Dear Editor: Two agencies, the Ministry of Education and the Catholic Church, must act decisively in the controversy surrounding the child Kalifa Logan. The Ministry cannot take the view that St Charles is a private school and therefore must be allowed to enforce its rules. St Charles is a government-assisted school. It receives State funds, and so it must be subject to some level of scrutiny from the national community. Schools cannot make rules that are in conflict with principles that govern the larger society. Sister Adriana Noel's rule against Kalifa Logan's hair violates the principle of respect for racial and cultural diversity, a principle that our country holds dear. The way that Kalifa's hair is dressed is one expression of her family's ethnicity. There are different options for the care of African hair, and this is the one that Kalifa's family has chosen. To debar her from any institution in this country, purely on the grounds of her hair, is to violate our country's rule about "every creed and race" finding an equal place.
Old, inherited prejudices against the African hair-type die hard. In our society, generations of children have grown up thinking that their natural hair was somehow offensive, and that hairdressing meant getting your hair not to look like African hair. In the modern context, "Rasta" hair is associated with grassroots culture, so that the issue here is also class snobbery. By suggesting that Kalifa's hair is a mark of immorality and indiscipline, the principal of St Charles has not only insulted this child, her family, and a large section of the national community. Sister Adriana has also put this child's mental health at risk. What the child is going through at this time is nothing short of emotional abuse. Unfortunately, Catholic convent schools in particular have gained a reputation over the years for harassing girls with African hair, instituting all kinds of petty rules aimed at de-emphasising this part of the girls' physical appearance.
Most Catholic schools have now moved away from that past, and it would seem that Sister Adriana Noel is a law unto herself. Neither the Ministry of Education nor the Catholic Church can afford to take a hands-off position on this matter. The Catholic Church needs to rescue its image, perhaps through its Commission on Social Justice; and the Ministry of Education must uphold the principles enshrined in our Constitution. Both agencies must step in now and show themselves to be on the side of equity. To take the spineless option of transferring this child is to cave in to prejudice and discrimination. Let this be the last time that anyone attempts to debar a child from school, in Trinidad and Tobago, on the grounds of ethnicity.
Women Working for Social Progress (Workingwomen)
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