The Western Cape education department has urged a Kraaifontein school to resolve the situation in which two Muslim siblings were prevented from attending school unless they agreed to remove their religious head dresses.
The Western Cape education department has urged a Kraaifontein school to resolve the situation in which two Muslim siblings were prevented from attending school unless they agreed to remove their religious head dresses.Die Burger on Wednesday reported that siblings Sakeenah (16) and Bilaal Dramat (13), new students at Eben Dönges High School, have not attended school for five days after the school's principal, Wilfred Taylor, told their parents the children would not be allowed into the school as long as they wore their head dresses.
Department spokesperson Paddy Attwell said that a meeting between the school and the children’s parents would hopefully take place on Wednesday.
Atwell emphasised that the WCED wanted the matter to be resolved as soon as possible. "We believe the issue must be resolved today and we hope that from tomorrow everything should be back to normal, subject to the matters that might be involved in integration. But the school governing body - not the principal so much - also has a role to play in accommodating diversity," he added.
"We find the whole incident completely unacceptable and have discussed it extensively with both parents and the school. We have also instructed the school both verbally and in writing to resolve the issue. Department officials will also visit the school this morning with the parents to discuss the matter and facilitate the return of the learners," Atwell said.
“We believe it’s a simple matter to accommodate learners’ religious beliefs by adjusting dress codes as required. We strongly urge schools to follow national guidelines on school uniforms.”
The national guidelines on school uniforms specifically state that: “If wearing a particular attire, such as yarmulkes and headscarves, is part of the religious practice of learners or an obligation, schools should not, in terms of the Constitution, prohibit the wearing of such items.”
Attwell said that the national department had publicised the guidelines, which are also available on the department’s website. “We urge all schools to examine them,” he said.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos was surprised by the position taken by teachers at Eben Dönges High School. “I cannot believe that a school can be this stupid because often a legal question has two sides. This case is very clear-cut,” said De Vos.
“This is clearly a case of discrimination.”
“You cannot have rules that seem to apply to everyone but really effectively exclude or discriminate against one group. You cannot say no one is allowed to wear headscarves because you're really just targeting one group,” he said.
De Vos said that in terms of both the Constitution and the Equality Act, schools should take steps to accommodate diversity. “Your code of conduct cannot reflect the world view of the dominant group only without taking into account those who are different,” he said.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk