Ghana: Rastafarian Students Drags Achimota School to Court

Child Rights International has assisted Tyron Iras Marhguy, one of the Rastafarian students who was refused admission by Achimota Senior High School to affirm his fundamental human right in court.

The applicant who filed the instant action before the Accra High Court is seeking the enforcement and declaration of their right to education.

Suing through his father, Tereo Kwame Marhguy, the applicant also filed an interlocutory injunction, seeking the court to compel Achimota to admit the children to further their education pending the determination of the substantive case.

The application for interlocutory injunction would he heard by the court on April 13.

The issue of refusal of admission to master Tyron Iras Marhguy by the Headmistress of the school became the talk in town few weeks ago, with the Ghana Education Service, civil society organisations, NGOs and individuals offering divergent opinions about the matter.

But the CRI which supports the cause of ensuring the fundamental rights and development of every child had risen to the defence of the family of the students to pursue the case to its logical conclusion.

The applicant joined the board of governors of Achimota Senior High School and the Attorney-General, government's legal advisor to the suit as respondents.

He asked the court to declare that the failure and or refusal of the school to admit or enroll the applicant on the basis of his Rastafarian religious inclination, beliefs and culture characterised by his keeping of Rasta is a violation of his fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution particularly Articles 12(1); 23; 21(1)(b)(c); 26(1)); and 17(2) and (3).

Master Marhguy want the court to hold that the failure and or refusal of the school to admit or enroll the Applicant on the basis of his Rastafarian religious inclination, beliefs and culture characterised by his keeping of rasta is a violation of his right to education guaranteed under Articles 25(1)(b),m and 28(4) the 1992 Constitution.

He prayed the court for a declaration that the order directed at the applicant by the representative of Achimota Senior High School to step aside during the registration process on the basis of his religious belief characterised by the keeping of rasta is a violation of his right to dignity guaranteed under Articles 15(1) and 35(4),(5) of the 1992 Constitution.

A declaration that there is no lawful basis for the school to interfere with the applicant's right to education based on his rasta through which he manifests or expresses his constitutionally guaranteed right to religion and to practice and manifest same.

He further urged the court for an order directed at the school to immediately admit or enroll the applicant to continue with his education unhindered.

An order of perpetual injunction restraining the school either by themselves, servants and/or agents from, in any way, interfering in the applicant's senior secondary school education on the basis of his religious belief and practice as a Rastafarian.

The applicant asked the court for an order directed at the respondents to jointly and severally compensate the applicant for the inconvenience, embarrassment, waste of time, and violation of his fundamental human rights and freedoms.

In the affidavit deposed to by his father, Tereo Kwame Marhguy, the applicant stated that he is a child of seventeen (17) years old who attended The Lord Shines International School and Omega School.

The applicant said in his last year of Junior High School, he registered with the West African Examination Council to sit for the June 2020 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE or the "Examination") and obtained aggregate (6) six.

That as part of the registration requirement for the Examination, the applicant, like all prospective candidates since 2005, was required to select a number of second cycle institutions for purposes of the Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS).

The CSSPS is an automated merit-based system for the selection of schools and placement of pupils/ candidates in various senior high schools based on their choices of schools and performance in the Examination.

The applicant said he duly complied with the school selection and examination registration processes.

He noted that at all material times he was a Rastafarian by religion, a religion which begun in Jamaica in the 1930s and adopted by many groups around the globe, that combines protestant Christianity, mysticism and a pan-African political consciousness.

A key tenet of Rastafarianism is the wearing of dreadlocks, which is drawn from the Nazarite vow in the Old Testament of the Bible.

In particular, at Numbers 6:5, where it is said "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow."

The biblical Sampson epitomises this wearing of dreadlocks.

The Old Testament recites the story of Samson's mother, who was visited by Jah and was told: "For, 10 thou shall conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines (Judges 13:5). As he grew, Samson possessed extraordinary strength. He then married Delilah, and because she would not believe him when he spoke about the reason for his locks, ... she made him to sleep upon her knee; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him (Judges 16:19)"

The applicant has therefore worn his hair in dreadlocks throughout his studies at the Junior High School, where he excelled academically, was a model student, and was made Senior Prefect.

The applicant dreadlocks have caused no problems for him, his mates, his teachers or the schools.

The applicant, in selecting Achimota Senior High School as his first choice, was motivated by the historical ethos of the School which from its very beginnings was committed to challenging received ideas of the inferiority of African customs, values and cultural tapestry; its well documented embrace of African diversity and identity, as well as the School's well-known alumni. The School's history of pan-Africanism tied in very closely with the Rastafarian belief in a pan-African political consciousness.

The applicant said he was determined to be enrolled in the school and with the inspiration of becoming one of such prominent personalities in the near future took his studies seriously, painstakingly prepared and sat for the Examination in June 2020.

The applicant thought he had finally realised his dream of enrolling in the School when he was posted by virtue of the CSSPS to the School for his secondary education only for the school to deny him the opportunity because of the school's bias against his religion.

More From: Ghanaian Times

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