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October 15, 2010

Hair Matters – the children

When we arrived in Ghana, we noticed that many of the young Ghanaian girls wore their hair in very short afros. My son teased my daughter mercilessly with the idea that she would have to cut off her hair in order to attend school.

I, on the other hand, am fascinated by the practice. Short hair, does not at all detract from the children’s looks. Instead it accentuates their beauty, the light in their eyes and the joy in their smiles.

Ghanaian girl
Ghanaian girl

Since the 1960s, girls attending public schools in Ghana are required to have short cropped hair. This is a very practical. In addition to reducing incidence of lice and so on, it removes one element of expense and competition among students and parents. There are no tears about bad hair days, bad haircuts, or the cost of hair products.

Short hair is also a matter of Ghanaian tradition. On a girl, a short cut signals that she has not yet come of age and is off limits to interested men.

Most Ghanaians who can afford to send their children to private schools do not ascribe to the tradition of short hair. This means that in a group of children, one can identify the type of school that a child attends. Of course, this has created a new means of dividing the haves from the have nots, very unfortunate in a country where the economic divide is already chasmic.

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