Back to school for dreadlocked pupil

PHIRI CAWE

After his story made headlines, 13-year-old Azania Stofile was finally allowed to start Grade 8 a week after the start of the 2016 school year.

The young Rastafarian and his family had been at loggerheads with Bulumko High School over his dreadlocks (“Dreadlocks lock pupil out of school”, Vukani, January 21). But on Wednesday January 20 he was finally allowed to attend the classes.

In an interview with Vukani at her house in Khayelitsha, Azania’s mother Nonkosi Stofile said she was delighted that “sanity” had prevailed.

She said she and those who had supported her struggle had triumphed over what she referred to as “narrow thinking”, and that her family’s religion was finally respected.

“I am very happy and my family is overjoyed, but my child is the happiest,” she said.

Ms Stofile said she hoped what happened to her child will never happen to any other child and that she held no grudges against the school principal and the staff.

“Look, we are a small community (Rastas). By the virtue of this, people tend to take advantage of us. We are a small community but we are everywhere and we are vocal. This little victory should serve as a lesson to other schools or individuals. My wish is that no other Rasta child after him should receive the kind of treatment he received,” she said. Ms Stofile added that Azania’s re-admission to the school had boosted his confidence. “From what he told me, he had a great time on his first day. He wasn’t threatened or ill-treated. I hope the teachers understand what happened was not to provoke staff or disrespect for the school. This has passed now, I am happy we can look into the future,” she said.

School governing body (SGB) chairperson, Innocent Ntanjana, said the matter had been blown out of proportion. He said there had been a misunderstanding between the staff and the family and that teachers had acted correctly by following the school policy on hairstyles.

“We do not discriminate against Rastas, but this case came to us very late. It could have been avoided. When the teachers acted, we could not meet on time as the SGB. Had we met on time, it would not have gone that far,” he said.

Mr Ntanjana said he felt the media had been unprofessional in the way it ran the story. However, he said he was happy the boy was back at school.

“Everyone is now happy. As I have said, I do not blame anyone for what happened,” he said, emphasising that the school does not discriminate against anyone based on their religion.

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