A 17-year-old boy and his mom were left embarrassed after a decision by the administrative department of Trinity College, Moka, to ban several students from graduating with most of their peers.
The teenagers were blocked because of their hairstyles which were dubbed inappropriate. As a consequence, they received their certificates afterward.
“It was embarrassing. It ent have nothing else to it,” Bryce said during an interview with Guardian Media yesterday.
According to Trinity College Student Rules and Guidelines, male students are required to wear their hair short, neat, and appropriate. Marks in their hair and eyebrows are not allowed.
However, Bryce’s hair did not appear to breach these rules as he fell within the guidelines. Despite this, he was lumped with his classmates who opted for cornrows and afros which caught him by surprise.
“On the last day of school, they put us in a meeting to inform us about what would be going on during the graduation. They told us that our hair has to be neat. They didn’t say anything about ‘cut down’ or anything like that. They say it have to be neat,” he said.
Apart from feeling shamed by his educational institution, he was also disappointed that he was separated from the rest of his peers.
“The way that they segregate we, they put us on a bench far in the corner where our parents couldn’t even see us. They (parents) had to walk all the way in front of the stage to see us. It was really a bad experience for a very special day,” he said.
This also affected his mother who was eager to see him cross the stage and receive praise for his hard work over the last five years. She waited to capture the moment and was disappointed.
“Meh mother was there with the camera in her hand waiting to see her child walk up and collect his certificate and she didn’t get to experience that, neither did I get to experience that at the time,” he said sadly.
Upset by the ordeal she and her son experienced, Salene, Public Relations Officer of the Parent Teachers Association, stepped down immediately. She intended to send a message to the board that this was not acceptable.
“When I resigned via the WhatsApp group, I said ‘Guys, this is it for me because I cannot be a part of discriminatory actions, ignorance for the most part, and bias,” she said.
She also expressed her dissatisfaction with how the school opted to address the matter though she said she did not support the outbursts by some parents.
“The Anglican dean decides to come up and reprimand the parents for having an opinion or being disenchanted with what was going on. Maybe the outburst is not what should have happened because it just really kind of put a damper on everything but at the same point in time, I could understand. The Anglican dean’s comments were preceded by the principal coming up to say ‘this is what happens when you don’t obey rules. ‘
“This is what we’re trying to understand–why wait until today to do that when there have been conversations before asking why? Why can’t we just do things differently? Why can’t the boys grow their hair?
When she didn’t hear her son’s name, Griffith opted to leave but she was stopped. Her son, and the others, were given their certificates after the ceremony.
Up to late yesterday, she remained unaware of why Bryce’s name was removed.
Minister: Conversations on the issue will take place soon
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly responded to the reports in a Facebook post, describing it as “regrettable” and “unfortunate.”
She said while the rules are being debated, they must be followed. Nonetheless, she questioned whether the ceremony was a suitable forum to enforce the guidelines.
“The question of the suitability of the Graduation Ceremony as a forum to enforce the rules of a school, from which students were actively graduating, is a valid one,” she said.
“Regardless of one’s emotional and visceral response to this issue, it is a fact that societal order depends on rule-keeping, and that is a critical facet of the education schools are meant to impart,” she added.
She assured that conversations will take place soon to address this ahead of the upcoming school term.
“Yet another critical conversation arises out of these circumstances, which speaks to the standardisation of the rules and removal of subjectivity which surrounds school hairstyles, especially for male students. The time for this conversation in Trinidad and Tobago has come, and decisions will be taken for implementation in the upcoming academic year, based on the Ministry of Education’s discussions with our valued stakeholders,” she said.
Bryce was grateful for the Minister’s response, and said he looked forward to the proposed changes taking effect.
“Yuh growing up, yuh trying to find who yuh is as an individual and some people might say ‘yuh hair is small thing, yuh hair have nothing to do with yuh individuality’ but to we, hair is part of we expression so to see that there will be changes coming up in the future of all the other schools, my school, for black children, it will be greatly appreciated,” he said.
Guardian Media reached out to Bishop Claude Berkley who was said to be out of the country. Meanwhile, the Chair of the board of Trinity College, Dr Shelley-Ann Tenia, did not respond to calls or WhatsApp text messages.
See page 12