By Michelle Sutherland,
The Human Rights Commission of Belize has come out to condemn the latest breach of human rights in Belize where a young preschool graduate is reportedly being denied enrollment into two religious primary schools in Ladyville.
Cynthia Pitts, retired attorney at law and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission in Belize told the Reporter on Thursday that the Commission condemns any form of discrimination, especially one against a small child. She said that she finds it even more absurd that in 2022, Belize and Belizeans are still coping with discrimination against a particular group of people due to their religious beliefs. Something which she says is afforded and protected under the Constitution of Belize.
“There are policies and regulations under the Constitution of Belize that says that you cannot discriminate against someone because of their religion, practice, or belief. So they should not be discriminating against any student for the way that they may be using their hair. We are in complete support of what Orson Elrington said in one of his interviews that it is a direct breach of the child's constitutional right to get an education. There have been several cases that have already gone before the courts, where the courts have ruled that it is a form of discrimination. It is their right, their freedom of opinion, and their freedom of religion,” reiterated Pitts.
We also reached out to the Minister of Culture Science and Technology Hon. Francis Fonseca for his comments on the situation and he also reminded us that both the policy at the Ministry of Education and the Constitution of Belize makes it absolutely clear that no child can be denied access to any educational Institution because of their natural hair or hair preference as a result of religious, cultural or personal beliefs.
Fonseca said that the Ministry of Education has already stepped in to address the situation by reminding both schools of this very important position.
On Monday the child's father Kevin Pollard took to social media to vent his frustration over what he claimed is outright discrimination against his son, who wears his hair in dreadlocks. Pollard, himself who has been a Rastafarian his entire life and raised his son in a similar fashion said that on Monday he went to the Ladyville Evangelical School to enroll his son for the upcoming school year but was rudely turned back by the school management who allegedly told him they could not accept his son into their school due to his dreadlock hairstyle.
Pollard claimed that he then went to the Ladyville SDA Primary School, and was again given the same treatment. He alleged that the school's management told him that for his son to be admitted into the school he would need to cut his dreadlocks.
“I can't sit back and just let my child be victimized and discriminated against. My son's hair is well taken care of, what does his hair have to do with his learning? Yet we have people in our country that holds big position and they are very professional, such as attorneys, CEO in GOB, doctors, business owners, teachers, even a previous Minister, and many others. As a society, as a country how can we allow this, are you telling me that we cannot be Rastafarians in Belize?” wrote Pollard.
While one of the schools decided to withhold their comments, the General Manager of Ladyville Evangelical School Eutimio Chi is claiming that it was a case of miscommunication. According to Chi, Pollard was told that the school had closed its registration on May 19th and that his son would be put on a waiting list along with several other students, due to the school being filled to capacity.