Followers of the Rastafari religion jammed a constitutional court yesterday when one of their prophets took to the witness dock to defend the right of his daughter to wear dreadlocks to school.
For them it was a matter of their freedom to express their religion and for that reason the young and the old came in their numbers wearing long beaded necklaces and huge turbans.
They sat pensively in court for hours listening to John Wambua Mwendwa alias prophet explain to judge Chacha Mwita the difference between Rasta and dreadlocks. Children too were in court. It was their second day in court. On Monday too they were in court and the judge allowed kids to sit on the front bench.
The children were running around in court room giggling, not understanding the seriousness of the place they were. Mothers breastfed their children as the court proceedings went on.
According to Mwendwa what his daughter wears is Rasta and is an outward expression of her faith in her maker as opposed to dreadlocks which he believes is something that is ‘dreadful’. Rasta, he said, is covered. He said there is a difference between dreadlocks and Rasta.
As he explained to court he quoted sections of bible which he claims the Rastafarians follow.
He quoted the book of numbers chapter 6:1-8 where the bible among many things forbids shaving of hair for Nazarites.
“My Lord as my faith I am not supposed to shave my hair. This is not just my faith, I and my family we shall serve the Lord, It is my responsibility to raise my child as a Rasta,” Mwendwa said.
He noted that his daughter had indicated to the school that she is a Rastafarian and the decision to now eject her from school is in bad faith especially after she already attended two lessons.
Mwendwa further argued that the school rules forbid dreadlocks and that there is no where it says Rastas shouldn’t be educated.
He pointed to the judge that though his daughter read and understood school rules they contravene her right to religion.
The rules which were read out in court forbid a child from wearing dreadlocks to school among many things.
Mwendwa had sued Olympic High School in Kibra seeking to compel them to admit his daughter to Form One without shaving her dreadlocks.
The minor was sent away on January 10, despite having paid school fees.
She was allegedly condemned for having dreadlocks and was directed to only comes back after shaving.
The father in the suit papers says the action of the school amounts to discrimination on the basis of her Rastafarian beliefs.
The Constitution states that every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
“Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship,” Article 30(2) states.
On its part the school denied discriminating on the minor but firmly stated that the rules ought to be complied with by all students.
It noted that even though the Rastafarian society is registered in the country there is no proof Mwendwa belongs to it and above all it is not open to a minor.
The school blamed the minor for excluding herself from learning by willfully disobeying rules despite signing the same.