The issue involving students who were barred from sitting their final year exams due to a breach of hairstyle protocols have resurfaced, as Public Defenders weighed in on a matter that the Education Ministry is currently investigating at the Wolmer’s Boys’ School.
In an interview today, Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry said she believed that schools should not perturb students prior to their exams and based on the incident at Wolmer’s, the timing of addressing the hairstyle issue was wrong.
“Let the young man get on with his school work and thereafter, the school can make its intervention, both with him and his parents or guardians. We don’t believe that young people going to do exams are to be ruffled. Just let them write their exams and address the issues in an appropriate way and at the appropriate time,” Mrs. Henry expressed.
Deputy Public Defender, Victor Hemmings, also underscored that the hairstyle issues in schools highlight a form of prejudice that has manifested in numerous institutions in Jamaica.
“We know that we have a psychological problem with H-A-I-R in Jamaica, if a black man who has the quality hair that I do, can never be accepted as being properly groomed with respect to hair, unless one of two conditions obtain: (A) he cuts it off or (B) he wear what we call now the ‘fashion locks.’ Otherwise, he’s going to be the black pepper grain, the bongo head, the natty head and that sort of nasty prejudice that manifested itself in many of our institutions,” said Hemmings, while urging the Ministry of Education to have a clear policy on hairstyles in schools.
Mr. Hemmings also linked these types of ‘prejudiced’ actions to learnt colonial behaviours of the past, in which he alleged that black people seemed to be afraid to let go.
“…A vestige after the colonial past which it doesn’t seems as if we are in any hurry to debunk. Otherwise, we’ll have to use chemical in it, in the way women use chemical in their hair and sleep with durag at nights suh yuh know you look like a half roast breadfruit, not fully scraped after,” he added.
The Deputy Public Defender was speaking in an interview this morning.
This came in light of a recent incident at the Wolmer’s Boys’ School which saw several students being exempted from taking part in their final year exams. However, Wolmer’s Principal, Dwight Pennycooke, in a statement on Tuesday, said the students who were barred from the exams were not exempted on the grounds of their religious beliefs and different arrangements were made for them to sit their exams.
Mckoy’s News Senior Writer- Natasha Williams