Schools, not just clubs, can be snobbish too

by Seashell

The incident at Singapore Cricket Club recently, where a domestic worker was barred from admission, reminded me of a similar discriminatory practice at my secondary school – Chung Cheng High School (Yishun) – earlier this year.

I had a junior – graduated about three years ago – who returned to his alma mater as an alumni to assist his Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) during an annual CCA carnival.

To his shock, he was denied entry to the school as his hair was dyed slightly brown. Ditto to a few other alumni as well, who were visiting the school on the same day. He only could enter the school after he purchased a hair spray from a nearby shop and sprayed his hair black.

Such a rule is absurd. After all, he is no longer a student studying there and hence not reasonable to be subjected to the same school rules. It is his personal choice to have a dyed hair. I understand if the school prescribes a dress code for visitors to maintain the decorum of an educational institute. It is also straightforward to follow suit.

However, insisting on a “no dyed hair” rule when visiting the school is unreasonable. Reverting to a black hair cannot be done immediately without consequences. My junior could enter the school after spraying his hair black, but had to bear the extra cost and trouble to colour it back afterwards. All the trouble simply to visit his alma mater.

To be fair, my junior initially offered a compromise by wearing a cap he brought along to cover the dyed hair but was met with a straight refusal too.

I acknowledge the existing stereotypes on people with dyed hair as being rebellious, but wouldn’t it be ironic if schools are teaching students not to be judgmental, yet not practicing what they preach with incidents like this. Are schools re-affirming stereotypes?

Moreover, during a visit to my alma mater in July, there was an award ceremony where the school was rewarding students who did well for the previous year’s national exams. Ex-students involved were invited back to receive the awards. Some of them returned with dyed hair, yet were allowed into the school.

I’m sure the school had not changed their stance at that point in time because about a month later in August, a junior with similarly mildly-dyed hair visited the school during the national day celebrations and was barred from entering the school due to the same reason.

Is the school sending a message on double standards, i.e. as long as ex-students do well academically and “bring glory to the school”, prescribed guidelines do not apply to them? This is hypocrisy at the highest level – if the school stand by its ridiculous rules, it should theoretically apply to all individuals, not just for ordinary alumni.

I am unsure if the school has something against alumni who dye their hair, or it was an Education Ministry directive across the board. If it was the latter, can MOE explain its position and the rationale for doing so? Supposing the tables are turned and those with dyed hair are parents or special guests instead, will they be treated the same? Hypothetically, if a member of parliament visits the school with mildly dyed hair, which is not uncommon for ladies, will he or she be allowed entry?

Rules should be respected, but they have to be reasonable too. MOE recently announced a change of principals, and Tan Yee Kan will replace Chung Cheng’s current principal Yap Thiam Chuan from 2019 onwards. I hope that the new principal can review this unreasonable guideline and not let alumni feel discriminated.

After all, whether a school’s reputation can continue to soar depends on support by the alumni as an important stakeholder too. If the school decides to sideline the alumni, and eventually lose their support, it will be a huge pity for the development of the school.