Court orders Achimota School to admit Rastafarian student

Tyron Iras Marhguy, a Rastafarian student, has secured a court judgment to gain admission at Achimota Senior High School

The Human Rights Court in Accra has on Monday (31 May) ordered officials at Achimota Senior High School to admit one of the Rastafarian students, Tyron Iras Marhguy.

Tyrone Marhguy, who was denied admission together with one other Rastafarian student sued the school because he was denied admission at the Achimota School because of his dreadlocks in order to affirm his fundamental human right.

The court in granting the application held that the refusal of Achimota School to admit Master Marhguy on grounds that he was wearing dreadlocks amounted to a breach of his fundamental human rights and his right to education.

According to the Affidavit in support of the application which has now been determined, Tereo Kwame Marhguy is the biological father and next friend of the applicant, the respondents in the case are the board of governors Achimota Senior High School (1st Respondent) and the Attorney General (2nd Respondent).

Affidavit in support

According to the father of the applicant, his son “duly complied with the school selection and examination registration processes. The Applicant at all material times was a Rastafarian by religion and that Rastafarianism is a religious movement, begun in Jamaica in the 1930s and adopted by many groups around the globe, that combines protestant Christianity, mysticism and a pan-African political consciousness”.

“A key tenet of Rastafarianism is the wearing of dreadlocks, which is drawn from the Nazarite vow in the Old Testament of the Bible. In particular, at Numbers 6:5, where it is said “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no rasor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.”

The affidavit further states that” the Applicant has therefore worn his hair in dreadlocks throughout his studies at the Junior High School, where he excelled academically, was a model student, and was made Senior Prefect. The dreadlocks have caused no problems for him, his mates, his teachers or the schools”.

The 58-paragraph affidavit further notes that “the Applicant’s colleagues who were admitted into the School by virtue the CSSPS placement have commenced classes whiles he is discriminatorily denied same right to education in the School and he is currently at home simply because of his expression of his religious faith, without injury to any other person. The Applicant has always been of good behaviour in his former schools and would continue to do so. And that in a recent media reportage carried out by Citi TV about the Applicant in his former school, his former teachers and school mates attested to his positive behavior and expressed their shock about the discrimination being meted against him”.

“The Applicant believes that unless this Honourable court intervenes, the 1st Respondent, its officials, teachers and other authorities will continue to violate his fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed rights to education, religion, administrative justice and right against discrimination. I am informed by Counsel and respectfully concur with that advice that upon a breach of the Applicant’s fundamental human rights, he is entitled to seek redress before this Honourable Court” the affidavit stated.

According to the motion filed at the Human Rights division of the High Court, dated the 31st of March 2021, Tyron Iras Marhguy (Student Applicant) suing by the Next Friend and father, says the decision of Achimota school not to admit him because of his hair style is a violation of his Constitutional right to education guaranteed under Article 25 (1)b, and 28 (4) of the 1992 Constitution.

Reliefs sought

The seventeen (17) year old is therefore seeking seven (7) reliefs at the Human Rights Court. Among the reliefs he is praying for are; “a declaration that the failure and or refusal of the 1st Respondent, to admit or enrol the Applicant on the basis of his Rastafarian religious inclination, beliefs and culture characterised by his keeping of rasta is a violation of his fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution particularly Articles 12(1); 23; 21(1)(b)(©️); 26(1); 17(2) and (3)”.

Again, the Applicant is asking for “a declaration that the failure and or refusal of the 1st Respondent, to admit or enrol the Applicant on the basis of his Rastafarian religious inclination, beliefs and culture characterised by his keeping of rasta is a violation of his right to education guaranteed under Articles 25(1)(b), 28(4) the 1992
Constitution”. Thirdly, “a declaration that the order directed at the Applicant by the representative of the 1st Respondent to step aside during the registration process on the basis of his religious belief characterized by the keeping of rasta is a violation of his right to dignity guaranteed under Articles 15(1) and 35(4),(5) of the 1992 Constitution”.

The fourth relief being sought by the applicant is “a declaration that there is no lawful basis for the 1st Respondent to interfere with the Applicant’s right to education based on his rasta through which he manifests or expresses his constitutionally guaranteed right to religion and to practice and manifest same.

He is also seeking “an order directed at the 1st Respondent to immediately admit or enrol the Applicant to continue with his education unhindered”. Furthermore, Tyron Iras Marhguy is seeking “an order of Perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Respondent either by themselves, servants and/or agents from, in any way, interfering in the Applicant’s senior secondary school education on the basis of his religious belief and practice as a Rastafarian” and lastly, “an order directed at the 1st and 2nd Respondents to jointly and severally compensate the Applicant for the inconvenience, embarrassment, waste of time, and violation of his fundamental human rights and freedoms”.

Court’s decision

Justice Gifty Adjei Addo’s Court essentially granted all seven reliefs sought by the applicant except the award of cost. The judgment of the human rights High Court by extension means that Achimota School must admit master Tyron Iras Marhguy in his dreadlocks.

Wilberforce Asare

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