Singaporeans slam St Margaret Secondary School principal for imposing wig rule on bald students

·Nurul Azliah Aripin
A lady posing beside a Hair for Hope banner with her shaved head. (Hair for Hope Facebook photo)

Singaporeans, including personalities such as local radio DJ Rosalyn Lee, have slammed the principal of St Margaret Secondary School for insisting that her students wear wigs to school after having their heads shaved at a fundraising event.
 
The Straits Times reported Friday that five students from the all-girls school had participated in the Hair for Hope, which was organised by the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF).

The event which saw “overwhelming” response from supporters as said in its Facebook post, encouraged supporters to shave their heads as a gesture to tell children with cancer that it is “OK to be bald”.

 The students had asked for the school’s permission beforehand due to a rule that forbids “punk, unfeminine or sloppy hairstyles” – which in this case, refer to the bald heads.
 
The report also said that the five secondary 3 students had “promised” to put on wigs when they return to school. However, only two of them had done so while the remaining three did not.
 
“Your sentiments about being bald’s sure as hell not gonna make people who lost their hair to cancer feel any better!” said Lee in a Facebook post, in response to the controversial action by Marion Tan, the principal of St Margaret Secondary School.
 
Tan reportedly called the remaining three out of their class and insisted that they buy the wigs, which costs $70 each, to cover their bald heads.
 
When founder of social marketing agency, Goodstuph, Pat Law found out about the issue, she too criticised the principal on her Facebook profile.
 
Law felt that the students’ bald decision was for a good cause and seemed disappointed that Tan was inflexible with the rule on students’ appearances.
 
In a written statement provided to Yahoo! Singapore, she said, “What I found appalling was St Margaret’s Secondary School’s principal, Mrs Marion Tan’s, utter lack of context and compassion for the three girls… these girls did not shave their heads to make a fashion statement.”
 
She added that it was for a “societal statement” instead, and they had done so “at an age where these girls are possibly the most physically insecure”.
 
Club owner Roy Ng and father of two sons said, “I oppose strongly to that [principal’s action]. If I had a daughter, I’ll get angry at the principal who’s forcing her to wear a hair wig.”
 
“Cancer is just a word and it’s normal to be bald,” added Ng, who together with his wife, shaved their heads bald in the same event last year.

Public relations executive Jean Wee, 34, finds it questionable that the principal had asked the students to wear wigs at the first place.
 
The mother of two, who participated in the same event last year, told Yahoo! Singapore, “As the leader of an all-girls school, she should not emphasise on outward beauty… what happens when a cancer student in her school has to be bald after undergoing chemotherapy? Will she get her to wear a wig too?”
 
Wee added that she would allow her daughters to participate in the head-shaving event because it is “a painless way to show empathy” and support for cancer patients.
 
On the Hardware Zone forum, there were numerous comments shaming the principal for being inflexible.
 
User LHC 987 said, “All for the sake of conformity, worthless principal.”
 
Junior 87 said, “People doing good for charity, you castigate them for flouting school rules.”

 
Keeping promises
 
However, Wee also felt that the students should continue to wear the wigs to school since they had made that promise to the principal prior to the event.
 
“If they made a promise to the principal, then they have to abide by that,” she said. 
 
According to The Straits Times, the father of one of the three students agreed with the principal’s views and said, “Whatever the girls have agreed, they have to abide by.”
 
Another student from the school, known as Yukie, had blogged about how some of the students had broken the promise of wearing wigs.
 
“I have already seen my seniors wearing their wigs and getting rashes all over their skin, mainly around their ears and head, because of the heat,” she said in the blog post dated 29 July.

This year's Hair for Hope took place on 27 and 28 July at Vivo City.
 
Tan reportedly defended her actions and said that other students would take advantage of the situation and go bald as well if she chooses to let the five girls go bald in school.
 
“Can you imagine if I were to say yes, I’d have everybody coming to school with a bald head. Sometimes it’s a fad, so they would take advantage of the situation,” she said, in the Straits Times report.
 
Yahoo! Singapore has asked for comments from the Ministry of Education as well as Children’s Cancer Foundation, and are awaiting the replies.

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COMMENT: St Margaret's principal, listen to the girls who helped Hair for Hope

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