Don't force students to attend church, school heads told

Education PS Julius Jwan. [David Njaaga, Standard]

School administrators have been warned against violating learners’ religious rights. Education PS Julius Jwan said some schools are using religion as a factor to either deny admission or expel learners from school.

He cited banning students from wearing religious attire like hijab and turbans, as well as forcing students to take Islamic Religious Education, Christian Religious Education and Hindu.

Other violations include denying learners an opportunity to observe religious rites and prayers, failing to allocate worship rooms or spaces, and forcing learners to participate in religious activities that are contrary to their beliefs.

The PS said: “The constitution acknowledges that Kenyans belong to diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds and the law expounds on the need to respect these diversities.”

Jwan’s circular came after atheists raised the matter. In a letter to Education CS George Magoha last week, Atheists in Kenya Society asked the ministry to prohibit compulsory prayers and observation of religious rites.

AKS said it received complaints from students about mandatory church services on Sundays.

“The most recent complaint was from a student at Kinjo Mixed Day Secondary School in Meru,” said president Harrison Mumia. He said it is time to rethink mandatory prayers in public schools.

“Organised mandatory prayer and religious observance in public school settings, whether in the classroom or at a school-sponsored event, is unconstitutional,” Mumia added.

Echoing Mumia’s views about learners’ rights as enshrined in the constitution, the PS further added: “No one may be denied access to any institution, employment, facility or enjoyment of any right because of one’s religion.”

According to the PS, violation of religious rights in schools has negative effects as some students end up dropping out.