Murderers on bail and haircuts

Two recent incidents do not show well for the officials responsible. In Katima Mulilo students were sent home from the Caprivi Secondary School because the school said their hair was not cut properly. In the other strange happening, Morne Mouton was convicted of culpable homicide this week and yet was given bail pending the sentencing hearing. How can such foolish decisions stand unsanctioned?

After struggling to get our children back into the classrooms during a pandemic, myopic school officials are worried more about haircuts than education. The Ministry of Education’s Executive Director must sanction those responsible for denying education because of a hair cut.

Their stringent rules are not discipline. There is a difference between dictatorship and discipline. We would point out to those errant administrators the case of the Titanic. While the ship was sinking and people were dying, passengers in steerage were told by officials that they didn’t have first-class tickets and so could not use the empty first-class lifeboats. They all drowned (including the officials waving rule books).

Rules must never be imposed for their own sake, but to lead to a higher good related to the institution’s goal.

The children’s parents should write letters to the minister of education, demanding action against these officials. Pending the results, they should consult an attorney about suing the school for each class their children missed and for the humiliation they suffered.

There is no national law mandating school hairstyles in Namibia, nor should there be. School administrators must stop making their own rules as if they are demi-gods. How a child wears his/her hair has nothing to do with their ability to learn and the school’s job to teach them.

Parents across Namibia struggle to get children to love themselves, uplift their innovative spirits and work hard. The Caprivi Secondary School believes that haircuts are more important than test scores. They would rather denigrate students about their hair than concentrate on things that matter. Will an examination of that school’s Grade 10 and 12 pass rates show that theirs are higher than those without hairstyle rules?

This criticism also applies to schools that still use corporal punishment and lock gates, preventing kids from entering after the school bell has rung. It applied to those that illegally demand that parents pay money for fundraising gambits or else their kids are excluded.

Our concerns about blind rule enforcement extend to the Namibian courts.

When we look at a man convicted of culpable homicide let out on $5,000 bail, we recall cases of convicted murderers let out on bail pending sentencing who have absconded. There is also a great threat to anyone that person holds responsible for their impending jail stay.

Imagine the ‘I give up’ attitude that someone already convicted of murder may have. Committing another murder or assault is possible. What do they have to lose? They are guaranteed to be going to jail anyway on the current crime. Another crime requires another trial and yet another sentencing hearing if found guilty.

It is extremely dangerous to society to let such a person who may believe they have nothing to lose, amongst us.

There is also a high rate of suicide in Namibia to consider. It is highly possible that such people resigned to their fate, do themselves harm. There are psychological profiles of people convicted already who see no hope. They can take not only their lives but the lives of those around them. It is a dangerous situation for want of N$5,000 bail. The judge allowing Morne Mouton, a convicted murderer, out on bail, must be sanctioned.

Once a person is convicted of a crime, they must be remanded into custody to await sentencing.

Judges, this is common sense law 101 – basic. The disposition that someone is innocent until proven guilty no longer applies once the person has been found guilty. The sentencing phase is pro forma; it does not affect the reality that the person has been found guilty in a court of law.

Both the school in Katima and the judge who released the convicted murderer need to take a long look at the outcomes of what they do, not just the words on the rule book pages.

Regulations must never take precedence over justice.

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