CAIRO - Two Muslim students have been traumatized after being kicked out from their Cape Town high school after refusing to remove Islamic headscarf, a right protected in the country's constitution.
My children were embarrassed and traumatized, Nabila Dramat, the students' mother told Die Burger, Mail & Guardian Online reported on Wednesday, January 23.
The problem sparked after Sakeenah Dramat, 16, and her brother Bilaal, 13, started at Eben DÃ¶nges high school last Wednesday.
Taking their first classes, teachers asked them to remove their headscarf and fez respectively.
Sakeenah said that a teacher had initially asked her whether she wasn't hot, wearing her hijab.
I said no, I'm used to it.
She was later called and taken into another classroom where she was told to remove the scarf as it wasn't part of the school uniform.
I refused, and asked that they contact my parents, Sakeenah said.
Bilaal, who suffers from anxiety, said: "I didn't want to make trouble and removed my fez (mosque hat)."
The mother confirmed that during an interview at the school last year, they were told that the children could wear their headgear, provided that was in school colors.
The school said last year that they are allowed to wear the head scarves, as long as it is in the colors of their school uniform.
Following a discussion with her and her husband, school principal Wilfred Taylor refused to allow the children to attend school if they wore the headgear.
The mother then said she watched as her son was taken out of a school line. Both children are currently at home.
Muslims make up some 1.5 percent of South Africa's 49 million-strong population, according to the CIA fact book.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The unprecedented decision was shocking to the young girl and her family.
The mother said she chose to school intentionally for their strong academics and the fact it is much closer to where we lived previously.
"Sakeenah wants to study medicine after school and her education is very important to us, Nabila said.
According to the Constitution, schools cannot prohibit the wearing of certain items such as yarmulkes or headscarves if these items are part of pupils' religious practice.
Male learners requesting to keep a beard as part of a religious practice may be required by the school to produce a letter from their religious teacher or organization substantiating the validity of the request, the education department says on its website.
The same substantiation is applicable to those who wish to wear particular attire.
She was advised by the Western Cape Education Department to take the children to school the following Monday in any case.