The acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education, Simon Coles says the ministry has moved to adopt a non-discriminatory policy regarding religion.
This comes in the wake of a savingram that was released by the Ministry announcing that Muslim girls are exempted to wear a hijab (head scarf), longer dresses to suit their needs in line with their religion and culture.
The savingram written on February 5, 2020 by Coles reads; “You are requested to give this exemption the widest publicity in your schools and please ensure that school heads adhere to it. Similar, appropriate consideration should be made to accommodate other religious and cultural beliefs”.
Coles told The Monitor they cannot continue to have situations where a student or students are returned home because they have covered their heads due to their religion or culture. In addition he said what was important for students is education and dressing neatly.
“We must be accommodative to all religions and cultures. This memo does not only address the Muslims only but other religions as well. Of course the policy is operational and we expect teachers and school heads to
“The Ministry respects other peoples’ beliefs, religion and culture. Therefore, our role is to ensure that students are all taught in our schools regardless of how they dress.” Secretary general of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union, Tobokani Rari said they welcome the new policy as it is in line with the Constitution of Botswana.
“The policy was long over due because we have different beliefs, religions and cultures as Batswana and therefore there was need for them to be accommodated,” Rari said. “The reason why some tribes could not take their students to our schools was simply because the school environment was not accommodating their religion or culture. That on its own was contradictive to what the Constitution of the country says.”
He added that what the Ministry has done might help in increasing enrolment of students in government schools.
Many parents had taken their children to private schools, as government ones were not accommodative to other religions.