ON her first day at school, she sported a hairstyle with long hair at the front and sides, covering her ears and collar. The teacher on duty ordered her to go back home and cut her hair to at least one inch long. The first thing the matron scrutinises before even asking for the bank slip at this up-
ON her first day at school, she sported a hairstyle with long hair at the front and sides, covering her ears and collar. The teacher on duty ordered her to go back home and cut her hair to at least one inch long.
The first thing the matron scrutinises before even asking for the bank slip at this up-town girls school is the length of oneâ€™s hair. If it is beyond one inch, a student is not allowed in. While in the developed world, the debate is shifting to whether boys should also be allowed to have long hair like their female colleagues, in most traditional African schools, it is against the school rules to have long hair.
There is a global debate among educationists about whether long hair affects studentsâ€™ performance. Many schools prohibit girls from growing their hair, arguing that it is time-wasting and costly, which affects performance and mutual respect between students.
Hillary Kiiza, the director of Namirembe Hillside High school, argues that: â€œEvery school has its own culture. Ours is that girls should keep their hair one inch long. This is not because we are against long hair. But long hair requires a lot of time to maintain, which could divert someoneâ€™s attention from concentrating on their academic work,â€ Kiiza explains.
He says it is justified to maintain a uniform hairstyle for all students in school to promote common identity and a sense of belonging among students.
â€œWe wanted to make everyone uniform such that we help the average students, who are usually the majority, to identify with everyone equally.â€
Many head teachers echo his view. They argue that restricting long hair is part of the rules designed to promote neatness and self-discipline as well as instill a shared identity and sense of belonging to the school. Educationists agree that such restrictions are based on common sense, arguing that uniformity helps students accept each other, despite their different background.
Nakate Kikomeko, the headmistress of Trinity College Nabbingo, says if a school allows students to grow their hair, it would necessitate giving the students permission and extra time to clean and maintain their hair.
â€œWe would have to create extra time on top of academic work to allow them wash their hair. We want students to live their age, not like adults. Any lady will tell you that maintaining long hair is a challenge. Why should a young girl live like an adult? It would create unnecessary challenges,â€ she explains.
But such policies often provoke ill feelings among students, who feel that head teachers are only witch-hunting them. Even more, some schools have a policy of allowing half-castes and Asians to keep their hair long while the â€œlocalâ€ students are forced to cut theirs short.
Parents are equally divided on the issue. Mauda Nakatto, a parent, supports the schools which donâ€™t allow long hair, saying students from poor families would not fit in with those from well-to-do families who have all the means to keep their hair long.
But David Twinamasiko, a father, says hair or no hair, studentsâ€™ performance depends on the quality of facilities in schools and the teachers. â€œItâ€™s not true that long hair necessarily interferes with the learnersâ€™ performance. Some of the best schools in the country allow girls to grow their hair,â€ he argues.
While some schools are very strict on the policy of long hair, others, including some of the best performing ones, allow long hair in school. At Aga Khan High School, girls are encouraged to grow their hair so that they are at par with their half-caste and Asian counterparts.
What do proponents say?
Proponents of the long hair policy, say in the olden day, school girls kept long hair while at school. They argue that some girls could be psychologically tortured if their hair was cut against their will. Some schools that allow girls to grow their hair perform better than others in academics and lifeskills. Victoria Kisarale, the headmistress of Gayaza High, says they allow their girls to keep their hair long so they can look smart, especially when they are going out for school functions.
She says it takes excellent performance, hard work and determination and that if girls must attend to their hair, it has to be outside class time. The controversial global debate on long hair versus performance hit a high note in 2005. In 2005, BBC reported that school girls in Togo had been sent home to have their heads shaved because teachers claimed they wasted too much time playing with their hair.
The decision, which was backed by the countryâ€™s education ministry, became a global topic of discussion. While critics and students accused the schools of acting overzealously and failing to tackle the real problem of underachievement, enthusiasts supported the move saying long hair was one of the reasons the girls were performing as well as boys.
In Uganda, the education ministryâ€™s basic minimum requirements and standards are silent about the physical appearance of the students. The 16-page document only mentions that schools must have guidelines on studentsâ€™ organisation, development and discipline management.
Aggrey Kibenge, the education ministry spokesperson, says schools are at liberty to put in place school rules and regulations that they deem important to ensure discipline and performance. Some educationists, however, argue that that the policy should not be a case of isolating students by race. Does long hair distract girls from theri studies? Send your views to email@example.com. Or sms Education (space) Your comment and send to 8338 (Valid for Zain, Warid and utl and MTN subscribers
Does long hair disrupt studies?