Victory for Rasta Learner

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GALOOME SHOPANE

Today marks the 16th day since the beginning of the year in school for victorious Lerato Radebe. Radebe was unlawfully suspended from her school, Leseding Technical School in Thabong , Welkom because she has dreadlocks. Thirteen year old Radebe practices the Rastafarian faith and is required by her religion to keep her hair untreated and untouched with chemicals. Radebe won the urgent application in the Bloemfontein High Court to allow for her to get back in school and that the department drafts, completes and implements a catch-up programme for the grade eight pupil by 16 July 2013. Phalatsi also ruled that the conduct was discriminatory towards Lerato Radebe.
It emerged during court proceedings that Radebe went to school every morning, but would be taken out of her classroom and seated at the staffroom while her peers were getting tuition. And that during breaks she would be allowed to go out and play and only to come back to the staffroom after the break.
Lerato Radebe was represented by advocate Suzanna Harvey on behalf of Equal Education. Equal Education is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through analysis and activism.
“Radebe was enrolled into the school last year by her grandmother, and she has been called out of class since the first school term began in January,” advocate Harvey said. Harvey argued that Radebe’s right to basic education had been infringed and that she was discriminated against because of her religion.
Speaking to Courant, provincial department of education spokesperson, Howard Ndaba said Lerato Radebe was not Rastafarian, but Roman Catholic because she went to church with her grandmother. Which Harvey dismissed as inadmissible hearsay.
“ What is surprising is that a church as conservative as the Roman Catholic can allow a person with dreadlocks, but the school doesn’t,” Judge Phalatsi commented.
It surfaced that the department of education de-registered Radebe at Leseding Technical School without any documents to prove it, and was ‘admitted’ at Thutagauta Secondary School where the code of conduct does not allow Rastafarian learners. And that her admission was conditional provided she removes her dreadlocks.
“It gives me a painful feeling to be taken from class and not be able to learn like my classmates and I am worried that I am falling behind on Maths.” Radebe wrote in her affidavit. Speaking to Courant after Phalatsi made his ruling, the shy Lerato Radebe said “I am very happy because I will be in class on Monday.”
Lehloholo Radebe, Lerato Radebe’s father has subsequently lost his job because he has been trying all avenues to bring back his little girl’s dignity and restore her right to education. Speaking to Courant, Selloane Motloung, Radebe’s mother said “Lerato was very happy this morning compared to other days and when she left she greeted us with a happy smile.”
Phalatsi ordered the state, the School Governing Body and Principal to pay costs for the case.