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Mr. Wilfred Taylor, the principal of a high school in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, has refused to explain to Cii News why his school decided to prevent two learners from attending class because of their wearing Islamic headgear.
In a curt manner Taylor said, “I would just like to refer you, all queries regarding this case to Paddy Atwell at the department (of education).”
According to a report in Die Burger, Sakeenah Dramat (16) and her brother, Bilaal (13), attended their first day at Hoërskool Eben Dönges last Wednesday as new learners.
During the course of the day, teachers allegedly asked Sakeenah to remove her Islamic headscarf and requested Bilal to take off his fez or Islamic hat.
Nabila Dramat, the mother of the two learners told the publication that during an interview last year, the school had agreed to allow the wearing of the headgear provided it was in the official colours of the school.
Sakeenah told Die Burger that a teacher first asked her if she felt hot under the scarf. She answered in the negative and some time later a second teacher took her to another classroom where she was asked to remove her headscarf. She refused and asked them to contact her parents.
The two have since spent five days at home after not being allowed to attend class.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, Paddy Atwell said the decision by the school was totally unacceptable.
“Our district office has told the principal (that) he must meet the parents as a matter of urgency to resolve the issue. The department (of education) believes it’s a simple matter of accommodating pupils by adjusting dress codes accordingly.”
According to the South African national guidelines for school uniforms, schools should take religious and cultural diversity into account. The Constitution of South Africa also protects learners’ rights to wear religious garb like the Jewish yarmulke and Islamic headscarves or hats.
According to Atwell, the guidelines allows schools to ask parents to submit a letter from a a religious teacher or organisation to substantiate a request, for example for male learners to wear a beard.
Human Rights & Education Department Intervenes in Islamic Headgear Debacle
Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News – 2013-01-24
Following the incident where Sakeenah Dramat, 16, and her 13-year-old brother Bilaal were kicked out by teachers at Eben Donges High to remove their head-scarf and Islamic headgear on the first day of the school year on Wednesday last week, The South African Human Rights Commission is investigating the case.
SA Human Rights Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said, “We have received this complaint. We are investigating the matter and we have engaged with the department, the school and the parents.” He emphasizes they are against any form of intolerance and that traditions or religions should be tolerated at all times.
Meanwhile Paddy Attwell, spokesman for the department, said an official would meet the parents at the school and the children’s return to the school would be arranged at that meeting. He said he had been informed that the school would not allow them back if they continued to wear their headgear. “We view the issue in a serious light. Schools should follow National Guidelines on School Uniforms on this issue. According to the guidelines, schools should take religious and cultural diversity into account. We believe it is a simple matter to adjust dress codes to meet these requirements,” said Atwell
Democratic Alliances (DA) Helen Zille also added her comments on the debacle. She tweeted, “Helen Zille @helenzille “It is wrong to prevent Muslim children from wearing head-scarves and fez’s to school. Probably unconstitutional too. Addressing @bronaghcasey (Spokesperson for Minister Donald Grant, the Minister of Education in the Western Cape)
The Department of Basic Education’s National Guidelines on School Uniforms is very clear on a school’s dress code. The guidelines say, “Schools should take religious and cultural diversity into account. If wearing a particular attire… is part of the religious practice of pupils or an obligation, schools should not, in terms of the constitution, prohibit the wearing of such items.”