A Johannesburg school’s approach to Muslim headscarves has brought the Gauteng Education Department to admit that there are still schools refusing to advance projects of social cohesion.
Northcliff High School came under a social media storm when a parent at the school posted photos of a ‘concession card’ handed to her daughter and other Muslim learners to permit them to wear headscarves on school premises.
“Wtf our daughter’s (sic) must now carry concession cards to wear their head scarves at a public High School”, wrote Abeedah Adams on twitter after having shared the photo.
Many parents and learners likened the cards to Apartheid era dompas which were issued to black South Africans to regulate their movements.
The outcry was substantial as various social rights advocates urged Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to act on the matter.
Lesufi then met with the administration of the school and the latter agreed to withdraw the cards unconditionally.
However, the school insists the cards were implemented with the sole purpose of protecting students from educators who might query a “legitimate deviation” from the required school uniform.
“In order to ensure that the child is not reprimanded for uniform infringement, we issue them with a concession card”, says Northcliff’s marketing manager Jackie Todaro. “Any teacher querying their different attire can see that their uniform change is legitimate and done with permission”.
“It’s to distinguish between children who want to change the uniform for no reason and those who gave genuine reasons”, adds the school’s principal Walter Essex-Clarke.
The incident comes a year after the Pretoria Girl’s High School’s policy on hair was brought into question and found by the Department of Education to be racist.
The department then embarked on a policy review of schools in the province.
“We didn’t have any problems there”, says Essex-Clarke on the results of the school for that particular review. “They were quite happy with it”.
Lesufi’s department has issued a statement saying that further investigation in the matter will take place.