Court orders government to repeal Education Act
By Tiyese Monjeza:
The High Court sitting in Zomba Monday ordered the Executive arm of government and the Ministry of Education to abolish the Malawi Education Act of 2012 which, among others, has provisions that bar dreadlocked children from being enrolled in public schools.
High Court judge Zione Ntaba has since ordered the ministry to write circulars to all public schools by June 30 indicating that learners with dreadlocks will be allowed to attend classes.
The judgement follows a judicial review application by two minors who were barred from enrolling to Blantyre Girls Primary School and Malindi Secondary School on the basis that they had dreadlocks.
They complained that the provision infringed on their right education.
Seventy-three Rastafarian parents and Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) joined the two in the case as interested parties.
Among the grounds, the applicants described the Malawi Education Act, which the two schools invoked to deny the two learners access to their facilities as unlawful and unconstitutional.
The Office of the Attorney General had applied to the court to dismiss the case on the basis that there was no such policy that bars dreadlocked children from enrolling in public schools.
Reading out the judgement by Ntaba, High Court judge Patrick Chirwa said the Education Act placed Rastafarian children in an awkward position where they had to choose between upholding their belief on religion and enrolling in public schools.
“The State should also refund all the costs which the applicants spent throughout the case. The Ministry of Education should write circulars… directing that the [Education Act] is no longer in effect,” Chirwa said.
Lawyer Chikondi Chijozi, who represented the applicants, described the judgement as a landmark in promoting access to education for all Malawians.
“The judgement means a lot when it comes to respecting one’s religious belief,” Chijozi said.
We had not managed to get the State’s reaction to the judgement by the time we went to press yesterday.
National Nyabinghi Priest, Ras Ruben Batawi Chapunga Chilembwe, said Rastafarians were being forced to send their children to expensive private schools because they were not allowed in public schools.