Parents divided over rules after school asks cancer volunteers to wear wigs

Singaporeans are divided over the "wig-gate" case - in which a school asked students to wear hairpieces after the girls had shaved their heads for a cancer charity.

The story provoked a flood of reactions, with some sticking up for the principal and others flaming her online.

The Straits Times reported how the all-girls St Margaret's Secondary School asked students to wear wigs after they went bald for the Hair for Hope charity event.

Three youngsters who failed to comply were called out of class and taken by a parent volunteer to buy hairpieces costing around $70 each.

The move attracted support from many parents and teachers, who argued that a rule is a rule.

But others were not impressed. Associate lecturer Rabia Muir, 48, said she would be proud if her teenage son and daughter shaved their heads to raise money for a good cause. "What's wrong with that?" she said. "You should encourage it."

Writer and educator Teng Qian Xi, 30, added: "If what they do doesn't affect their learning and makes people think, I think it's perfectly acceptable."

One reason given for the school's ban on charity-related baldness was that it could encourage others to adopt extreme hairstyles.

But entrepreneur Jean Chong, 37, said students were unlikely to be "mindless automatons" going from fad to fad.

"I think the best way is to look at intentions and if the action of the student is causing any harm to others," she added.

Many felt the wigs went against the spirit of Hair for Hope, in which shaven-headed donors show empathy for children with cancer.

Ms Teng argued that a shaved head is "one of the most practical hairstyles for either gender" in school because it cannot get caught in machines or catch fire in the lab. But one teacher, who declined to be named because of a rule barring educators from speaking to the media, pointed out that the students had promised to wear the wigs, but gone back on their word. "In school, when you don't keep a promise to be on time, to behave in class or treat others with respect, you're punished.

Those promises are part and parcel of being in school."

Retired doctor Yong Wai Ping, 55 - who has two children aged 19 and 23 - praised the girls' effort but said: "No matter how good your cause may be, a rule is a rule."

Several teachers, who declined to be named, suggested using the episode to raise awareness of childhood cancer. They said that instead of wearing wigs, the girls could have given a presentation on the disease at assembly.

More than 6,000 volunteers shaved their heads for Hair for Hope last year, up from only a few hundred in 2005.

The Children's Cancer Foundation, which runs the charity drive, said a key message was "to let children who lost their hair with cancer treatment know that it is OK to be bald".

Head shaving events were carried out at 16 schools this year, including St Joseph's Institution (International).

Principal Bradley Roberts said it has no rules to bar girls from sporting short hair.

Even if it did, he would exempt those taking part in Hair for Hope as it is "an excellent opportunity... to both support and empathise with the aims of this charity".


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