Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission is investigating the case of a brother and sister who were kicked out of a Kraaifontein school for wearing traditional Islamic headgear.
Sakeenah Dramat, 16, and her 13-year-old brother Bilaal were asked by teachers at Eben Donges High to remove their head-scarf and fez on the first day of the school year on Wednesday last week.
The siblings’ mother, Nabila Dramat, said she and her husband Adam had attended an introductory meeting at the school that day.
Later, they had received a phone call from the school.
“Then we were called in by the school to say that we must fetch the children.”
She had been told at the school that it was “against the school’s code of conduct for the children to wear the Islamic headgear”.
Dramat said Sakeenah had refused to remove her headscarf while Bilaal, who suffered from a nervous condition, had removed his fez as he was afraid to cause any trouble. “It was very traumatic for him.”
She would not allow her children to attend school without their headgear.
“I can’t allow them to take it off because it is against our Islamic beliefs.”
Dramat said her children had already missed six days of school. “It is very sad. It is very disturbing. They are heartbroken to be out of school for such a simple reason.”
Dramat said a decision had been made to send the children to Eben Donges because it was closer to home and recognised as a strong academic school.
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 said: “We are against any form of intolerance. Traditions or religions should be tolerated at all times.”
School principal Wilfred Taylor asked that the Cape Times contact the Western Cape Education Department for comment.
Paddy Attwell, spokesman for the department, said an official would meet the parents at the school today.
The children’s return to the school would be arranged at that meeting.
Attwell 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.”
According to the Department of Basic Education’s National Guidelines on School Uniforms a school’s dress code 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,” the guidelines read.