The spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Education has denied that the government has implemented a ban on the hijab at schools for children who haven’t reached puberty, reported state-media Al-Ahram.
Egypt’s Minister of Education Moheb Al-Refaei had declared on Saturday night that children will not be allowed to wear the hijab (head-scarf) at school.
In statements given during an interview to the television show ‘Ten in the Evening’, hosted by Wael El-Ebrashy, the Minister of Education said that Islam does not call upon girls to wear the hijab until they reach puberty, reported Youm7.
However, the Minister did not clarify when this ban would take effect and whether it would apply to all year/grade levels in Egypt. Moreover, it was not clarified whether the ban would apply to private schools.
On Sunday night, Egypt’s Ministry of Education spokesperson told Ahram Online and Al-Ahram that no such ban has been implemented despite the Minister’s comments. The spokesperson stated that the minister’s comments were simply his own opinion and that people have the freedom to wear the hijab should the choose to do so.
It was not made clear, however, whether the Ministry would implement the Minister’s comments in the future. The start of the new school year is set to commence in September.
The topic of dress codes at school arose after Egypt’s Ministry of Education referred a school headmaster to investigations after he was found to be wearing the jalabiya (a traditional Egyptian garment often worn in rural areas).
During a surprise visit to a school in the Sharqiya governorate, Sharqia’s governor Reda Abdel Sallam referred the primary school’s headmaster and teachers to be investigated after they were found to be wearing the ‘improper outfits’.
On television, Minister Al-Refaei addressed this issue, stating that the Ministry did not mean to insult or embarrass the teachers but that there must be a certain level of professionalism at schools across Egypt. To ensure teachers are able to abide by proper dress-codes, the Minister proposed providing clothing to teachers at a subsidized price.
The Minister also promised to work to raise the salaries of teachers across Egypt.
Whether the Minister’s recent statements on live television will be welcomed remains to be seen. Controversy had recently erupted after multiple restaurants, clubs, beaches and pools were found to be banning women dressed in the hijab. In response to the outrage, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism had announced that any restaurants or tourism facilities found to be banning the veil would be shut down.