Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018. 9:15 am CST.
Picture: Courtesy 7Newss expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Lisa Shoman: We already have a problem in Belize with keeping boys in High School. According to 2014 statistics, 27% of boys aged 13-16 do not attend school compared with 23% for girls according to a report on Belize from the Education Data and Policy Center.
And the same report says that “For youth of secondary school age, the biggest disparity can be seen between the poorest and the richest youth.”
We all know that a youth out of school is easy prey for gangs looking to recruit young men, and we know the future that gang involvement means for those same youth. And yet, some of our our educational institutions place unreasonable and arbitrary barriers in the way of school attendance for those same youth.
Channel 7 news last night reported that “And that’s why about 25 or more male students at Nazarene High in Belize City were locked out of their own school today”.
Why? The length of their short haircuts.
The irony was that Andrew Hemmans, the Nazarene teacher and youth pastor, seeking to justify the expulsion of these Nazarene High School students on the basis of their haircuts was on camera sporting an untidy unkempt beard.
Hemmans attempted to justify to the media why the school was keeping these students out of class for not having regulation haircuts.
But the students shown on the Channel 7 News report all seemed to have short neat haircuts- and I could actually see the scalps of a couple kids.
Then the school doubled down on their bully tactics by summoning the police to disperse the boys.
This move by Nazarene is as retrograde and as stupid a move as sending a student home because his black shoes have a white sole.
As one parent pointed out, he did not send his son to military school. In our zeal to enforce blind conformity, we have become our own colonial masters.
And some of us prefer to act like clothing and hair police rather than Educators.
It is unjust, unreasonable and unlawful to deny a minor an education because of a particular color of footwear or particular haircut or hairstyle.
The Preamble to our Constitution states that we “(b) respect the principles of social justice and therefore believe that the operation of the economic system must result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good, that there should be adequate means of livelihood for all, that labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity, that equal protection should be given to children regardless of their social status, and that a just system should be ensured to provide for education and health on the basis of equality;”
Read those last few lines again. That principle must be respected. The Constitution says so. WE say so.
No grant -aided school in Belize, including Nazarene High School can claim therefore to legally discriminate against a young person in that manner.
If a student with dreadlocks, wearing hijab or a Sikh turban is denied entry into a classroom or the school and is thereby deprived of an education in a grant aided school in Belize, such student has constitutionally protected and enforceable right to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Belize including the Preamble, the right to freedom of conscience, protection from discrimination and freedom of expression.
It is time that schools in Belize learn to respect those rights.
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