Skip to main content

The Applicants were two Rastafarian children who brought judicial review proceedings in separate courts against the decisions of their respective schools for declining to enroll them because they had dreadlocks. The refusal to register them was based on a policy that all learners in Government schools, including Rastafarian children, must have trimmed hair. The Courts declared that the policy is unlawful, unconstitutional, unreasonable, unjustified and therefore be abolished because it is contrary to section 4(1)(a)(b) of the Education Act which provides for promoting education without discrimination of any form, section 5(2)(i) of the Education Act which places a duty on the government to remove barriers to achievement of equality in education, and was a violation of their right to religion, education and not to be discriminated against on the grounds of religious affiliation as provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi in Sections 20, 25 and 33.

The court in its decision, acknowledged that the Rastafarian faith is a recognized religion in Malawi and that dreadlocks are a central part of the Rastafarian faith. The court held that indeed the Applicants had a significant number of their rights violated and that the policy to cut hair without sparing Rastafarian children who keep hair for religious reasons was unconstitutional. The court therefore advised the ministry of education to issue a directive to all Government schools by 30th June 2023 that Rastafarian children should not be stopped from registration and enrollment.