No more shame for my child - Shembe mother

2016-11-16 18:05

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Durban – A KwaZulu-Natal mother is celebrating a constitutional body’s ruling which will prohibit teachers from forcing pupils who are members the Nazareth Baptist (Shembe) Church to cut their hair.

The mother, 30, from Ngwavuma, northern KwaZulu-Natal, said she was relieved as she had opened a case of discrimination against her daughter’s school for forcing her to cut her hair, despite stating that she could not do so due to her religious beliefs.

She cannot be named to protect the child’s identity.

“We can finally be free. My child will no longer feel ashamed about her religion in school,” she said.

The woman, who belongs to the Ebuhleni faction in the divided church, said that in January her daughter, a Grade 9 pupil at a local school, was told to cut her hair.

“I was called into a meeting and told that she needs to shave her head. I told the teachers that we were members of the Shembe church and we do not believe in cutting our hair. I asked them if we could plait the hair, and they said no.”

The mother said she was told to take her daughter to another school.

“I could not take her to another school because this is the nearest school to us in the area. We did not cut her hair and the matter went away for a while until recently, just before the year-end exams, when she was told that she would not be allowed to write the exams because she refused to shave her head.”

‘One step ahead’

She then opened a case of discrimination with Ngwavuma police.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said police were investigating and that no arrests had been made.

Last month, the KwaZulu-Natal education department issued a circular to all schools in the province informing them that they should not discriminate against pupils of all religions, including Shembe church members.

On Tuesday, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities instructed the education department to do so, the Daily Sun reported.

Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told reporters that teachers who continued to force pupils to cut their hair could face disciplinary action and could be taken to court.

The commission was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said they were a step ahead of the commission.

‘Natural state’

Reverend Mhlaliseni Abraham Hlatshwayo, of the church's Ebuhleni faction, welcomed the ruling.

“We are not saying that pupils must be untidy. We are saying that they should be presentable and clean at schools. It was wrong for teachers to force them to cut their hair in the first place.”

Hlatshwayo, 59, said the last time he had a haircut was in 1978.

“You should see my hair. It is always neat, but I do not cut it.”

He said there had been many cases of pupils being sent home to get their hair cut.

“Sometimes we have to write letters to schools confirming that the pupils belong to the church and that their religious beliefs should be respected,” Hlatshwayo said.

Speaking on behalf of newly-recognised Shembe leader, Vela Shembe, of the church’s Thembezinhle faction, Nkululeko Mthethwa said the ruling did not come as a surprise.

“Teachers have always known that they are not allowed to force pupils to cut their hair.”

Mthethwa said leaving hair to grow was one of the rules congregants had to live by.

“It’s like any other rule. They have to keep themselves in their natural state, the way they were created,” he said.


Read more on:    durban  |  religion

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