Manickchand promises overhaul of outdated school rules as ‘hairstyle memo’ sparks public ire

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Minister of Education Priya Manickchand Thursday said that there will be coordinated efforts in the coming months aimed at overhauling outdated school rules which disproportionately affect learners based on gender and ethnicity.

Her comments came amid a national discussion, sparked by a hairstyle memo issued by the Ministry of Education and addressed to teachers and learners.

It seeks to grant a “one-day permission” for the relaxing of hair rules to allow for females to wear their hair as they desire on International Women’s Day.

But in what could be regarded as a backlash for the good intent, the hairstyle rules have come in for strong condemnation across social media platforms.

“It’s a harsh conversation but it is a necessary and good conversation to have. The beginning of these conversations will help us to put practical guidelines about how we offer better education.

“I don’t mind the concerns raised and I’m happy people are discussing the issue. In this case, there is no bad press,” Manickchand told the News Room during a live interview while in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) on Thursday.

She welcomed the discussions, both for and against the archaic rules, and said it would no doubt guide and balance future guidelines.

“I have heard of girls and boys being sent home and placed in detention and punished for their hairstyles not being appropriate or acceptable according to our rules.

“I do not know that a girl who straightens her hair can learn better than a girl who wears her hair naturally… with that examination will come resistance from people who don’t believe we should relax any rules,” the Education Minister contended.

She acknowledged that the condemnation of the memo is based on it being addressed to teachers and pointed out that while there are no rules for teachers, some have complained of being victims of discrimination in this regard.

According to Manickchand, coming out of this debate is a balance of ideas for future guidelines that would not encourage competition and distraction or place a financial burden on parents.

“Change doesn’t come easy…some of the things we tried to change that are studied across the world and determine to be outdated… when you try to introduce it here, you are faced with resistance to change that will be good.”

The Education Minister said all efforts are geared towards removing some of the archaic rules that could narrow how people express themselves.

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