brutal colonial crackdown on African hair types, the headmistress had stood her ground not to admit the teenagers who had been posted to her school by the automatic computer placement system.
The headmistress will not budge, even when the GES had explicitly directed the school to admit the students because they are keeping their hair on religious grounds.
In an interview with state-owned Daily Graphic, the GES Director-General ordered Achimota, a public school under the GES to admit the teenagers, saying: “We have asked her [headmistress] to admit the students. The student is a Rastafarian and if there is evidence to show that he is Rastafarian, all that he needs to do is to tie the hair neatly,” the GES boss, Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, told the Daily Graphic.
“…You cannot say that you will not admit someone on the basis of the person’s religious beliefs and so, we have asked the head to allow the children to be in the school,” the Director-General stated.
But today, when the parents of the students went to meet up with the Achimota school authorities, the headmistress flatly refused to abide by the GES order. “The Headmistress of the school blatantly refused to respect the decision of the GES…GES now surprisingly also feels the mind of the headmistress cannot be changed,” Ras Aswad Nkrabea, a distraught father of one of the rejected students wrote on his social media page.
He has promised to pursue all legal means to challenge the recalcitrant headmistress. “We have consulted our lawyers and appropriate action will be taken in just few days…We have just begun and it is going to be an interesting time as we will not allow injustice to happen. It is unfortunate that authorities of Achimot will sink this low,” Ras Nkrabea warned.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) has waded into the controversy, calling the GES to reverse its directive to Achimota School.
Speaking at a press briefing, the President of NAGRAT, Angel Carbonu said that the directive from GES to Achimota School threatens conformity and discipline in schools.
“We are calling on the Ghana Education Service to redirect the Headmistress and the staff of Achimota Senior High School (SHS) to ensure that the rules and regulations of Achimota SHS and indeed any other Senior High School is abided by every student.”
“As a Rastafarian, I think that dreadlocks do no way cause any harm which should even be a basis to be asserted by the school authorities. The fundamental question is what does our law say about the right to one’s culture? Do you deny a child access to education based on his/her culture? Do public school rules override the supreme law of the land?” Ras Aswad Nkrabea wrote.
Ghanaian social media has gone agog since the issue broke, with wildly divergent opinions.
The former Member of Parliament of Kumbungu Constituency Ras Mubarak has expressed his exasperation over the news, saying it was a bold-faced breach of Ghana’s 1992 constitution.
“The provisions of our constitution are clear, No child shall be deprived by any other person of medical treatment, EDUCATION or any other social or economic benefit by reason only of religious or other beliefs,” Ras Mubarak wrote on his Facebook.
Meanwhile, Accra Academy, a school with a similar prestigious status as the Achimota School has taken a dig at the school for its refusal to admit students whose religion and culture required them to grow their hair in locks.
An alumni group of Accra Academy fired some jabs the way of Achimota by extolling non-discriminatory policy, unlike that of Achimota. “An Academy built for everyone. Non-discriminatory, not a school built by colonialists that continue to reinforce colonial narratives. A school that teaches you your identity. A proper school like Accra Academy” wrote the alumni group on Facebook. They have the name: The 1931 James Town Boys-Accra Academy.