There’s been a whole lot of commentaries and discussions around about whether or not two brilliant students who have qualified by the virtue of attaining the necessary grades and having been selected by the computer placement system to the Achimota high school which is a public school should be allowed to steady there or not on the grounds of their hairstyle which according to the school it’s against the school’s rules and regulations which does not allow students to carry dreadlocks or raster.
Indeed, the world today in which we live can be extremely divisive. It can become difficult to have conversations about the things that are important to you when we encounter extremism, misinformation, or even just other people’s anger because of their worldview.
The Achimota school rules schools entreat all students to keep their hair natural and short and this is a phenomenon that has been accepted to be a norm across our various public or government schools and is strictly enforced with no compromise in the religious schools. Most people have sort to tackle the issue from many angles depending on their background from the law, to religion, to exposure, to education, or how enlightened one is which in essence will drive the person’s thought pattern toward a certain conclusion.
Those who argue on the basis of law for the school are of the view that rules are rules and it is upon these rules that institutions and organizations thrive and if the students can not conform to the rules by cutting their locks to meet the school’s standards then they either find a new school or forfeit being admitted as they are not being denied admission but being told to” do as Romans do when you enter Rome”.
Another school of thought which is against the school authority, the Parent-Teacher Association(PTA)and the and Ghana education Service(GES) thinks no law can sin against or in other words, can be seen to violate the supreme law of the land which is the constitution. The 1992 constitution of Ghana in article 28 section 4 explicitly says “no child shall be deprived by any other person of medical treatment, education or any other beliefs”.
The constitution further in article 17 section(I,2,3) talk about equality before the law. But such is not the case here in the public and none public schools in Ghana as the rules are always bent not to subject Caucasians or Expatriates together with the indigenes to all go by the same rules with an
excuse that the Caucasian will look ugly because of the silky nature of the hair as ascribed by an opinion leader so theirs should be left uncut and natural. In my opinion, it goes beyond just school rules, law and religion and has everything to do with the colonial rule which has left an indelible mark and legacies which we as a people have consciously and unconsciously being adhering to them to the detriment of our own identity as a people which in a way robbing us of our self-esteem.
On the religious aspect, the early Christian missionaries who came evangelizing came with a certain mindset and were always contemptuous of the African way of life to wholesomely label everything African as evil. This resulted in the missionaries Europeanizing the African rather than Christianizing the African through inculturation. The Basel missionaries for instance were incognizant of their culture embedded within the Christian teachings they have implanted in the Gold Coast now Ghana and across Africa.
Inculturation here is the process of inserting a faith tradition into a culture where it did not exist. Inculturation has provided both the church and the indigenous Ghanaian culture and Africa the opportunity for open dialogue, therefore not only has the culture been transformed but the church itself has been altered in a way especially the Presbyterian church.
Ephraim Amu, an illustrious son of the land who is well known for his advocacy on African tradition and culture went through a whole lot of setbacks when he tried to introduce the African traditional music style into the Presbyterian setting in the Gold Coast. His self-consciousness made him insisted on wearing cloth and ahenema (locally made sandal) to preach in the church but it was seen as a sin or awful in the eyes of the authorities for a petition to be raised in 1933 indicating why he can’t continue with such act when he was teaching in Abetifi training school as he was not ready to let go of his belief in his roots although he was a Christian.
One of the reasons subsumed in the petition not to permit him to continue as a teacher was: “Mr. Amu attempted to introduce the fashion of preaching in the native garment or clothe in the pulpit which practice offends the majority of educated and the none educated community” (Ephraim Amu – Patriotism and Nation Building, Perspectives from the Life and Utterances of Ephraim Amu. Authored by Rev. Prof. Philip T. Laryea).
It could have been a total sack or confrontational if he had resort to leave his hair uncut or in a dreadlock state as it was seen by the church or the early Christians as barbaric and satanic. The interesting part is the petition was initiated by a black Gold Coastan by the name of Rev. D. E. Akwa to Rev. R.S. Kwami of the Gold Coast Presbyterian synod committee and not a British.
This shows how most of the educated elite have always been schooled and not educated and are disconnected from the land of their birth. It took the boldness and stubbornness of Dr. Ephraim Amu regardless of his education from a Christian college to see the need for both the church and the indigenous culture to have an opportunity for open dialogue to coexist in mutual respect for all. We would probably not enjoy some of the beautiful religious choral music today in our various churches with drums and other indigenous instruments to produce a song like “Oye” if Ephraim Amu had conformed or kowtowed and not stood by his conviction.
Rules are made for the people and by the people and when the people evolve the rules should also be seen as evolving to fit into the new dispensation as no rule of law is cast in stone and the fact that something irritates or affront the worldview of a particular group of people does not make it wrong. In all of this to achieve peace and concord, there is nothing better than dialogue and communication.
Many have always worn dreadlocks to make a statement. For many, they’re spiritual and they help identifies them with their religion. For others, they’re just fashion, and some just like the way they look. For as long as carrying dreadlocks brings no harm to the carrier or the society, the modern world should allow all to express themselves with no prejudice as the purpose of education is primarily to help us think and reason to improve our lives and those around us.