Sikhokele Diniso, a grade 10 Rastafarian learner from Siphamandla High School in Khayelitsha, who was unlawfully excluded from school last month by the principal because of his dreadlocks [LINK], has been allowed to return to school. Yesterday a representative of the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) met with a department official, the principal, School Governing Body and staff members. It was agreed that the learner would be allowed back into school and that a catch up plan would be provided.
Equal Education (EE) and the EELC have mediated a number of similar incidents of discrimination against Rastafarian leaners who have been unlawfully excluded from, or denied admission to, school because of their religious beliefs[LINK]. Whilst learners are eventually allowed back into school to date there has been no official apology by the principals or by the Western Cape Education Department to affected leaners for the violations to their dignity. The Department has failed to respond to EE’s repeated requests that the Head of Department release a circular to all schools to provide clarity on the legal position that schools reasonably accommodate learners sincerely held religious beliefs. The Department has instead opted to resolve these incidents in a piecemeal fashion and only after legal pressure has been applied. This is unacceptable because affected learners are forced to lose out on crucial learning and teaching time and are also subjected to verbal abuse and prejudice because of their religion.
EE again calls on the Department to act immediately to ensure that schools are acting within the law. The WCED should release a circular on the correct legal position. EE hopes that it does not require the threat of legal action once more for the Department to ensure that learners’ rights to freedom of religion, equality, dignity and a basic education are not unlawfully infringed.
For comment please contact
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747/ 021 387 0022
Lisa Draga (EE Law Centre Attorney) on 072 650 0214/ 021 461 6582
Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) on 082 326 5353