Barely hours after Public Affairs Committee (Pac) facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Christian-owned schools and Muslims, permitting wearing of hijabs by Muslim learners in Christian schools, Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) has said it will not allow students to wear hijabs in its schools.
The synod’s stand come dispute being part of Malawi Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Malawi, which signed the MoU with Muslim Association of Malawi (Mum) and Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM).
The synod has pointed out that Muslim students are minority in schools under the synod; hence their appearance in hijabs may make create discomfort.
Livingstonia Synod General Secretary, William Tembo, said the synod is not looking at religion per se.
“If we can count Muslim students in our schools, they are few, now if we say they must start putting on hijabs, they will be bullied by their fellow Christian students who are in majority. Later we will see some dropping out of schools which we do not want. Let the students come but, without hijabs,” Tembo said.
He added that it will be unfair for Head-teachers to start policing hijabs uniforms, which according to him, is not important to students.
But during our visit to one of the synod’s schools, CCAP Primary School in Mzuzu, we found some students in hijabs, learning comfortably,
One of the Muslim learners, Shakira James, who is in Standard Six, said she is happy that she can now comfortably learn while in hijab.
“We thank the government for the agreement and that has encouraged us,” James said.
Pac spokesperson, Gilford Matonga, said they have not received any official communication regarding the matter but said it would be unfortunate because the synod was part of the discussion before the signing.
Matonga said in any discussion, there must be give and take, which Livigstonia Synod is supposed to respect.
“The agreement aims at encouraging unity and co-existence between all religious bodies and we only facilitate that. Therefore, we will be engaging the synod on the matter but we feel they have to respect their mother bodies because they were part and parcel of all the discussions on the matter,” Matonga said.
Education activist Bernedicto Kondowe agreed with Matonga, saying the synod should embrace religious tolerance on the matter.
“My question could be; is the synod not aware that dress code matters at any institution? Can they [synod] allow girls dressed in Ngoni attire in class?” Kondowe said.
Livingstonia Synod has both primary and secondary schools in almost all the districts in the northern region.