Marginalized groups in Ghana and the rest of Africa have been entreated to seek more legal education about their rights, freedoms and obligations under the law to enable them enjoy their basic human rights provided by the various national constitutions.
The Coalition for Sovereignty, Integrity and Justice (CSIJ), and the Rastafari community in Ghana gave the advice in a joint statement to mark the first anniversary of victory in the court case between the two Rastafari youth and Achimota School in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
It will be recalled that on May 31st, 2021, the Human Rights Court Division of the Accra High Court gave two separate judgments which favoured Master Tyrone Marghuy and Master Oheneba Nkrabeah, two Rastafarian students, after the Headmistress of the high-status Achimota School unlawfully withdrew the admission of the academically-brilliant former Junior High School students because of their refusal to cut their dreadlocks.
In the statement dated May 31st, 2022, which was released in Accra and signed by Ras Aswad Nkrabeah on behalf of CSIJ and the Rastafari community, under-privileged citizens were advised to insist on enjoying their human rights, and to be law-abiding. Ras Nkrabeah is the father of Master Oheneba Nkrabeah.
The Human Rights Court Division of the Accra High Court ordered Achimota School to admit Master Oheneba Nkrabea and Master Tyrone Marhguy. But before the legal battle could end, Master Oheneba Nkrabea was offered a scholarship by the esteemed Ghana International School (GIS).
He has since excelled in his academic and co-curricular activities.
He was presented a certificate signed by Dr Kristine Marbell-Pierre, the Head of Guidance and Counselling at GIS for showing ”social awareness by being kind and respectful to anyone he interacts with.” The lad also performed a role in Prof Wole Soyinka’s play, Death and the King’s Horseman put up by GIS at the National Theatre recently.
“These two judgments of the Court serve as an excellent example in enforcing the laws of Ghana and has awakened many Africans, especially marginalised groups like the Rastafarian community, about their rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. The judgments now also serve as a precedent for educational institutions not to repeat the unfortunate decision of the authorities of Achimota School,” the statement noted.
“We recollect the pain of discrimination and breach of human rights endured by Tyrone and Oheneba when Achimota School denied them admission on the assertion that their dreadlocks violated school rules.
The school made this decision although the 1992 Constitution of Ghana abhors all forms of discrimination, in this case their right to education and right to practice their culture and religion,” the statement said.
Noting that a year since the unfortunate actions happened, the CSIJ and the Rastafari community would not like to hear of any maltreatment or discrimination of Rastafarians or any minority group in Ghana.
“We are determined to free ourselves from all forms of exploitation and dehumanising conditions. African leaders have a prominent role in ensuring that our youth are given the utmost attention and care to prepare for the future irrespective of their faith or culture.”
The statement continued: “We recognise everybody who helped in this legal case. We would especially like to thank the legal team, the Rastafarian community, Her Ladyship Justice Gifty Adjei Addo for her principled legal position and all the like-minded organisations that mobilised resources to bring the case to Court.
“We hope that this decade will see a significant reduction in social and economic disparities in access to educational opportunities and wealth-making across the world. It is our aim to assist our youth in being part of the struggle to change the conditions that breed such social and economic imbalances.”
It said further that education is a fundamental human right and it is expected that all parents and the State would ensure that every school-going aged child would have the opportunity to achieve his or her life dreams through formal education.
“Although our educational system in Africa is yet to meet the standards of Europe, China and US, we expect that greater investment in education and lifelong learning will enable African Youth to control and manage the continent’s resources for the betterment of African people,” the statement said.
Master Oheneba Nkrabea and Master Tyrone Marhguy with their parents, siblings, lawyers and well-wishers
The Court presided over by Justice Adjei Addo said the the Achimota School Board of Governors made by the rules of the school but they must be implemented in conformity with the rules of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the 1992 Constitution.
The Judge said the wearing of dreadlocks, which was the manifestation of the students’ religious rights, had nothing to do with maintaining discipline in the school.
“To maintain that a person must cut his or her dreadlocks, which is the manifestation of his or her religion, before admitted into the school, sins against the 1992 Constitution,” she said.
Justice Addo said she rejected the argument of the respondents that upholding the reliefs of the applicant would discriminate against other students who abide by the rules of the school.
She said fundamental human rights were not absolute and could be limited by statutes and policies but “this must be juxtaposed with the public interest as in this current case and what reasonable justification has been put before this court in the implementation of the school rules to convince the court to rule in favour of the respondents?”
The Judge said the ultimate aim of the rules was to enhance discipline and academic excellence but wondered what the effect on the school community if the applicant was allowed to keep his dreadlocks.
“How keeping low hair enhances hygiene in the school has not been impressed on this Court and how the applicant keeping his dreadlocks will affect his health and the health of other students has also not been impressed on the court,” she said.
The Court said the ultimate aim of the rules of Achimota School was omnibus and “I am unable to see the disadvantage to the School community in allowing the applicant to keep his dreadlocks.”
By: Ayuureyisiya Kapini