A KwaZulu-Natal school principal has been forced to withdraw a letter telling pupils who are members of the Nazareth Baptist (Shembe) church to cut their hair.
The letter dated February 3 was issued by the principal of Esizibeni Sivananda Vaswani Comprehensive High School in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban.
The principal gave an ultimatum to pupils with Afro hair to cut it before returning to school on Monday. It is alleged pupils were not allowed into the school on Monday.
In the letter, the principal said: “There is a thorny issue among our children and they need us. That is why we are asking that all the learners cut their hair, even though those who are members of the Nazareth Baptist (Shembe) church must shorten their hair.
“We want the child to be a child, and the time for a child to be a lady is coming. For now, we want the child not to be distracted. We are appealing that as of Monday February 6 all the children be children,” reads the letter.
This has since raised concern as the issue of religion in school remains a thorny one.
The church has since written to the school and the school’s governing body, demanding answers. The church said this was a violation of pupils’ constitutional rights.
“We have perused your aforesaid letter and noted that it lacks context and substantial basis leading to your issue directives that learners shall cut their hair. Further, your directives are in direct contravention of the learners,” the church said.
The church said pupils had constitutional rights to education and freedom of religion, belief and opinion, and the principal had failed to comply with the South African Schools Act by barring them from school for failing to cut their hair.
“You are therefore called upon to, within 24 hours of receipt of this letter, furnish us with full substantial reasons for your issued directives and to cause the forthwith return of our learners back to class, pending escalation of this matter to both the national and provincial departments of education. You shall write a letter to us confirming you received this letter and that you will abide by the above request,” said the church.
Provincial education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the principal was asked to withdraw the letter and that all pupils are at school.