Cape Town - Capetonians vented on social media after learning that a Western Cape school was giving Christian learners the day off for Ascension Day, but still required Muslim learners to write exams on Eid.
De Waveren Primary School in Ruyterwacht sent out a letter explaining that Muslim pupils would still be required to attend school to write an exam despite Eid taking place on the same day. The letter, which was posted to social media, reads:
"Due to the fact that the majority of the school's learners are of the Christian faith, we will be closed on the 30th of May for Ascension Day.
In the light of the above, we also respect the Muslim faith and understand that Eid is on the 5th of June. We suggest that the learners attend the exams at 09:00 and then leave to celebrate after completing the paper if it is at all possible."
Social media users quickly tore into the school for what they perceived as its intolerance.
"This is so divisive which fosters intolerance. The principal could of made special arrangements for Muslim learners, have the test a day before or reschedule it altogether. Must've factored Ramadaan and Eid when planning exam timetable," tweeted @collins_ms23.
@lorna_houston: "They say they respect its Eid so the learners can write and leave school - lol how is that respect. They can reschedule the test/exam.
I went to a Christian religious school and we never took extra holidays for religious holidays that weren’t already public holidays. We would at most have a service and on some days it was even an optional service not compulsory.— ban katie already (@angryandafraid1) May 27, 2019
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said that they were made aware of the letter late Monday night via Twitter, and contacted the district office early Tuesday morning to address the matter.
"The school has been asked to retract the letter and to ensure that no examinations will take place on the 5th of June. The school has indicated that they will reissue a new letter indicating that the examinations have been rescheduled for that date," said Bronagh Hammond, WCED spokesperson.
"Muslim learners will now rightfully be able to celebrate Eid. The WCED has on numerous occasions communicated to schools that they should take into account the religious holidays when scheduling their examination timetable.
"It is not uncommon, however, for schools to close a school on account of a religious holiday, for example Eid or Ascension day," Hammond said.
"Minority religious groups within a school community should not, however, be disadvantaged in any way. Therefore, learners that exercise world religions, and are a minority of the school, should also have the opportunity to celebrate published religious holidays.
"Therefore, assessments such as examinations or tests should not be administered on days that they are absent for a religious holiday."@thelionmutters