The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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School trips teacher in burqa

Behrampore, May 2: A teacher has sparked a debate by going to school in a burqa, similar to the headscarf heat that singed Singapore and France recently.

On her first day in school on April 25, Susmita Mondal, who converted to Islam at the time of her marriage, wore a burqa and was told by senior teachers and the administration of Amtala Annadamani Girls' High School to follow tradition by sticking to the sari.

'I shall take classes wearing a sari if they can prove that the burqa is offending,' said Susmita, whose husband is also a teacher.

On marriage, her name changed to Sumaiya Parveen, but the papers recognising the alteration are not in hand yet.

A Masters in English from Burdwan University who got her job through the School Service Commission, Susmita said she had tried to reason with the teacher-in-charge, Gouri Ghosh, but without success.

Ghosh, however, said: 'It is compulsory for all our teachers and even students above Class IX to wear a sari to school. We have only requested Susmita to follow a 34-year-old tradition.'

If Susmita does not accede to the request, the school ' in the small town of Naoda near here, about 210 km from Calcutta ' will approach the district magistrate of Murshidabad and the board for guidance, Ghosh added.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said: 'The school authorities have been asked not to do anything rash and instead find out from Susmita's husband and in-laws whether they insist on her taking classes wearing a burqa, whether they would mind her wearing a sari.'

'I have to be convinced that I am violating the code of conduct that has been put into operation by the board of secondary education,' said Susmita, who wants to be allowed to take classes in a burqa with the veil removed.

Susmita explained that she went to university, wrote her examinations and even appeared before the interviewers for the teacher's job in a burqa without encountering any objection.

A similar row had broken out recently in Singapore and France and the governments in both countries ruled against girls wearing a headscarf, as stipulated by religion, to school. France does not allow the turban in schools, too.

In Britain, however, Shabina Begum, a 15-year-old, got the court to rule that her school at Bedfordshire had discriminated against her by not allowing her to wear the head-to-toe dress, the jilbab.

Susmita alleges that since she joined the school, her colleagues had not been cooperating as she had refused to switch over to a sari. The school management had called a meeting on April 27 to discuss the issue.

'We cannot stop a teacher from wearing a burqa as there is no such provision in the rules of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. But we are trying to find a solution to the dispute,' the school said.

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