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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Congrats, Ms Wade


Dr Frances Chandler

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Congrats, Ms Wade

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WE BARBADIANS ARE STRANGE. Even the famous “blind man sitting backwards on the trotting horse” should’ve seen by now that Barbadian society is going downhill. Yet, whenever there’s an attempt  to introduce any sensible measure to help curb the situation, we’re quick to condemn it, usually claiming that it’s an infringement of our rights. On the other hand, we constantly sit quietly by and allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.

We’ve already lost a generation, so isn’t it time to do something to save the youngest in our society? I congratulate Ms Juanita Wade, the new principal of Harrison College, and Mrs Rhonda Blackman, president of the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, on their stand regarding students’ hairstyles. Of course we previously had the cellphone and backpack issues, and the strict enforcement of school uniform regulations, all of which I assume are efforts to reduce lawlessness and  bring back some discipline to students, something which seems to have been lost over time. It won’t be easy to restore this though, since the problem has been allowed to fester for too long. And the constant tug -o’- war between parents and teachers doesn’t help either.

While these issues may seem trivial compared to the present economic issues, it’s the principle involved that’s important and the former do eventually have an effect on the latter. Someone recently said that we can’t leave the upbringing of children to parents since most parents haven’t a clue about parenting – mostly I think, because they are children themselves. Therefore a heavy responsibility is put on schools where children spend a lot of their time. Of course it’s important that the teachers  provide good examples. Sadly, this isn’t always the case, and that too, needs to be corrected.

Discipline and respect for authority are two important attributes necessary for success in our lives. It’s noteworthy that the former Harrisonians who agreed with the principal’s move are successful in their careers. School prepares students for the working world. If they’re exposed to discipline as students, they’ll no doubt be successful in later life. If there’s no discipline, we’re faced with the “wha’ ya want” attitude becoming prevalent in the service sector.

The whole hullaballoo seems to be over a student’s right to wear “natural hair”. But what is natural hair? The best and most logical definition I’ve found is “your unaltered, God-given hair as it grows through the epidermis from follicles deep within the dermis; not chemically altered, coloured, curled or straightened by relaxers, texturisers or other chemical agents and is also free of any and all extensions”. I doubt whether there would be any objection to hair fitting the above description. The question is whether that hair is clean, neat and tidy and whether the hairstyle is appropriate. As was said: “If a teacher has to ask whether you combed your hair, then it can’t be acceptable.” And that goes for all types of hair – Black, Caucasian, Asian or any mix of these.

From what I’ve been told, it seems that in primary schools the rules are quite strict and call for hair to be plaited (I’m not sure what happens if hair is not long enough to be plaited and I certainly see nothing wrong with a neat bun or pony tail), but once the students enter secondary school, the pendulum swings to the other extreme, and “anything goes”.

This matter of appropriateness (and practicality) of hairstyle is not only applicable to schools, it’s most important in the workplace. You see people in offices, supermarkets and so on with “curtains of hair” covering one eye and sometimes both, leaving one to wonder how they see what they’re doing. Then there are the long nails (natural or fake) which make it impossible to pick anything up or to type properly. Should that be tolerated by employers? Don’t the defence and police forces have rules regarding hairstyles? Why not companies?

It’s also interesting that these so-called “natural” hairstyles are by no means cheap. Yet there are parents who complain about spending a few dollars on some basic needs for their children’s education, but have no problem spending hefty sums on their hairstyles.

Let’s be sensible and accept the need for discipline in schools as long as it’s administered fairly and kindly. It’s all for our future good.

Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator. Email [email protected]

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