The top state primary school in UK has banned girls under eight from wearing hijabs as well as fasting among young pupils. St Stephen’s primary school has called on the government to take a firm stand and follow suit rather than leaving schools to create their own rules.
The school in Newham, east London, has demanded that parents don’t allow their children to fast throughout the school day during Ramadan when pupils will have to sit summer exams.
The chairman of governors at St Stephen’s, Arif Qawi, has proposed that the Department for Education should ‘step up and take it out of our hands’.
He added: ‘We did not ban fasting altogether but we encouraged them [children] to fast in holidays, at weekends and not on the school campus. Here we are responsible for their health and safety if they pass out on campus. It is not fair to us.’
Mr Qawi announced that he had spoken to Muslim clerics who told him that boys should fast from puberty.
However some children at St Stephen’s were fasting from the age of eight or nine which Mr Qawi said just seemed wrong.
He said: ‘It is unfair to teachers and very unfair to governors. We are unpaid. Why should we get the backlash?’
Headmistress of St Stephen’s, Neena Lall, backed the change in a bid to make the pupils feel more integrated into the school.
She recalled asking the children a couple of years ago to put their hand up if they thought they were British, and very few did.