The Sri Vignana Vardhini High School in the Old City area of Saidabad in Hyderabad found itself in the midst of a controversy after the school management allegedly forced Muslim women candidates to remove their burqas before sitting for a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam on Friday. A number of irate parents held a protest in front of the school on Saturday.
“According to the government, students are allowed to appear for exams wearing their burqa. However, on Friday, when my daughter went to write her Urdu exam, the teachers told her and other students that they will allow them to appear for the examination only after they remove their burqas. My daughter was very upset about it,” alleged Mohammad Haleem, a Saidabad resident who was among the protesting parents.
Haleem said that his 14-year-old daughter, a student of Saint Maaz High School was allowed to enter the examination hall only after she removed her burqa.
“Today after we staged a protest in front of the school, they started allowing the students to wear their burqa in the examination hall. My daughter was not allowed even today morning, but when they saw that parents are protesting, they allowed them to wear the burqas,” Haleem added.
According to the Director of Government Examinations, Dr R Surender Reddy, there is no official restriction on girl students wearing burqas during the exams, provided they are checked by a woman invigilator before entering the hall.
“There is no such restriction – students are allowed to wear burqa. However, the lady teacher will have to do the checking before they enter the hall. Also, the students have to show their school and personal identity proof,” said Surender Reddy.
However, the school allegedly refused to budge on its decision on Friday, despite being told that government regulations allowed students to wear burqas during exams. “On Friday, when the students argued, saying that there are government rules that they should be allowed to wear burqa, the management said, ‘Here you have to follow our rules if you want to write the exams’,” said Amjed Ullah Khan, a spokesperson of the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT).
“We come across this kind of issue every year. Some of the schools don’t allow it even after the government orders (them to do so). This has hurt the religious sentiments of the parents also,” Amjed added. He said that the MBT plans to file a complaint against the school, together with the protesting parents.
SVV High School authorities, however, denied that they had forced any students to remove their burqas. “We had to do the checking, but we did not ask the students to remove their burqas. One can come today and see how many students wearing burqas are writing the exams,” said Virendra Babu, a spokesperson for the school.
However, the protesters alleged that when they asked the school authorities to show them CCTV footage of students writing exams on Friday wearing burqas, the school refused to do so.
“We asked them to show the CCTV footage, but then they changed the narrative saying, ‘We don’t know who did it, this won’t happen again’. But they did not show us the footage,” said Amjed Ullah Khan.