Respecting minority rights in schools: the case of Lerato Radebe

Home | Respecting minority rights in schools: the case of Lerato Radebe

This presentation was given by Lisa Draga from the EELC to EE members and staff last week.

Background: This case arose when Lerato Radebe, a Free State learner, with the support of Equal Education (EE), represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), filed an urgent application in the Free State High Court to ensure her return to school. Leseding Technical School had repeatedly discriminated against Lerato for practicing her faith by growing her hair in dreadlocks. On 15 April 2013, Lehlohonolo Radebe contacted the EELC to request urgent intervention on behalf of his daughter, Lerato, a grade 8 learner at Leseding Technical School in Thabong, Welkom. Lerato is a Rastafarian and has dreadlocks because of her faith. From the beginning of this school year, Lerato has been dragged out of class repeatedly and humiliated by the principal for her dreadlocks. The school’s heavy-handed approach had culminated in the principal forcing her to remain in the school staff room, thereby causing Lerato to miss all her classes.

Lerato’s right to dignity, freedom of religion and basic education were violated by the school. In addition, the frequent exclusions amounted to a violation of section 9(3) of the Constitution which prohibits unfair discrimination on the basis of religion, conscience, ethnicity, belief or culture. In its urgent application at the Free State High Court, the applicants drew attention to the Free State Department of Education’s failure to intervene to ensure Lerato’s return to school and argud that the conduct towards Lerato was unconstitutional and invalid.

Judge Phalatsi agree with the applicants and granted the relief sought. (Source: