Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The plight of the Togolese schoolgirls

Here's a curious little story -- though no doubt quite important to those involved -- that I found the other day at the BBC:

Schoolgirls throughout Togo, a small West African country nestled between Ghana and Benin, were recently sent home to shave their heads "because teachers say they waste too much time playing with their hair". Indeed, "[s]chools blame the distraction of fashion for girls' low academic record," and "[t]wo weeks ago, the education minister urged more moderation in girls' dress and hairstyles in the classroom":

"They must know how to organise themselves and use their time in order to succeed in their studies instead of wasting their time - three hours, sometimes days - with their hair," said Madame Olympio, a teacher at Lycee Nyekonakpoe in the capital, Lome.

"Girls' success rates are lower than boys," she said.

Pupils from both junior and senior schools have been affected by the schools' ruling and hairdressers in the capital have been doing swift business since Monday morning.

But some girls have been refusing to return to class because they don't want to lose their locks.

Needless to say, "[t]he decision has been the a big topic of discussion in the capital with opinions deeply divided".

I would tend to agree that the state schools have "acted overzealously," but something tells me it's best not to get on Madame Olympio's bad side.

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