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The IFP in the KZN Legislature says every person’s right to freedom of religion must be respected, as per Section 15 of the Constitution, and this includes learners at schools.
This comes after allegations that learners who belong to the Shembe Church and attend Esizibeni Sivananda Vaswani Comprehensive High School in Amanzimtoti were instructed by the School Principal to trim their hair.
South Africa is a country of many cultures and many religions - indeed, a country of pluralities. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, belief and opinion, and, in turn, prohibits unfair discrimination based on religion.
We cannot allow schools or teachers to discriminate against learners due to their beliefs. In a diverse society like ours, institutions like schools have a special duty to accommodate the religious and cultural beliefs and practices of learners and employees.
The IFP believes that when a school or other body draws up a code of conduct, it should always provide for the reasonable accommodation of all the different cultural and religious practices of the pupils in that school. This requires more than mere tolerance and rather, requires a celebration of the diversity of cultures and religions in South Africa.
It appears that this did not happen in this case, and the IFP is concerned that the School may be acting unlawfully. The School has a constitutional duty to accommodate these learners’ religious practice and therefore cannot demand that they cut their hair.
We call upon the KZN MEC for Education, Mbali Frazer, to swiftly intervene in this matter by calling an urgent parent meeting, together with leaders of the Shembe Church, to diffuse tensions. As a political head of the Department, she has a duty to ensure that schools do not breach the constitutional and legal rights of pupils. If she fails to act immediately, she would be disrespecting the Constitution, as well as failing to protect vulnerable children, whose constitutional rights are being infringed.
Further, the IFP calls on the Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate the matter at Esizibeni Sivananda Vaswani Comprehensive High school in Amanzimtoti and ensure that the rights of all learners are being respected, and protected.
Issued IFP KZN Provincial Spokesperson on Education Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa