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News: Muslims decry restrictions by schools during Ramadan, City's education bureau responds education should be free from religious activities –

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Addis Abeba – Muslim students in schools in Addis Abeba city are expressing dismay and frustrations after many schools prevented prayers and other activities following the onset of the holy month of Ramadan as of last week. Meanwhile, in a meeting held between officials of Addis Abeba City Education Bureau and secondary schools principals, the City’s education bureau said that education should be free from religious activities.
After several reports emerged this week showing that many schools were preventing Muslim students both from observing prayer practices in the ongoing holy month of Ramadan and in some instances, keeping the students out of classes as a response. Prominent Muslim scholar, Ustaz Abubeker Ahmed, commented that “the question of who and what were behind the campaign to keep students out of school due to the prayers that started during the holy month of Ramadan in many schools has become a question for many of us.”
Ustaz Abubeker further said that behind the scenes of instability in Ethiopia, ordinary people were compelled to analyze the reasons behind these challenges. “Behind the scenes, the question of “What is intended?” is becoming everyday question”, he said, adding that such relationship between the people and the government cannot be characterized as “good.”
Addis Abeba City Education Bureau reported yesterday that during a discussion between the city’s education bureau officials and school principals held on 06 April, it was highlighted that the issue of activities in some schools under the guise of religion were observed and that it was contrary to and in violation of the rules governing students. It was also raised in the discussion that some students tend to engage in religious activities on campus and political agenda were being brought to schools from, pushing students into unnecessary situations.
“this shows that there is a misguided leadership that is pushing away religious freedom, misinterprets our country’s laws and secularism principles, and disregards timing and circumstances.”
Zelalem Mulatu, head of the Addis Abeba Education Bureau, is quoted by the bureau as saying that despite the fact that education is free from religious activities, activities were observed in some high schools in violation of this internationally accepted law. He also cautioned the principals to fulfill their responsibilities by ensuring that students from all schools do not leave school compounds during school hours. The Bureau also said that it has “agreed with the principals that education should be free of any religious activity.”
Responding to the discussion and the news thereafter, Ustaz Abubeker expressed his concerns that what appeared to be unrelated campaign to distract Muslim students from performing their prayers, fasting and attending theirs schools seems to have taken a “form of an administrative campaign”. “We read in the evening that the Addis Abeba City Government Education Bureau has issued a statement,” he said, “this shows that there is a misguided leadership that is pushing away religious freedom, misinterprets our country’s laws and secularism principles, and disregards timing and circumstances.”
He urged Muslim students, parents, and other stakeholders to take the initiative to find a lasting solution and called for an end to the pressure on students’ religious freedom. “I call on all parties to be guided by calmness and reason,” he said.
According to Addis Abeba City Education Bureau, schools will discuss the issue with students’ parents in the coming weekend. AS
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