Students in public schools should be allowed to wear religious items of clothing in addition to their specified school uniforms, the Kenyan Court of Appeal has ruled.

In a landmark decision, a three-Judge bench ruled that students deserved to obey their religious requirements in accordance with their constitutional rights, which must be respected and protected.

Appellate Judges Philip Waki, Roselyne Nambuye and Patrick Kiage advised the Education CS to facilitate urgent consultations and formulate appropriate regulations “for the better protection of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and belief under Article 32 of the Constitution and equality and freedom from discrimination under Article 27 of the Constitution for all pupils and students in Kenya’s educational system.”

The Appellate court warned sponsors of public schools against imposing harsh, rigid and discriminatory conditions on students drawn from diverse religious backgrounds.

“It was imperative for promoters of education to embrace the values and principles of dignity, diversity, and non-discrimination”, the court said.

The court quashed the ban imposed on female Muslim students of St. Paul’s Kiwanjani Day Mixed Secondary School in Isiolo County from wearing the Hijab and white trousers in addition to the school uniform.

The management board of the school was directed to consult parents and students before restructuring the school uniform policy to accommodate exceptions to the Muslim community.

The school’s uniform policy indirectly discriminated against Muslim female students “in so far as it prohibits and prevents them from manifesting their religion through the practice and observance of wearing the Hijab,” the court reasoned, and overturned the decision made by High Court Judge Harun Makau, outlawing the Muslim attire on the basis that it was illegal and discriminatory of the other student population.

The trustees of the Methodist Church, which sponsors the school, had sued the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the Isiolo County Education Director and the sub-county’s education officer claiming they had flouted the school regulations and interfered with the running of the institution.

The Church had argued that the decision to allow the female Muslim students to dress differently had created animosity and discord among the student population.

“We find and hold that there was no factual or legal basis for the holding by the learned Judge that allowing Muslim girls to wear Hijab favoured Muslim girl students and discriminated against non-Muslims,” Justices Waki, Nambuye and Kiage said.

The Chief Kadhi, Hammad Mohamed Kassim Mazrui, had explained in a sworn statement that the Hijab was not a matter of choice but a religious obligation which should not be hindered or compromised.
Source: The Star

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