School Uniform: The Right To Freedom Of Expression

All Citizens of South Africa do have the right to express they appearance, cultural and spiritual beliefs, which should be respected. In South Africa, the public schools, leadership committee needs a clear proposal as to, just how to respect and credit the human rights and equality of every citizen, as per the South African Constitution that pledges to protect the fundamental right of all scholars. Therefore, the schools governing body and committee members are finding it problematic to follow the uniformity of their schools. This essay agrees to a greater extent that the school's uniform policy should be made inclusive of religion and culture therefore the school uniform policy should allow learners to follow they cultural upbringing. This essay will firstly discuss, the legal rights to freedom of religious expression in relation to the school’s uniform policy; Secondly, discrimination in schools based on religion; thirdly, The importance of children knowing they rights and lastly, procedures that school principals and governing body can suggest and put in place for parents and learners to bring respect and honour to the school and still adhere to the constitutional rights.

It is vital for the development and unity of our country that schools set fair limitation towards learners. “Every child in South Africa has the right education”(Government gazette 1996:14);it is agreed, it is argued and it has been proven to be a successful factor towards the development of our multi-cultural nation, when south Africans unite there will be an out pouring of success. The South African constitutional right School Act protects the freedom of expression and religion at public schools. They clearly protect learners’ rights to religious, cultural dress and hairstyles. Regardless of how improper the constitutional rights may seem, they are made and need to be followed, as there have been thoroughly thought out by influential leaders’ Constitutional law must be implemented by all South African citizens.

“All laws which discriminate on grounds of race, colour of belief shall be repealed”. Discrimination is when a learner is solely judged because of their religion, belief and freedom of expression. This learner will develop the fear of being victimized or attacked by his peers. This is showing disrespect towards the learner’s culture therefore, leading to an insult of the learner's pride and cultural heritage. This learner is being unfairly discriminated at school. The Equality Act protects religious conviction, therefore no south African shall be discriminated against because of their beliefs or cultural uniform. Educators play a vital role in the development of learners, when a learner attends a school, he/she finds a second home, a learner should not be judged on they upbringing even when it may seem unethical. Schools should take a stand today to embrace our unique diversity. There is a lot to see and a lot to learn.

When using an attire, such as dresses, beads, scarves or any other garment that looks unusual, Schools must respect that. If a learner chooses not to wear a tradition outfit and ignore, they right, due to being victimized or feel like an outcast, then schools can suggest they may still be given the opportunity to appreciate they culture. School Governing Bodies should be more sensitive and consider the school community when designing a new school uniform. Parents should be informed and involved in decisions at the very beginning. A school uniform policy should consider religious and cultural diversity. School Governing Bodies need to put in place more detailed statistics that is structured at safeguarding schools and maintaining fair uniform instructions for scholars, that does not go beyond the constitutional rights. As per scholars are obliged to abide by the Code of Conduct and need to understand the contents of it, which should include; a document clearly emphasizing the expected conduct and the discipline process for non-obeisance. The courts should advise schools to develop fewer limiting rules and to follow viewpoint-neutral policies.

Many parents are unaware of their south African right; therefore, learners are not knowledgeable and are prone to many disadvantages. Schools need to draw up a separate contract on school’s uniformity rights pertaining to the South African constitutional rights, so there is no confusion between learner, parent and educators. By knowing these rights, it can be profitable, or it could lead to destruction all depends on the nature of the situation.

In conclusion every scholar has the right to freedom of expression, after everything that has been discussed in this essay, there should be no school that would deny a learner’s right. South Africa protects the constitution rights, and we need to abide by it.


  1. Alston K.G, Staden van J.G, Pretorius J.L. 2003. “The constitutional right to freedom of expression: How enforceable are school dress codes?”. SAJE .23(3):163-167. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed on 24 May 2019].
  2. Asmal, K. Chidester, D. Lubisi, C.(eds),2005. Legacy of freedom: The ANC’S human rights tradition. Johannesburg & Cape town: Jonathan Ball Publishers.
  3. Government gazette.1996 Constitution of the republic of South Africa. [online]. Available at: Cape town.
  4. Currie I and De Waal J. 2005. “The Bill of Rights Handbook” 5th Edition. Cape Town: Juta & Company.
  5. Waal DE E, Mestry R and Russo C.J. 2011. ‘Religious and cultural dress at school: A comparative perspective’. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal.14(6):1727-3781.Avaliable at: [Accessedon May 2019].
09 March 2021
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