A prestigious Catholic school in the Senegal capital, Dakar, has insisted on going on with a ban on the Islamic headscarf for students.
This is despite the controversy triggered by the ruling by the Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc Institute a few months back. Students who turned up with the headscarf were expelled according to reports.
Parents and students have since slammed the school’s decision. One of the students Nour Rose is quoted to have said: “We were a little humiliated in front of all our friends because we were wearing the veil…
“They told our parents, either you take your children and go with them, or they take off the veil. And it really affected us because we have been in this school for more than nine years.”
The call for government action on the issue has been sternly resurrected in the Muslim-majority West African country. Some parents have also threatened to file complaints against the Institute.
Abdou Daoud, a parent said: “What was said was completely false, because it was said that this rule was made because girls do not sit next to boys. That’s completely false, she (my daughter) talks to boys. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to them, it’s a kind of total desolation.”
Mahmoud Abdali, another parent added: “We’re in a blur. State authorities are shirking their responsibilities. It is imperative that the excluded students are reintegrated as soon as possible. A final decision should be made so that we know where we are going.”
But the controversy goes beyond the academic context. In a country where 95% of the population is Muslim, banning the Islamic headscarf even in a Catholic school is considered unacceptable and against the principle of secularism in education in Senegal.