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Are We Not A Secular State?

Many Batswana have always known that Botswana is a secular state, meaning that the government gives all faiths equal treatment, and does not favour one particular religion over others.

A savingram from the Ministry of Basic Education dated February 5, 2020 exempting Muslim students to wear the hijab (head scarf), and long dresses to suit their needs in line with their religion sparked a debate amongst Batswana.

While some welcomed the news as a good move, there are others who view the decision as a bad one. While we consider ourselves to be a secular state, anyone who went to a public school, will attest to the fact that most schools practise Christianity to some extent.

Most schools host the morning assembly at which the Bible is used as a point of reference during prayers, and praise and worship songs from different Christian churches are sang at the assembly. Has any of the other religions ever complained or raised hell about this? Maybe so, but not to the scale of the exemption of Muslim students to wear the hijab and longer dresses that has caused an uproar. Religion is a touchy subject, and people should exercise caution when giving their opinions about other people’s religious beliefs. What is so wrong about allowing Muslim girls to dress in an appropriate manner as required by their religion? What could possibly go wrong with someone wearing a hijab and a longer school uniform in school? Will it disrupt learning? 

Most of the people who argue against

the exemption argue that other religions will also expect the same from the Ministry. The next question is what would be so wrong with that? The fact remains that as long as the students come to school neat, and adhere to the rules of the school, the long dress and wearing a Hijab is not supposed to be problematic as well. Surprisingly, there are some people who believe that if schools were to practise secularity, there would be lawlessness in schools.

Well Religion has always been known to mold both young persons and mature members of society into responsible citizens, hence the shock in some people arguing that allowing certain religious groups to enjoy the same rights enjoyed by Christians and other groups would bring about lawlessness. Some of the individuals argue that even students who practise Rastafarianism would expect schools to allow them to come to school in dreadlocks.

Well as long as the dreadlocks are tidy, just as much as a Christian student is expected to come to school with neat hair, then there would not be any problems.  The issue of concern for most people is the connection between Rastafarianism and marijuana, which is a topic for another day, as it should not be a problem in our schools as cannabis is against the law in Botswana.




Ka Mme Mma Boipelego

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