Christian managed school in Kerala regrets over ‘Virgin Mary symbol’ on school uniforms

November 24, 2012 by  
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Christian managed school in Kerala regrets over ‘Virgin Mary symbol’ on school uniformsKerala, November 22, 2012: The Nithya Sahaya Matha Girls High School Kottiyam, which came under scanner for enforcing the ‘Virgin Mary symbol’ on Friday school uniforms have decided to withdraw the religious symbol after protests from some Muslim groups.

The school has expressed its ‘regret’ over the incident, if it hurt any religious sentiments.

The Kerala Educational Rules [KER] Act, 1959 has directed, not to use any religious symbols in schools and it was despite this order the school management and PTA approved these special uniforms with Virgin Mary symbols for Fridays.

The school already has two uniforms for other week days and none among them until now had this school emblem with ‘Virgin Mary’ inscribed on to it.

Talking to TCN over phone the School Headmistress Dianeetia M Regis told that the school didn’t have any purposeful intensions of hurting religious sentiments by enforcing such an emblem in the uniform. She added that the management’s decision to inscribe the school emblem in the Friday special uniforms was approved by the school PTA executive members.

The headmistress further told TCN that, when a suggestion came up like the school emblem should be stitched to the proposed Friday uniforms, we thought of enacting it and we were actually insistent on the emblem rather than the ‘Virgin Mary’ symbol.

“There were three Muslim parents in the top organisational posts of the PTA and none cared to raise this issue in the PTA executive meeting. If they had made an objection we could have decided against it,” she said.

Arguing that they have always given space to everyone and have no communal agenda, she further said that during Thursday assemblies prayers are said in Malayalam and English, but when the Arabic teacher sought permission, prayer songs in Arabic, too, were included.

The headmistress said, “I am quite tolerant to other religious beliefs. We as a school and I myself have always maintained secular values and are not intolerant to any religious beliefs.”

“It was only a Muslim organisation, Popular Front; and their Malayalam daily, Tejas, who made this topic a controversial issue” she noted.

She, however, added, “We express regret, if we’ve hurt any religious sentiments by using Christian religious symbols in uniforms, but the apology is clearly from the part of School PTA executive and not solely on my or the school management’s behalf.”

60 percent of the 1,300 students are Muslim girls.

It was only later that a few parents, who were not part of the PTA executive and hence unable to attend the meeting, came to know about this management move and raised their protest. But despite this protest the school management went ahead with their decision to collect uniform fee from the students without even mentioning about any change in the emblem to be inscribed.

Most Muslim parents who didn’t have organisational posts in PTA [all parents who are PTA members won’t be executive members in the PTA] weren’t quite aware of the ‘Virgin Mary symbol’ planned to be brought into the uniforms and it was only later they came to know about it.

“A parent came to meet me saying that – the uniform is part of our missionary work to make his daughter wear uniforms with Christian religious symbols – and this was the first voice of protest” says the headmistress.The school was reluctant to erase the symbol despite complaints. Many Muslim parents preferred silence to ensure a smooth academic life for their kids.

A few Muslim parents registered a complaint before the District and Sub-District Educational Officers demanding a ban over the schools decision to enforce Christian religious symbols over its students belonging to different faiths.

Malayalam News daily Tejas carried the news with importance in their state page and Muslim groups like Kerala Muslim Jama’at Federation, Popular Front of India [PFI] and their students’ wing Campus Front came up with the protest.

They had a meeting with the School Headmistress, who assured them that the school uniform emblem wouldn’t have ‘Virgin Mary’ symbols on it. The school administration said they would ensure that the religious symbol in the emblem would now be replaced by some other sign not belonging to any religious faiths; and while expressing their regret, they assured the Muslim leaders of a careful approach in the future.

– tcn

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