Last week, the principal at Rippon Road Primary School allegedly informed pupils they could not use the hijab or topee. Picture: OpenNews
Durban - AN ISLAMIC organisation and school authorities have rebuked a primary school in Sydenham for not allowing children, fasting over the holy month of Ramadaan, to wear hijabs (head scarves) or topees (hats).

The Caring Sisters Network, part of the South African Muslim Network, said despite hosting various upliftment projects at Rippon Road Primary, they were disappointed with the school’s decision.

Parents vented on social media last week after their children were told to remove their scarves and hats as they were allegedly “not part of the school uniform”.

The network’s chairperson, Yasiera Mahomed, said they had revamped the school’s library, donated books and created a vegetable and herb garden.

“The projects were not only for Muslim children but for the benefit of all. We are extremely disappointed at the decision to prevent Muslim children from practising their religion in its entirety.”

Dr Faisal Suliman, of Samnet, said: “It is saddening that our kids, who are probably taking up the fast for their first time, are being asked to remove their religious wear. Schools make allowances for sports and for civics day, why can’t they do it for this month? The principal is using the technical approach by saying it is not a part of the uniform, but she has to have a broader view.”

Suliman said the importance of wearing the hijab and topee during Ramadaan represented people’s connection to their faith.

Moulana Abdullah Khan, from the Jamiatul Ulama KZN (Council of Muslim Theologians), said by yesterday they had not fielded complaints by parents.

“Religious freedom is part and parcel of the Constitution of South Africa, so to hear that the school is making a decision to remove the wearing of the traditional garb is shocking.

“I think the school needs to review its policy if they want to take such a big step.”

The spokesperson for the KZN Department of Education, Kwazi Mthethwa, said: “We condemn what is happening at this school. We do not believe any child’s religion should be discriminated against. And we have already made contact with the school and are looking into the matter.”

Some parents said the principal needed to be replaced. “How can she be so religiously intolerant?” asked one.

“She has been at the school for over two years and allowed my kids to use the traditional wear, but this time they are not allowed to. Why is she getting herself involved in our religion?”

Another parent said he was shocked when his daughters told him that their traditional garb was not allowed.

“You cannot single out or marginalise a child to remove their religious things during an assembly. All we are asking is that our children be allowed to use their religious garments for the holy month.

“The hijab represents that the child is fasting for an auspicious prayer and lets others know the child cannot partake in sports or strenuous activities because they have to conserve energy.”

He said he had heard the principal refute allegations that she told children to remove the attire. “So why would my little girls, who are both under the age of 10, fabricate a sensitive story to me?”

Another parent said: “It is not fair and I feel the principal is being selfish. The Department of Education needs to get involved.

“Other schools are allowing kids to freely practise their faith because they understand the importance and significance, but she does not. This is the month where we open our hearts to people, but it seems we are receiving hate back.”

When contacted, the school secretary said the principal declined to comment.

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