School prohibits religious attire

South Africa
File: The education department said aggrieved parents could approach the SA Human Rights Commission for assistance. Picture: SAPA

CAPE TOWN - Pupils of all religions and nationalities have been prohibited from wearing traditional attire at the Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt, its deputy principal said on Friday.

"We do not allow our Christian, Jewish, or Muslim children -- all religions and nationalities -- to express their religion in their dress code," Christoph Abt said.

"This is to avoid confrontation. It is clear in our code of conduct that headgear is not allowed."

Abt was speaking after a parent attempted to enrol his Muslim daughter at the school but was told he needed to sign a code of conduct which stipulated that she could not wear any traditional headgear.

Abt said the man did not sign the agreement, saying he could not force his daughter to do so.

"He [the parent] then accepted that he could not fully enrol his daughter in the school."

The Grade Nine girl was granted temporary access as a "guest pupil", where she was not required to wear the school uniform.

She had been at the school since the beginning of the year and her guest access was prolonged twice to give her family time to find an alternative school.

During this time, Abt said she wore her scarf daily.

Her access was terminated and the pupil left the school on Wednesday.

Basic education department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said aggrieved parents could approach the SA Human Rights Commission for assistance.

"If it's a private school, we don't interfere with their dress code," he said.

"But although it may be a private school, they should not operate outside the Constitution of the country."

According to the department's guidelines, schools should not prohibit the wearing of "particular" attire if it was part of a religious practice.

Lesufi said wearing such religious attire was a constitutional right.

-Sapa

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