The Ministry of Education (MoE) has responded to calls for its intervention in guiding the hair policy at schools across T&T, proposing the introduction of a National School Hair Code under the National School Code of Conduct.
Changes would be coming in time for September which is the start of the academic year 2023/2024. Students will be allowed to wear locs, twists, plaits, afros, and cornrows.
The twist comes a week after 23 boys at Trinity College, Moka were separated from their peers during their graduation ceremony because their hairstyles were considered inappropriate according to the school’s guidelines. The teenage boys styled their natural hair in cornrows, and afros, or left their curls out for the event. This sparked some displeasure among the school administration.
When the incident became public, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly described it as “unfortunate and regrettable” in a Facebook post on June 28.
Stakeholders including the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA), Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teacher’s Association (TTUTA), and others met virtually at 10 am yesterday.
At the meeting, they learned the ministry’s proposals as follows:
1. Students shall maintain neat and clean hair at all times
2. Hair that crosses shoulder length should be tied back at all times for safety reasons (boys and girls)
3. Locs, twists, plaits, afros, and cornrows shall be allowed for all students
4. Female students shall be allowed to wear hair extensions including weaves and braids
5. Wigs and dyed or coloured hair for students are not allowed. In exceptional cases, as determined by the school principal, approval may be granted to students
6. Hairstyles that obstruct the normal view of other students are not allowed
7. Eyebrow markings and eyelash extensions are not allowed
8. Haircut parting designs should be modest. Intricate designs are not allowed
9. Hair ornaments should be in compliance with individual school rules
A statement from the MoE said that individual schools are mandated to form a committee to determine their respective hair rules which must align with the code. This exercise must be completed by October and a copy should be submitted to the line school supervisor.
“All parents and students should be sensitised by the school’s administration about the implementation of the school hair rules before they are effected,” the MoE said.
“During the intervening period between the coming into force of the National School Hair Code and the School Hair Rules of an individual school, no student should be penalised on the basis of a hairstyle, once they are in conformity with the National School Hair code,” it added.
have differing views
Denominational boards have differing views on the proposal. The Secretary-General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj said the proposal pushes the envelope beyond what should be allowed.
“Are we going to go and allow nose rings, stud in the tongue, boys wearing earrings etc? Because this is where it’s leading to. You’re going to completely remove the barrier and we’re going to become Americanised in our education. And then, are we going to talk about there’s no longer a need for a uniform? So, we don’t know which child attends which schools?” he asked.
The chief executive officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management Sharon Mangroo was more agreeable, though she noted that there ought to be some tweaks to the language.
“Generally, there’s agreement that such a policy is needed. I think the Catholic Board recommended some clarification—definitions of terms and so on—and generally that we welcome the inclusion of students in decision making,” she said.
She further acknowledged that the rules are rooted in a colonial past and made calls for philosophy to be taught in secondary schools.
“A study of philosophy will help us to understand how to think and why we think the way we think, and I think that is important, to understand the impact the colonial legacy has on us,” she said.
Chairman of the Trinity Board of Governors Dr Shelley-Ann Tenia was oblivious to the proposal though Guardian Media understands that all stakeholders were invited to the discussion.
“We have not received any information about what you have shared. Consequently, the Board has no position to articulate at this time,” she said.
The president of the NPTA Kevin David said he was awaiting the MoE’s final presentation.
Mom of student banned from graduation happy the incident has inspired change
Meanwhile, Salene Griffith, whose son Bryce-Anthony Griffith-Ryan was among the 23 boys not allowed to collect his certificate until after the graduation ceremony due to his hairstyle, said she was happy that the incident has inspired change.
“It was a catalyst for this conversation to take place. It is a relief and I must state that it was not the intention to break school rules. It was the intention to demonstrate that they can express themselves one way or the other,” she said.
Despite the incident, Griffith praised her son’s alma mater for its contribution to his development. Her son was not around to give his comments.
Denominational boards will be meeting later this month on the matter.