Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
A St John’s College student who practises Islam and was barred from attending lessons after refusing to shave his beard has taken the school’s authorities to court arguing that the officials’ decision was unconstitutional.
The Upper Six pupil’s father, Mr Mohammed Ismail, filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on behalf of the boy.
The application, prepared by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, is yet to be set down for hearing before a judge of the High Court.
The school administrators, who have instructed security officers to block the pupil from the school premises, argued that his beard violated the school’s dress code.
The student’s father said his son had been sent home a number of times “to shave off his beard and to abide by the school rules”.
The pupil keeps a full beard as part of his faith. St John’s College’s decision flies in the face of previous court decisions ordering schools to reinstate students who had challenged “discriminatory and unconstitutional” conduct by the authorities.
St John’s College, its headmaster Mr Cavaliere Corrado Trinci and the chairperson of the institution’s board of governors, Mr Cavaliere Steve Martin, were listed as respondents in the case.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Ismail argued that his son was studying to be an Imam, a position of immense responsibility in Islam, hence he is prohibited from shaving off his beard.
“As part of the strict religious position of Islam, the boy has to maintain the growth of his beard,” he said in his affidavit. Preserving a beard is compulsory for all Muslim males. Islam forbids the shaving of the beard.
“Accordingly, the minor represented herein is prohibited by his religion from shaving beard.”
Mr Ismail said his son enrolled with St John’s in Form One with his beard, but nothing happened to him. Trouble started at the end of last year when the beard had grown and the college authorities barred him from attending lessons.
They threatened to bar him from entering the college premises this term, precipitating the filing of the urgent chamber application. Mr Ismail argued that his son’s right to freedom of religion as enshrined under Section 60 of the supreme law was being violated.
He argued that the boy was being discriminated against on religious grounds. St John’s College and its leadership are yet to respond to the application.