In light of the #RespekTheDoek campaign, reports of two incidents of students being asked to remove their head coverings have emerged at the NWU Potchefstroom campus.
After reports emerged on Friday that a black Muslim student at North West University’s Potchefstroom campus had been asked to remove her headscarf upon arrival at her exam venue or be barred from writing her exam, another student has come forward about being moved to tears after she was ordered to remove her head covering.
— Abuti Ishy (@imramushu) June 4, 2016
The student, a member of the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC), told The Daily Vox that she was only allowed to continue with her chemistry exam after she removed her head covering.
“As I was entering the exam hall, I was told to take off my head cover and I told them I can’t because that would be in conflict with my religion,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. “They told me I must have a form showing that I’m allowed to wear it, and if not, there’s nothing they can do about it. I can’t write if I have it on. It was the invigilators. They said it’s the rules of exams.”
“I cried and told them that I can’t do that and it’s not fair, because another girl had a headwrap on and they didn’t do anything about it. Eventually, I had to take it off.”
While religious intolerance has widely been speculated to be the motivation for asking the students to remove their head coverings, the fact that black students were discriminated against while students of other races were not questioned at all is notable. Muslim Students Association representative Hasan Varachia also confirmed that Indian Muslim students who wore headscarves were never questioned about it or asked to remove it, citing the first incident as a case of “racism through Islamophobia”.
In a statement on Facebook, the Reform PUK movement said that “in country with a plethora of religious and cultural beliefs that require women to have their heads covered for various reasons, this should not be occurring.”
Speaking to News24, the SRC stated that the university stood by the principles of freedom of religion. University spokesperson Willie du Plessis said that the NWU was aware of the claim and would be looking further into the complaints, adding that part-time invigilators are hired for exams. “It will be investigated by the examination division of the Potchefstroom Campus. Please note that the NWU makes use of part-time invigilators at the examination halls,” he said. “The university has principles in place on how to accommodate students with cultural and religious needs. Apart from the fact that this specific incident will be investigated, the NWU will make a renewed effort to sensitise these invigilators around the issue of religious attire.”