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General News of Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Achimota School Rastafarian students saga: Who has said what so far?

What has now become known as the Achimota School Rastafarian saga started late last week with a social media post from a father whose son had been denied admission into a Senior High School because he had dreadlocks.

Since Raswad Mankrabea, an affected parent made his Facebook post, the issue involving one of Ghana’s oldest schools has generated lots of reactions – some in support of and others against the school’s refusal to admit the students.

The issue has gone from the school level to the Education Service and back. It has made the rounds in human rights and child rights spaces and to Parliament. There is currently a strong possibility that it is heading for the courts.

This GhanaWeb article looks back at major developments and pronouncements on the matter since Mr. Mankrabea’s post went up on March 19.

Post by Raswad Mankrabea

Mr Menkrabea’s March 19 post alleged that authorities of Achimota School rejected his dreadlocked son with claims that ‘their rules do not allow students with dreadlocks to be admitted.’

He added that his son together with another boy were rejected despite having been posted to the school by the Computer Placement System this year.

“The school authorities denied two brilliant dreadlock students from being admitted after having been posted there by the Computer School Placement System.

“My son was one of the affected children and the other student was also refused on the same grounds. We have no option but to battle against this gross human right violation,” parts of his post read.



GES DG’s directive to school

Amid the media and social media controversy, the Ghana Education Service, GES, through its Director-General, Prof Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, commented on the matter saying the embattled students would be given admission to Achimota School on Monday, March 22, 2021.

According to the DG, no school can deny a student on the basis of their religion. He however added that the school can only urge the students to tie their hair neatly when coming to school.

“We have directed Achimota School Headmistress to admit the students. The student is a Rastafarian and if there is evidence to show that he is, all that he needs to do is tie the hair neatly,” the GES boss told the national daily.

“So 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,” Prof. Opoku-Amankwa stressed.



On March 22, the school refused to admit the said students and reports emerged that the GES had backtracked on its order for admission to be granted. Lawyer for the Rastafarian community, Ras Tetteh Wayo called the GES’ failed mediation “a façade and a fluke.”

He told the media that the GES had taken the side of the Achimota headmistress during a meeting meant to mediate the crisis.

“It was just to deceive the citizens of this country to believe that the GES is going to restore peace. So Ghana should be aware of how the matter has now unfolded and at this meeting, GES supported the position of Achimota headmistress,” he added.

NAGRAT, GNAT stand by school

Earlier this week, the National Association of Graduate Teachers, NAGRAT, weighed in on the issue calling on GES to withdraw its order to Achimota School.

NAGRAT President Angel Carbonu speaking at a press conference in Accra emphasized that the school had the power to enforce its own rules. He argued further that the school was not a fashion environment and that it required uniformity as part of the training process.

“We are calling on the Ghana Education Service to redirect the headmistress and the staff of Achimota Senior high School to ensure that the rules and regulations of Achimota Senior High School and indeed any other senior high school is abided by every student.

“The school is not a fashion environment. The school is not an environment to exhibit one’s religious beliefs. The school is an environment for training and conformity is part of training. And we expect every student to abide by the rules of the school,” he said.

He challenged aggrieved parties to approach the courts with the issue: “Any court case that will rise from this matter, NAGRAT will attach itself as an interested party in that court case because it will not serve our interest to limit this to rasta.

“The issues have to be expanded to encompass the adherence to rules and regulations in senior high schools. And if the senior high schools do not have the right to make the laws, rules and regulations for their students let the court so rule and if that happens we will also come to the society and let you know how we are going to apprise our selves to that court rule,” Carbonu added.

A day after, the Ghana National Association of Teachers, GNAT, backed the NAGRAT statement by asking that school rules be enforced.

General Secretary of GNAT, Thomas Musa, in a radio interview said the school cannot make exceptions for the Rastafarians.

“There are rules governing things happening in schools and we should be mindful that anytime anyone has a challenge, they should come forward with evidence. The school has a dress code.

"In those days we had Achimota sandals and irrespective of where you’re coming from you’re supposed to wear it. So long as you’re entering that environment, you don’t go and practice what you think, feel or believe.

“The school has rules and if for any reason you think your child has a peculiar condition, go and discuss it with the school authorities.”



School gets PTA, Old Students backing

The Old Students Association of Achimota School, AKORA, and the Parent Teacher Association, PTA, in separate statements also pledged support for the school amid the back and forth.

AKORA President Professor Ernest Aryeetey said in a statement: “Even though the practice of GES officials issuing directives to schools is fairly common in Ghana, the current situation is probably the clearest example of significant breach in the formal arrangements for school governance and regulation.

“We are concerned about the action taken by the Director-General and have therefore requested that he rescinds the directive and allows the Governing Board to handle the matter.”

The PTA Chairperson, Dr. Andre Kwasi-Kumah, also told an Accra-based radio station: “Relaxing the rules for the Rastafarian students would open the floodgates for chaos…

“Then you might as well allow all religions that express their religious views in their hair to come on board, all the ladies will be growing their hair, and the boys will grow facial hairs and it would be a distraction to the conformity and the reason why they are there,” Kwasi-Kumah said.

Rastafarian Council of Ghana speaks

The Rastafarian Council of Ghana weighing in on the matter said last week that it was considering going to the Supreme Court for interpretation on laws that prevent senior high schools from admitting students with dreadlocks.

Administrator for the Council, Kofi Asante, in an interview with Akoma FM explained that “the Council has taken exception to what has been happening to our children with dreadlocks who seek to further their education in various senior high schools across the country. Why must we deny a child access to education because of his or her identity?

"We have already petitioned the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education, by Monday or Tuesday if we don’t hear from them we will resort to the Supreme Court for further and better interpretation on whether students must cut their dreadlocks or not.”

For now, the students remain out of school as their parents continue to weigh options on the way forward. The Mankrabea and Marhguy families continue to protest the decision.

Whether or not Mankrabea will go beyond the online petition calling for change to the regulations and proceed to court on the matter remains to be seen.

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