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Cape Town – The principal of De Waveren Primary School in Ruyterwacht has come under fire for issuing a circular to parents informing them of the school’s closure on Ascension Day but not on Eid.

Disgruntled parents posted the letter on social media which was received with outrage by many, with some accusing the school of being intolerant of the Muslim faith.

The letter, dated May 27, suggested Muslim pupils had to write exams on the morning of Eid.

SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said: “The school did not observe religious tolerance. 

"We are saying the school needs to reschedule exams because of Eid. The school needs to have an inclusive policy that caters for all faiths.

“Sadtu is not happy about the letter circulated to parents which is in conflict with the religious holiday.

Principal Eduard Hattingh has since retracted the letter after a meeting with the provincial education department. He said pupils would be excused on the day of Eid.

“It was never my intention to discriminate against the pupils or offend anyone. The letter was just a suggestion and I even made it clear to teachers last week that pupils who could not come and write would not be penalised. The majority are Christian, so we could only apply for Ascension Day,” Hattingh said.

Education rights advocate at Section27s Faranaaz Veriava said the letter was unconstitutional. 

“Even though it was a suggestion, it was wrong and is against the School Act. It discriminated against another religion as it didn’t show equality and fairness.

“We’ve dealt with cases where schools had one kind of religious practice. It’s not supposed to be that way,” Veriava said.

Education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the district office was contacted yesterday to address the matter and it was decided no examinations would be held on June 5.

“The school indicated it would issue a new letter stating the examinations for that day had been rescheduled. Muslim pupils will be able to celebrate Eid.

‘‘The department has told schools to take into account religious holidays when scheduling examination timetables,” said Hammond.

Cape Times