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Senegal school reverses headscarf ban after outcry

Louise Dewast

BBC West Africa Correspondent

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A Catholic school in Dakar will allow Muslim-students to wear a headscarf after an attempted ban provoked an outcry in the Senegalese capital.

Officials at the Joan of Arc school, which is run by the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, decided several months ago on a strict uniform policy that banned any kind of headwear.

Senegal is a Muslim-majority country known for its religious tolerance and many saw the school’s decision as unconstitutional. A number of students turned up to school last week with a headscarf but were told to leave.

"It really affected us because we have been in this school for more than nine years, since primary school,” Nour Rose, one of the affected students told AFP news agency. "I don't see why we should be asked to remove it [the veil], when this rule was not there when we first enrolled.”

As students were still not being readmitted this week, parents threatened to file an official complaint against the school, prompting the education ministry to intervene.

After a brief mediation, the school agreed to amend its uniform policy and allowed the students to return under certain conditions.

“These students will wear the school uniform along with a scarf, of suitable dimensions, that doesn’t obstruct the uniform and that will be provided by the school,” said a statement seen by the BBC.

“A ministry inspector will ensure the students respect these conditions," the statement added.

The 22 affected students will be allowed to go back to school on 19 September.

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