Kenya court’s hijab ban ruling sparks fears over Muslim girls’ schooling

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Muslim pupils wearing hijabs study at the Ganjoni Primary School in Mombasa, coastal Kenya, on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Muslim pupils wearing hijabs study at the Ganjoni Primary School in Mombasa, coastal Kenya, on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 January 2019
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Kenya court’s hijab ban ruling sparks fears over Muslim girls’ schooling

  • If schools decide to take up the ban, the government must monitor this to ensure it does not discriminate against Muslim girls

NAIROBI: A ruling by Kenyan’s top court that schools can ban the hijab could lead to Muslim girls — already at risk from practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage — dropping out of school, campaigners warned on Friday.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that every school had the right to determine its own dress code, overturning a 2016 judgment allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab in non-Muslim schools, and directed the government to frame guidelines.
Human rights groups fear some schools will opt to impose the ban, which pertains to both the hijab and the white trousers often worn by Muslim schoolgirls under their skirts.
“I believe there is a large sense of tolerance in most schools, both public and private, in Kenya. But there is a possibility that some schools will enforce a ban,” said Demas Kiprono, campaigns manager at Amnesty International in Kenya.
“If this happens, it may affect schooling for Muslim girls. Religious dress is an important issue for some Muslim communities, so the ban may lead to families taking their daughters out of school, or girls may themselves not feel comfortable.”
Muslims make up about 10 percent of Kenya’s 44 million people, while Christians account for almost 85 percent of the population, according to the latest census data available.
Campaigners say Kenyan girls, including those from Muslim communities, already face multiple barriers to completing their education.
Traditional practices such as FGM and child marriage often force adolescent girls to drop out of school, they said, and schools banning hijabs could lead to higher drop-out rates.
“This is a missed opportunity by the Supreme Court to have set a landmark judgment on women’s right to privacy and to choose what she wants to wear,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch in Kenya.
“If schools decide to take up the ban, the government must monitor this to ensure it does not discriminate against Muslim girls. This ruling does not promote integration, peace and tolerance in our schools and communities.”


Kenya reassures public after Ebola false alarm

Updated 3 min 10 sec ago
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Kenya reassures public after Ebola false alarm

  • Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken

NAIROBI: Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 km from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 Health Ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had traveled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.