Education Ministry warns against religious discrimination in schools

The Ministry of Education has issued a warning to school heads violating the religious rights of learners.

In a circular by the State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education Office of the Principal Secretary Julius Jwan, county directors of education have been directed to ensure learners are protected from any form of religious discrimination.

The PS noted that some schools were using religion as a factor to deny admission or expel learners from school.

Some of the violations include prohibition from wearing religious attire like hijab and turbans; forcing learners to take religious studies and participating in rites and activities contrary to their beliefs, denying them an opportunity to observe religious rites and prayers and failure to allocate worship rooms or spaces.

The Ministry said no individual will be allowed to break the law nor violate the constitution.

“The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring the religious rights of learners are protected and will not allow school administrators, Boards of Management, Sponsors or any other stakeholder to violate these rights”.

Some schools have been in the spotlight for religious discrimination with learners in Christian schools being expelled for donning their religious head coverings.

Sometime back, the Education Parliamentary Committee led by Sabina Chege (Muranga County) was forced to invite submissions from Kenyans including parents and students of any religious group who had allegedly faced any form of discrimination in public schools.

In 2019, the Supreme Court reversed a lower-court ruling that had allowed female students to wear Muslim headscarves to school.

The ruling came amid a heightened push by Muslim leaders and civic groups for acceptance of head coverings in church-owned schools.

The same year, Olympic High School was ordered by a high court to re-admit a Rastafarian girl it had expelled over dreadlocks.

Justice Chacha Mwita noted that the “school action was an affront to religious freedom, which is a guarantee for all people under the new constitution.”

The Ministry of Education asserts that Chapter 4 on the Bill of Rights bestows rights and fundamental freedoms and must be upheld.

“The violation of religious rights is against various national legislation, regional and international conventions. In particular, the Constitution of Kenya 2010, acknowledges that Kenyans belong to diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds and the Constitution elaborately expounds on the need to respect these diversities” he said in the circular.

The directive applies to all private and public schools.

“You are directed to enforce the contents of this circular and cascade the same to all Sub Country Directors of Education in your County and Basic Education institutions under your jurisdiction” the directive states.

  

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