29th May 2023
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Malawi’s Rastafarians welcome legalization of dreadlocks in schools

Author: Chany Ninrew | Published: Thursday, May 11, 2023

Ezaius Mkandawire, a Malawian Rasta, picks his son, Uhuru at a private school in Lilongwe on January 30, 2020./AFP

The Rastafarian community in Malawi has welcomed a court ruling directing the Ministry of Education to allow students with dreadlocks to be enrolled in public schools in the country.

The court ruled on a petition filed on behalf of two Rastafarian students who were denied admission to public schools in 2010 and 2016 for growing dreadlocks.

The learners, through human rights organisations, obtained an injunction and filed a case seeking to have Rastafari children allowed access to schools without prejudice, local media reported.

“The Ministry of Education should issue a statement to allow all children of the Rastafarian community with dreadlocks to be allowed in class. The circular should be done by June 30,” reads a ruling by Malawi High Court Justice Nzione Ntaba this week.

According to media reports, pupils with dreadlocks can now attend public schools in Malawi.

Members of the Rastafarian community in Malawi have welcomed the court’s decision.

Ezaius Mkandawire, a Rastafarian elder said in an interview with the BBC they now want reparation for members who were denied the right to get an education.

“Most of us Rastafarians have dreadlocks as part of our religious expressions and that did not go very well with authorities in Malawi. As such, most of our children were not allowed to attend schools on the pretext that they don’t look very nice or hygienic, and because of that most of our children did not go to school,” he told the BBC.

“(The court ruling) makes us feel very good. We know this should be the end of a long struggle but the actual battle now begins. We need reparation from the government for messing up our lives.”

Rastafarianism is an Abrahamic religion from Jamaica that stresses living what they regard as natural, including their hair.

However, Malawi’s Rastafarians have long been sidelined by education policies requiring students to cut their hair to promote what they describe as uniformity among students.

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