A school in Kulhudhufushi has introduced the mandatory wearing of the veil for all girls grade five and above without prior approval from the ministry of education.
But, the Atoll Education Centre’s lack of consultation with stakeholders has caused disquiet among some parents as well as the ministry of education.
Parents were concerned about the imposition on two fronts, said independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South Mohamed Nasheed to Minivan News today.
Some argued the expense involved in buying new school uniforms at such short notice was too much to bear, he said. In addition to veils, the new uniform will include trousers for girls and long trousers for boys.
A second concern, said Nasheed, was the lack of consultation with parents. He said the decision was made by the school board on a “particular day when there was not much representation from the parents side.”
“They feel that if somebody wants their child to wear a veil that’s acceptable…but imposed on everybody alike, that’s objectionable,” he said.
A mother of a boy in grade one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Minivan News that the decision was put to a vote at a parent-teacher meeting two weeks ago and a majority of parents voted in favour of the new uniform.
She said parents were asked whether they supported the proposal to introduce long trousers for boys from grades one to four and the veil for girls from grade five to seven.
“They gave parents a piece of paper to tick if we supported it. I voted against it because I thought it would be difficult for boys that young to wear trousers,” she said.
The ministry of education has informed the school that if they wish to change the school uniform they must obtain permission from the ministry and a process of consultation must be undertaken.
“We have told the school that they should not go beyond the limitations set down by the ministry. There’s already guidelines regarding uniform with the possibility of wearing the buruga (veil),” said Shifa Mohamed, deputy minister for education.
Shifa said under the ministry’s guidelines girls could wear the buruga provided it was in a manner that clearly showed the school badge and tie.
“These children have a syllabus to cover and it’s important for them to have a uniform which they are comfortable in,” she said.
The school’s principal told Minivan News he did not wish to comment.
Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed, state minister for Islamic affairs, said the decision to make the veils a mandatory part of the school uniform was up to the education ministry and the school board.
“What we have always been saying is there should be a choice. In the past, there was no choice in the Maldives. The girls who wanted to wear burugas were not able to. In the past, you wouldn’t see girls with burugas in the MNDF or Television Maldives,” said Shaheem.
But, he added, if students and parents in a school agreed to introduce the veil as part of the uniform, the ministry would welcome the decision.
“We shouldn’t try and stop it as long as they want it. It is a good thing they want to do. Something that is called for in our religion,” he said.