Girls can wear hijabs to school in Kenya, court rules

10 Sep 2016 | by
Girls can wear hijabs to school in Kenya, court rules

A court has ruled that Christian schools may not ban Muslim girls from wearing hijabs as part of their uniforms.

A church-run school, St Paul's Kiwanjani Day Secondary School, had banned female pupils from wearing the headscarf, saying that allowing students to dress differently created discord.

But judges ruled education promoters must embrace the principles of diversity and non-discrimination.

Some 11% of Kenyans are Muslims while 83% follow the Christian faith.

State schools already allow girls to wear the hijab.

The country has had a long-running row over the place of the hijab at schools that are funded by Christian Churches, with some such schools banning the garment outright.

But following this ruling, Muslim girls will be able to wear headscarves to school.

They will also be able to wear trousers instead of skirts to school, as long as they are white. This brings Christian schools into line with the uniform policy at state schools.

Female students at St Paul's Kiwanjani Day Secondary School in Isiolo County had been banned from wearing a hijab and white trousers in addition to their uniform.

Local authorities ordered that Muslim girls must be allowed to wear hijabs and the Methodist Church challenged their directive in court. But three judges agreed with the local authorities.

The judges said students are "bearers and exercisers of the full guarantees in our bill of rights and they are no less entitled to those rights by reason only of being within school gates".

Local media report that the court said the hijab ban discriminated against Muslim girls "in so far as it prohibits and prevents them from manifesting their religion".

The case may have knock-on effects for other minorities, such as the Christian sect the Akorino, who wear turbans.

One father, John Kamau, told the BBC the ruling had come too late for his son, who was suspended from four different schools for breaking the rules.

"The law is good," he said, "but it cannot bring back wasted opportunities and life lost because school principals were overruling the Kenyan constitution and intimidating our children."

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