Kerala model ‘Secular Strategy’ for school business development

published on August 27, 2014
KOCHI: In a revealing instance of social dynamics in a pluralistic society like Kerala, a growing number of schools run by non-Muslim managements are allowing Muslim girl students to wear the thattam or head scarf from Class I onwards.

Interestingly, Muslim management schools themselves frown on girls wearing scarves at such a young age.

Till recently, schools run by both Muslim and other managements allowed Muslim girls to wear scarves only from Class V. The permission for wearing scarves from Class 1 follows other special measures like the introduction of Islamic Studies and Quran classes and arrangements for Friday prayers by these private schools. It could be an attempt to woo students in areas where Muslim community has a significant presence, though most school managements claim they are bowing to parental pressure.

“Due to increasing demand from Muslim parents that their daughters be allowed to wear scarf from Class I, our management agreed,” said Santha Vijayan, principal of Viswadeepti Vidyalaya Public School in Aluva. “We have given permission to wear scarves even in lower classes. However, we have put a condition that they can only wear white or black scarves,” said N M George, principal of Toc H Public School at Vyttila. “Ideally, we don’t want children in lower classes to wear scarf. But if parents insist, we don’t oppose it,” said Devamatha CMI Public School principal Fr Shaju Edamana.

In contrast, in Muslim management-run MES School, they have decided not to allow students to wear a scarf till class IV. “There were some parents who protested but we told them that till Class III we follow the Montessori method of education in which we encourage students to wear casual clothes and it is not fair to ask them to wear a scarf,” said Asha Byju, principal of MES International School in Pattambi.

Some school authorities are candid enough to admit that this being done to woo Muslim students. “Schools in areas where Muslims are dominant are keen to please parents and ensure student strength. They fear that if they don’t allow children to wear scarves from Class I or don’t introduce Quran or Islamic studies, then parents would be reluctant to send their children to the school,” confederation of Kerala Sahodaya complexes president K Unnikrishnan said.

Women social activists believe that it is unfair to force little girls to wear scarves in the name of religion. “In my youth, I rarely used to see Muslim women in purdah. Through their dressing they depicted innocence. I don’t think Islam forces little girls to wear scarves,” said social activist Sheeba Ameer.

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