The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) yesterday facilitated the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enable female Muslim learners wear the hijab in Christian-owned and public schools.
The development follows protracted misunderstandings particularly in Christian-owned schools domiciled in Muslim-dominated communities which disallowed female Muslim students to wear the religious head wrap.
In the MoU that was signed in Blantyre yesterday, leaders of four faith-based organisations namely Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) president Thomas Luke Msusa, Malawi Council of Churches chairperson Emmanuel Magangani, Muslim Association of Malawi chairperson Sheikh Ali Kennedy and Evangelical Association of Malawi chairperson Mark Kambalazaza, PAC has made several recommendations, including that the Ministry of Education should construct more public schools in areas where schools of faith groups dominate.
Reading the recommendations, Muslim Technical Team chairperson Abdul Aziz Yassin said school management shall allow the said learners to wear hijab whose colours shall match that of the school uniform.
He said: “All schools under the Association of Christian Education in Malawi shall enforce that all learners must wear school uniform as determined by the proprietor where the school has Muslim girl learners.”
PAC further recommended that the Ministry of Education should renovate the head teacher’s office, replace books and supplies and provide teachers at Mpiri Primary School in Machinga where Muslim communities damaged the school property in protest against the school’s refusal to allow Muslim female learners to wear hijab.
In his speech after signing the MoU, Sheikh Kennedy apologised to Malawians on behalf of the Muslim community that was involved in the hijab disputes.
He said: “We have lost lives and valuable assets and property. I am saying I am sorry.”
On his part, Msusa said what Malawians want is excellent education for the country’s children as the recommendations will allow any child to have access to education without fear or being discriminated.
Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje, who was handed a copy of the MoU, said the resolution means the country has laid one more foundation stone toward high quality and equality in education.
In a separate interview, PAC vice-chairperson Osman Karim said he was delighted that the hijab misunderstandings have been resolved.
In February last year, suspected sheikhs with pangas and other weapons invaded Mpiri Primary School in Machinga where they allegedly beat up teachers and disrupted classes after the school management banned female learners from wearing hijabs. The misunderstandings came months after similar incidents happened at Mmanga Primary School in Balaka.