“The Government can issue any stupid order. We will stick on to our own rules and order for the discipline of this school.” – this is the reaction I got from the principal of a convent school in Kottayam town in Kerala, when a question was raised about the compulsory ‘hair-plaiting rule’ for girl students in her school.
Last October, the Kerala Directorate of Higher Education and Vocational Higher Secondary Education had issued a famous order, stating that girl students shouldn’t be compelled to ‘plait their hair’ in higher secondary schools. But many of the schools, especially convent schools, are still following the old rule of hair plaited to two sides for girls, as they picturize it as part of their ‘discipline culture’.
The order was issued by the Directorate after the recommendations from Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), following a complaint filed in the commission by a 12th grade student from Kasaragod, P S Aisha. The main reasons listed by Aisha were:
1. Plaiting wet hair causes bad odor, along with other problems like lice-infestation and scalp problems.
2. Hairs split on a daily basis when they are plaited.
3. It forces children to skip having showers in the morning, and this is causing hygiene and health problems.
4. The rule enforces gender discrimination.
But this order has not been implemented in many of the schools and students are faced with fines, charges and impositions – in case they fail to plait their hair with ribbon, while coming to the school. Since it is unhealthy to tie wet hair, certain schools have asked students not to bathe in the morning – so that they can plait the hair. Its easy to implement a discriminatory, compulsive rule – advocating it in the name of discipline.
Shobha Koshy, the Chairperson of KSCPCR, said that strict actions would taken against any institution if any child or her parent submits complaints to the commission. “Plaiting of hair should not be forced upon children as a compulsion . The school authorities should acknowledge the fact discipline is not that something symbolized by hair plaited heads”, she said. However, she also mentioned the limitations of the commission in the enforcement of the order in institutions.