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Opinions of Thursday, 25 March 2021

Columnist: Kofi Pratt

The Achimota school saga: My take Part two

Folks ! The fact of Ephraim Amu’s appointment as a teacher in Achimota School cannot be used against him in the current situation. In fact it is rather a feather in his cup. It is acknowledgment, that Achimota School has been very accommodating and tolerant.

A lot of people do not even know the history of Achimota school which was set up as a mission school by the ECM and the colonial administration. It’s original name was Prince of Wales College and School.

It quickly accepted Nkrumah’s call for “ African Personality and Identity.” it was the first school to allow the use of Kente and African traditional wear for all official functions including church service. While other School like Mfantsipim etc stuck to white European suits with tie.

While other schools were using the red, green and blue “check materials, Achimota school introduced the Ghana cloth or “Dumas” and later Akosombo textile prints.

It introduced drumming and flute in school functions and music curriculum. Who said, cutting your hair is demeaning and a colonial design to restrict your thinking? Even before the white men came, in African royalty, you have to cut your hair to look decent. A King has a Royal barber to ensure that before any state function, he was clean shaving. Kindly point me to one Ashanti King who had bushy hair and wore a long beard.

Was that forced by colonialism too? What about the women in royalty? They cut their hair with dignity called “ Dansinkran” to look beautiful and majestic. Cutting your hair has never been associated with dehumanising in the African culture. In Ewe land, our mothers and royalty cut their hair very low. We call it 'Davi'. Is it dehumanising to our ladies?

Does the woman of valour, Dr. Joyce Aryee look dehumanised to you? The president of the Rastafarian Council argued that if you decide to join the army, the white colonialist used shaving your hair to reduce you to size. Whose size? In the army all races including Caucasians and Arabs cut their hair.

It was never limited to the colonial territory or to the black man joining a colonial army. Also even Generals and Field Marshalls of the armed forces cut their hair as part of the “ espirit du corps” so is it the argument that a black soldier is “reduced” to the same size as his colonial master, or that the new RECRUIT is reduced to the size of his GENERAL? I don’t get it.

Yesterday, I saw a renowned journalists and TV presenter, Mr Benard Avle, castigating Achimota school while he was dressed in a caricature western style two piece suit (trouser and vest) with tie. It was shameful. He did not even attempt to hide his love of European colonial clothing.

Please note. Achimota school is not denying the child's education based on hair. It is rather offering the child education. Achimota School has a policy that ALL STUDENTS, with bushy hair must cut it. It is to ALL STUDENTS. Irrespective of religion creed or colour. The student was being asked to be a student like all other students. Not a special student. The directive is to EVERY STUDENT. Where is the discrimination in that?

We beam with smiles when we refer to Achimota school as having produce Nkrumah, Victor Gbeho, Kofi Annan, Jerry Rawlings, Sir Dauda Jawara ( firmer Gambian President) Robert Mugabe ( Former Zimbabwean president) and many more. These people became great and contributed enormously to society, not by fighting the rules of Achimota school that taught them discipline and tolerance but by being obedient and respectful students of the school and its rules.

The rules and traditions of the school that have attracted many many people to put Achimota as their first choice including the father of the Rastafarian students.

Others cite the example of Citizen Boakye-Djan, who was recognised as an African Traditionsl Ancestral worshipper in the 1960s by Achimota School and exempted from attending church service, as a precedent and justification to admit a student with dreadlocks. Citizen Boakye-Djan was recognised as such and exempted from attending church service.

He was not built a shrine to practise his religion. He was also not allowed to wear the “Okomfo“ mat or hay skirt around his waist, with bare chest adorned with curries and beads, face painted half in white and the other half in blood red, holding “bodua” and mpesempese hair barefooted to attend classes or roam the compound.

Is it not absurd, that Muslims fight to enter the United Kingdom because it is a tolerant society then once accepted make demands that pork meals and the British favourite bacon and sausages must be removed from the menu of all schools, not only for Muslims but for every other student. Same way Muslims travel to western countries because they have a fair and just legal systems that do not oppress but as soon as they are settled in, demand that they should be given the right to impose Sharia law and introduce Sharia courts, not only for themselves but also for all other nationals and religions who live in the same area?

By the way, when did Rastafarianism and dreadlocks become an African traditional religion and culture? Until Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff the only other African I saw with dreadlocks was Emperor Haile Salasie of Ethiopia. Bob Marley only grew dreadlocks after the age of twenty six.

He had no dreadlocks when he was a student, yet became the biggest apostle of Rastafarianism. The “empesempese” hair style usually associated with African traditional religion and traditional priest and their children is not the same as the dreadlocks which has not become a symbol of any religion, but a fashion accessory for women and a few men mainly from the diaspora and localised Rastafari does not represent the African Identity. Even if we accept that Rastafari is a religion, is this a racial issue? Is Rastafarianism African? No it’s global.

That is why we have Caucasian Rastas, Asian Rastas, American Rastas, Chinese Tadtas and many more. Why are we equating dreadlocks to racism when in their own evidence, they produce Caucasians with dreadlocks?

The height of hypocrisy is the call by groups such as Muslims and Rastas that Muslim girls attending public schools including mission school must be allowed to wear the hijab. But turn round to deny same to Christian girl and non Muslim girls attending good Islamic schools. They insist rather conversely that ALL GIRLS IRRESPECTIVE OF RELIGION MUST WEAR THE HIJAB to Muslim schools.

Double standards cannot even begin to describe this attitude. Would a Christian be allowed to wear a cross as part of his dressing accessories in any Islamic institution?

It is not Achimota school that is denying the child an education. They have already offered the child a place. It is the father of the child and the Rastafarian community in Ghana denying the child education at Achimota school by refusing to obey the school rules of Achimota and rather attempting to use the situation in a boring round about way, selfishly to try and promote their religion and themselves. In any case, in Jamaica, the home and manufacturing country of dreadlocks, every High Court challenge to a school’s right to ban students with dreadlocks has failed.

So if the child were bald, would he not be a Rastafari? The child is not even 18 years old to decide what religion he wants to follow if any at all. Please leave your egos out. Allow the child to be a child. Let him get an education at arguably one of the best educational institutions in Ghana. After that when he is an adult, he will decide what he wants. He can grow his hair in any way shape or form as an adult with discernable choice. And not live his parents dream.

I submit that forcing the child to keep the dreadlocks to please his father and the dreadlocks Community and denying him education because of that, is child abuse. The authorities should sanction the parents and all others who have jumped on the bandwagon including vote and attention seeking MPs.

In all this, there is a child in the middle of it. It is the child’s interests and education that must be paramount. Not what hair his father wants him to wear.

Please do not consider Ghana as a soft spot. You chose Achimota. ACHIMOTA DID NOT CHOOSE YOU. RESPECT WHAT YOU CHOSE.

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