Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Letter of the Day | Hair regime new beating stick of oppression

Published:Saturday | July 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMTHE EDITOR, Sir:

The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) wishes to highlight how problematic the recent events at Cambridge High School are and urges the Ministry of Education to act more expeditiously in ushering a policy that best addresses these issues.

Denying a young lady, who was expected to present the valedictory speech, of her ability to participate in the ceremony because of the remnant that is a colonial characterisation is farce and antiquated. The fact that a child who underwent chemotherapy and lost her hair as a result was reprimanded because of her desire to express herself in a manner befitting of her high-school culmination is unacceptable.

The 'rules are rules' narrative in relation to grooming issues in schools has continued to dominate the media, and it is our firm belief that there must be more flexibility when approaching these situations. We have identified the shortfalls often associated with arbitrarily implementing and enforcing rules that lack a reasonable foundation. Often, such measures ignore the best interest of the child, which should be the primary concern. Denying children of opportunities parallel to their right to an education is a grave violation and an act that we cannot support.

Educators should be cautious when imposing rules that ignore the diversity that characterises our children. Rules that exist to oppress individuals are meant to be challenged. It is time that these institutions realise and acknowledge that much of the standards, principles and procedures that they force students to adhere to have close ties to notions of colonialism that have stifled an entire race.

We have seen, on too many occasions, students being deprived of opportunities and milestones because of traditionalist perspectives. Beyond the assertions that such principles prepare our children for the world of work and instil ideas of modesty, it ignores the fundamental reality of how dynamic and fluid society is.

It is on this basis that JYAN believes that the proposed grooming policy be open to public consultation, inclusive of input from children, so as to ensure that it is not systematically oppressive.

Much of the dialogue concerning young people in light of the aforementioned often ignores what the youth have to say. In order to ensure meaningful engagement beyond mere tokenism or manipulation, a more inclusive process should be enabled.

We look forward to the prompt development of a policy that is responsive to the desires of young people, that respects the rights of children, that recognises the best interest of the child as a paramount consideration, that sheds old colonial-based ideals and one that is not unduly oppressive.

CHRISTOPHER HARPER

Policy & Advocacy Officer

Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network

jyanadvocacy@gmail.com