Sunday 21 April, 2019

A view from the outside: Get up and fight for your rights

A photo of the hairstyle of the girl who was reportedly refused access to Kensington Primary.

A photo of the hairstyle of the girl who was reportedly refused access to Kensington Primary.

                                                                  With Karyl Walker

Whenever there is a questionable police killing or a prolonged water shortage, Jamaicans will protest.

The placards will come out and vociferous chants of ‘We want justice!’ or ‘We want water!’ will ring loud and clear, especially when the lens of media cameras are pointed in the direction of the protesters.

But rarely do Jamaicans get up and stand up for their rights on other matters, and that is why special commendation must be afforded to the parents of that innocent child who was so wronged by the administration of the Kensington Primary School in Portmore, St Catherine. It is still unfathomable that, in 2018, a child is being denied the right to an education due to the fact that she wears locks. To add insult to injury reports have emerged that the school had demanded that her head be shaved before she could attend school.

Instead of wilting under pressure and taking the easier option of finding another educational institution for their daughter to attend, the parents stood up for their rights and that of the child and fought the system tooth and nail. Kudos to you for showing true guts to take on an administration that thought they were a law unto themselves.

While their fight has by no means reach the end of the final round, the parents definitely have the school authorities on the ropes with a court ruling which dismissed the frivolous edict by the pompous and high-handed school administration by ruling that the child has a right to attend THAT school. The case will again by heard in January next year, by that time the first term of school should have already ended

As a parent I would have mixed feelings about sending my child to a school that has at first reflex shown a tendency to discriminate against my child. It must have been a hard decision for those parents to know that their child stands every chance to be marginalised by those educators at Kensington Primary who may agree with the view that her well-kept locks will somehow facilitate the spread of lice among the school population and as such she deserves to be cast out and denied what is a basic human right.

That child stands every chance of being given scant attention during class, being reduced to minimal participation in interactive lessons and being hauled over the coals due to the steadfastness of her parents. No court order can stop a teacher from not paying attention to a child due to ill feelings or the bitter taste of losing.

But the parents are teaching her a valuable lesson. Injustice must not be tolerated no matter who is meting it out.

Maybe that school principal thought because she may have had her way with other parents who meekly accepted her edicts, that the parents of the child would have wilted to her demands and either trim their child’s locks are found another school. That has not been the case though and fume as she might she is bound by law to accept the child.

The court ruling has shown that Kensington Primary School cannot change the legislation of the land and will not be allowed to be run as the personal fiefdom of any individual and their warped views.

I would advise those parents to take an active role in the child’s day to day school life and ensure that she is treated fairly and not subject to any further acts of discrimination by an administration that has already demonstrated that its thinking is archaic and whose breath reeks of a colonial hangover.

If more Jamaicans were as proactive as the parents of the innocent, Nubian princess, then the country would be a better place. They deserve the Meritorious Award for Bravery at the next National Heroes Day Ceremony.

For too long we have sat idly by and munched on popcorn as we watched the movie of corruption and crime play out in front of our eyes. No voice cries out in the wilderness and the message is sent that anything goes in Jamaica, especially when you are in a position of power or opulence.

Jamaica has come a far way in 56 years of independence but we still have a far way to travel to rid ourselves of the false notions that our natural selves are not good enough.

Get up and fight for your rights my brothers – so said the Abyssinians in song.

That is my view from the outside

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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