Schools warned not to discriminate students based on their religion

Schools warned not to discriminate students based on their religion

NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 6 – The Ministry of Education has warned school administrations against the violation of learners’ religious rights.

State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education Principal Secretary Julius Jwan pointed out that religious belief is slowly becoming an obstacle when it comes to fair access to education as it’s now being used as a tool for discrimination.

“In particular it has been noted that some schools are violating the religious rights of learners and using religion as a factor to either deny admission or expel learners from school,” Jwan noted.

In a letter sent to all County Directors of Education, Jwan stated that keeping learners away from school based on their religious stand is a contravention of the constitution as stipulated in Chapter 4.

He stated that the Ministry will closely monitor how school administration across all the 47 counties to avoid the infringement of learners’ freedom to belong to any religious background.

“The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring religious rights of learners are protected and will not allow school administrators, board of management, sponsors or any other stakeholders to violate this right,” he said.

The PS noted that the infringement of religious rights destroy the fabric of unity in the country with the learners most times being on the losing end.

“The violation of religious rights in schools has negative effects in the maintenance of peace and tranquility and some students end up dropping out altogether,” he said.

Jwan directed school administrators not to prohibit learners from wearing religious attire like hijabs or turbans, force student to take religious subject like Christian Religious Education (CRE) or Islamic Religious Education (IRE) as well denying learners an opportunity to observe religious rights.

Also, school heads have been told to ensure they create worship room and spaces and desist forcing learners from participating in religious rites contrary to their beliefs.

“The violation of religious rights is against various national legislation, regional and international convention, in particular the constitution of Kenya,” said Jwan.

There has been a row in schools on whether Muslim students are allowed to wear hijab-a religious attire- as well as white trousers in schools, especially in Christian based sponsored schools.

The issue has raised debates so much so that the matter was taken to court.

In 2016, the Court of Appeal made a judgment allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab in non-Muslim schools and directed the government to frame guidelines.

In 2019, the supreme court overturned the court of appeal ruling that allowed Muslim students to wear hijab in non-Muslim schools.

In a case filed by Methodist church of Kenya, the apex court ruled that every school had the right to determine its own dress code.

It remains unclear on whether the circular by the MOE will be implemented especially in learning institution sponsored by religious institutions who oppose divergent religious beliefs.

»Schools warned not to discriminate students based on their religion«

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