Monday, 15 September 2014

Why Do Our Schools Hate Dreadlocks So Much?


In the last year or so a couple of stories have hit the US media about children being discriminated against for their natural hair at school by the school administration. Naturally (to pun or not to pun), the international hair community was up in arms about the developments, often forcing the schools to retract their statements and issue more PC school policies.

Closer to home, this seems to be a problem being increasingly faced by parents as more and more embrace the natural lifestyle and encourage their kids to wear chemical-free hair. While natural hair in a young person wouldn't raise an eyebrow as it is the mot du jour (that's order of the day for those who failed French like moi), it seems, however, that many schools are taking issue with the growing number of dreadlocked students. 

I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning about a well-known IGCSE school in Nairobi which is being sued by a parent of the school for sending their son home from school until he cuts off his dreadlocks. It appears the student at hand actually had been attending the school in all his dreadlocked glory for a number of years before the school administration took affront. 

This is not an isolated incident.
A close friend faced a similar situation when her daughter's school, also a well-known IGCSE school in Nairobi, also decided to enforce their 'no-dreadlock' policy, despite the fact that her daughter had been there a number of years already. The matter was resolved in-house, in no small part due to the drive-to-school-like-a-bat-out-of-hell nature of said friend. The ground shook with her indignation and needless to say, the wrong was righted.

It appears, however, that these incidences are on the rise and it is my belief that schools have to re-examine an archaic policy regarding how pupils are allowed to wear their hair. Institutions in Kenya, whether educational, professional or governmental (scratch that, ESPECIALLY governmental), have always been wary of dreadlocks. Traditionally viewed as unprofessional and often associated with artists or criminals, only the most liberal of organisations permitted dreadlocks, and even then, only with stringent rules,  However, times are a-changing and it's time everybody woke up and smelled the beeswax. 

As more and more people don fashion dreadlocs, surely it is time for that stigma to be put to bed. Dreadlocks are, after all, the most natural form for afro-textured hair. If you do nothing with your hair, it will loc, whether you want it to or not. For a country who's freedom fighters sported dreadlocks, it is astonishing that this form of natural hair is not seen as a symbol of freedom from mental slavery, but rather as a scourge to be eliminated from society. However, unless more people are willing to take a strong stance, natural hair in this country will forever remain an oddity, something to be gawked at and tolerated, never embraced. 

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