South Africa has in the past few years undergone (and is still in the process of undergoing) radical socio-political change. In times of change, things that were previously taken for granted suddenly become problematic. In a diverse society with persons and groups with different backgrounds, religions, cultures, preferences, customs and usages, the problems are more complex, because it cannot be assumed that the same values are shared by all sectors of society. Multi-culturalism is a reality in our schools, particularly in our public schools. Various problems may be experienced because of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of learners. Recently the Equality Court (Pillay v MEC for Education, KwaZulu-Natal 2006 6 SA 363 (EqC)) held that the school's code of conduct prohibiting a Hindu learner to wear a nose stud to school boils down to unfair discrimination based on the grounds of religion and culture. The case is currently in the Constitutional Court for their judgement on the issue. Whatever the outcome of the case, it will have serious implications for all learners who want to wear religious and cultural symbols to school, for example the Catholic cross, Muslim headscarf, Hindu nose ring or Rastafarian dreadlocks. It would also be important for teachers to know what their position in terms of the wearing of cultural and religious symbols in the schools are. In this paper, I will discuss the influence or possible influence of multi-culturalism in the context of religious and cultural symbols in public schools. Secondly, I will elaborate on the court decisions dealing with the issue of religious and cultural symbols in public schools and, finally, I will comment on the emergence and growth of legal courses, such as legal pluralism, which can contribute to the debates pertaining to diversity and values, especially in the field of education law.
|Keywords:||Legal Pluralism, Religious Symbols, Cultural Symbols, Public Schools, Constitutional Law|
Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), Noordbrug, Northwest, South Africa
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