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WCED resolves fracas over headscarf

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A dispute around the wearing of the headscarf at De Grendal high school in Milnerton has been resolved, according to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). A letter from the principal was sent to a Muslim learner’s parent last week, stating she could not wear hijab in Ramadan, as it is not part of the schools dress code. The letter, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, left social media users angry, with some labeling the principal as intolerant and even racist.

In the letter, the school’s principal states that he could not find any recommendation that proves that the hijab is compulsory during the month of Ramadan. He continues to say that if she were allowed to wear her scarf, the school would open itself up to problems from other learners with requests for a religious dress code, “ that is not in line with the school’s policy”. The school principal could not be reached for comment.

The letter posted on Facebook [Photo: Kashif Wicomb]
However, the department’s Milicent Merton told VOC News they met with the parents and school principal on Tuesday to explain the importance of social inclusivity and tolerance. It was agreed that the learner should be allowed to wear her headscarf.

“We encourage schools to follow national guidelines on school uniforms. According to the guidelines, schools should take religious and cultural diversity into account. We believe the simplest approach if for schools to adjust dress codes to meet these requirements,” Merton explained.

In terms of the Constitution, as quoted by the guidelines, schools should not prohibit attire such as headscarves if they form part of religious practice.

It states that:
(1) A school uniform policy or dress code should take into account religious and cultural diversity within the community served by the school. Measures should be included to accommodate learners whose religious beliefs are compromised by a uniform requirement.
(2) If wearing 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.

“If there is any doubt on the issue, then schools may ask parents to issue a letter from a religious teacher or organization to substantiate the request of the dress code,” Merton added.

The school principal is said to be newly appointed and did not receive diversity training, as rolled out by the department to all principals last year.

It was agreed that the learner would be allowed to wear her headscarf. VOC


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