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Court order barring hijab angers Muslim leaders, parents

Isiolo; Kenya: The decision by the High Court to bar Muslim girls from wearing the hijab (head gear) and long trousers at St Paul Secondary School in Isiolo County has angered Muslim parents and leaders.

The High Court sitting in Meru on Tuesday temporarily barred the students from wearing the hijab until a case brought by the Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK), which claims to be the school’s sponsor, is heard and determined.

The church sued the county directors attached to Isiolo from the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) for their advisory opinion to the board to allow Muslim girls to wear the hijab.

The education officials intervened following meetings held between the Isiolo District Security Committee led by County Commissioner Wanyama Musiambo and Isiolo Governor Godana Doyo, who were of the view that the problem at the school was likely to cause animosity between Muslims and Christians.

Trouble between the students and the school management began last term when students went on strike after the decision to bar girls from wearing the veil and long trousers was communicated to them by Principal George Mbijjiwe.

Mid-year exams

 The school’s learning programme has been characterised by a series of strikes and street protests by the students since then.

On Thursday, the students stormed out of the school following the court decision. It also reinstated Mr Mbijjiwe, who had earlier been transferred by the Ministry of Education in the same capacity to neighbouring Ngaremara Secondary School.

“The students, including KCSE candidates, did not even sit for

Their mid-year examination. There had been minimal lessons offered this year due to this problem,” said a parent who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

St Paul is a mixed public school at Kiwanjani estate in Isiolo town and was started in 2006. The idea to start the school was mooted by the Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK) which partly funded its construction.

Documents inherited by the Isiolo County Government from the defunct County Council of Isiolo shows that the land was donated by the council. More land was hived off Kiwanjani Primary School, a public school in the area.

St Paul has a population of 440 students, where an estimated 80 per cent are Muslims.

Student unrest

It is managed by a team 16 members made up of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) and the Board of Management (BOM).   Last month, the Ministry of Education suspended the board following protests by students and parents who had also held meetings with the county government officials.

The principal was also transferred and his place was to be taken by Mwiti Kirera from Meru North. When Mr Kirera turned up on September 22 he could not take over as Mr Mbijjiwe turned up with court order that allowed for status quo to remain until the case is heard and

Determined.

Following the court decision, Muslim and Christian leaders under the umbrella of Interfaith Council of Isiolo held a crisis meeting at Al-Falah Islamic Centre on Thursday.

The congregation was chaired by Sheikh Ahmed Set of Islamic

Foundation’s Al-Falah Islamic Centre and Secretary Bishop Stephen Kalunyu of the National Christian Council of Kenya (NCCK).

Kalunyu now says the issue has been resolved.

“The matter was a small problem blown out of proportion. Religion should not be mixed with education,” Kalunyu said.