Pupils sue over right to wear headscarfs

Nairobi, Kenya - One hundred and twenty pupils from Mwingi district have taken their headteachers to court for allegedly expelling them from their learning institutions for wearing head scarfs.

The minors from eleven primary schools in the district claim they are Christians and members of a church organisation registered as “Arata A. Roho Mutheru” whose origin is Central province but has since spread its wings to Eastern province particularly Ukambani.

They claim the headteachers expelled them on grounds that they had put on headscarfs while in school.

The petitioners who have also enjoined the minister for Education and the Attorney General say the action by the school heads has undermined their freedom of religion.

The applicants through their lawyer Geofrey Oriaro told the court that the freedom of conscience as guaranteed by Section 78 of the Constitution has been contravened by the defendants.

They claim the headteachers have subjected them to inhumane and degrading treatment by compulsorily making them remove their headscarfs, saying the action amounts to demonising their religious faith and practice.

The lawyer told the court that his clients failed to attend first term of 2007, saying their right to pursue education under the Free Primary Education policy has been thwarted by the action of the defendants.

Oriaro said an attempt by area District Officer compelling the headteachers to allow the pupils continue with education has been ignored by the defendants resulting to the suit.

The lawyer is seeking a declaration that it is unconstitutional to expel the petitioners from public schools because they put on head scarfs, saying their religion demands that they put on the head gears.

The pupils are from Ngaani, Ikoongo, Thua, Masukanioni, Tyaa Kamuthale, Kaundua, Kambusu, Mutiuni and Nyama Nzei primary schools.