Donít let your hair down
There is something about teenage girls that makes authority figures lose all sense of perspective. Whether it’s on the topic of sugar daddies, birth control or attire, you will hear some of the most sexist remarks being uttered by those who should know better. To be fair it’s not something limited to Rwanda alone.
In Kenya, girls in a secondary school went on strike when the school administration tried to impose new skirts on them. The strikers considered the skirts long, ugly and behind the times. They wanted shorter skirts…in short.
It was the age-old clash of the generations, nothing special about it, until the Minister of Education came down on the side of the girls, famously stating that they did not have to be ‘dressed like nuns’. As you can expect the more conservative and religious sections of society took offence with the minister’s statements. They had even less sympathy for the girls’ demands for shorter skirts.
Last I heard of that story the minister had come up with a model skirt for the girls that is presumably more modern but also guards their modesty.
Let’s think about this for a moment. The Kenyan government, through its Education minister, directly intervened in a matter pertaining to skirt length [two-inches below the knee]. It seems like an unwelcome infringement by the government on the personal rights of the students.
But if you thought mandated skirt lengths were bad, let’s consider the recent decision banning girls in public schools within Kigali City from treating their hair.
The Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Schools, the City Council and representatives of schools in the city sat down and banned treated hair. It turns out that girls spend too much time at the salon treating their hair instead of studying or at least that was the main reason for the decision.
On that basis, students will soon be banned from the internet [especially social media and youtube], watching TV, owning/listening to music and after-school sports.
Of all the decisions that could have been taken in a meeting gathering such educationally influential people, surely this could not have been the most pressing or important one. Is the situation regarding curriculum, student welfare, teachers, school infrastructure and teaching aids so good that treated hair could even feature on the agenda of a meeting like this?
Or is student time-wasting the number one cause of lower academic grades? By that measure, where was the ban on boy students shaving their beards? Surely all that time spent shaving and trimming could have been spent in serious study.
The intention may have been to give girls the same advantages [in terms of time saved] as a boy with short hair, assuming of course that this is the only reason boys out-compete girls in the education sector [girl drop-out rates are still higher]. I think more time should be spent developing a more engaging and interesting [to students] curriculum so that students do not have to be coerced into spending more time on their studies in the first place. They would already be passionate about school.
In the meantime, the Minister of Education has promised new regulations on health and discipline this September. I think it’s safe to assume more rules about the personal appearance of students, I wonder if we can also expect a model skirt?
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