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Kibera rastafarian girl rejected by school over dreadlocks : The Standard



Makeda Ndinda speaking to KTN News in Kibera. [Photo: Courtesy]

Nairobi, Kenya: Makeda Ndinda had just turned a new phase in life, like any other teenager who is relishing pursuit of lifetime goals; she was ecstatic after scoring 282 marks in KCPE and getting an admission at Olympic High School, Nairobi.

She had new books, new school uniform and so she fitted well in the new environment like other students. The only thing that made her look different is the dreadlocks, which were folded and wrapped in a turban- a symbol of her Rastafarian faith and family background.
Her stay at the school on January 11, Friday, would last for hours before hitting an iceberg of controversy after Maths and Geography classes. The Deputy Principal had just noticed her turban and had sent for her to inform her of her unfitness for admission.
“After taking lunch. A colleague came and told me that the Deputy Principal had sent for me. When I went to the office, I was told to remove my scarf and only Muslims are allowed to cover their hair,” Makeda says.

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She narrates with bitterness in her voice that the Deputy Principal told her to choose between her hair and books. Makeda was sent home and told that she cannot stay in school with her dreadlocks and that she has to embrace same hairstyle as other students.
Her father John Mwendwa, has lamented the ejection of his daughter terming the act as discriminative against her and the faith of Rastafarianism.
According to Mwendwa, he paid Sh 12,000 for school fees and bought all the necessary books for Makeda. Makeda’s mother also reads a script of irony in the twist. She says that while filing the forms, her daughter ticked a “Rastafarian” religious affiliation and that the school knows that they were admitting a Rastafarian who should be treated like any other faithful.
Mwenda says that her daughter finished her primary education with her dreadlocks without any of the schools questioning her.
The family, which is living in Kibera, is calling for justice for their daughter, whose dream is on the brink of collapse.

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There are no standard constitutional laws regulating dress codes in schools. However, the Basic Education Act 2013 empowers basic learning institutions to formulate rules that safeguard learning. The rules must be in line with the written laws.
It states in Part III (30): “Every institution of basic education shall develop school rules which shall be subjected to public participation and which shall not be inconsistent with the Act, or any other relevant written law.”
The legal provision for formulating school rules however restrict school administrations from clamping down on individual rights of exercising religion among other privileges.

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Article 30 of Kenyan Constitution (I and II) read: “(1) Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
(2) Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship.”
Religion or not?
Kenyan schools have been mandated to press the button of embracing religious values. Such is the premise in which Muslim students are allowed to cover the hair and dress in the attires coherent with their religious affiliation.
Other African religious such as Akorino have also had their students allowed to dress in their attires consistent with their religious dictates.

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According to a definition by BBC, Rastafarianism is “a young, Africa-centred religion which originated from Jamaica in the 1930s, after the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930.”
The followers believe that Emperor Haile Selassie is their redeemer and an equivalent of Jesus Christ in Christianity. They believe that Selassie will one day take the black race in Jamaica and deliver them to Africa from captivity, in foreign land.

Makeda NdindaOlympic High SchoolRastafarianismRastafarian girlJusticeRejected

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