KP declares abaya, chadar a must for schoolgirls

Pakistani girls attend class at a school...Pakistani girls attend class at a school in Mingora, a town in Swat valley, on October 9, 2013, the first anniversary of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban. Yousafzai, the teenage activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, says she has not done enough to deserve the award, as her old school closed October 9 to mark the first anniversary of her shooting by the Taliban. AFP PHOTO/A MAJEEDA Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
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In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the government has decided to make it mandatory for female students of government-run schools to cover themselves up in the province’s educational institutions, Adviser to Chief Minister on Elementary and Secondary Education Ziaullah Bangash said on Monday.

 “We came across some situations during our recent visits to tribal areas and Kohistan that prompted us to take this decision,” Bangash told DawnNewsTV, without specifying what these situations were.

The order was first circulated in Haripur district last week, where the district education officer asked all principals and headmistresses of government schools to ensure that girl students wore an abaya, gown or chador.

“We have sensitive areas in the province which require safety procedures for the children,” he said, adding that the decision is “also in line with the tribal values and the traditions of Islam”.

“This step has been taken particularly to remove the doubts raised by parents about the safety of their children” the adviser further said.

The adviser said that it was important to focus on the education of both boys and girls in the province. “Our focus is on educating our girls and we should take every step to enable this,” he added.

“We have to take decisions which are in the best interest of our culture, people and the province. If such a measure can convince the parents to send their girls to schools, why not go ahead with it?”

Earlier today, the decision was imposed in Peshawar through a notification issued by District Education Officer Samina Ghani, who directed the heads of all government girls middle, high and higher secondary schools in the district to instruct their students to cover themselves up with a gown, abaya or chador “in order to protect them from any unethical incident.

Commenting on the dress code, an official in the Haripur district education office had earlier told to media that the decision was “essential to protect girl students from a growing number of complaints of eve-teasing and harassment”.

“A good number of girl students have established a habit of wearing dupatta or ‘half chador’, which is not satisfactory to cover their bodies,” the official had added.

Former KP education minister and Awami National Party MPA Sardar Hussain Babak criticised the decision, saying it will have a negative impact on education trends.

“To make the abaya or burqa compulsory through a notification will have a negative impact,” he said, adding that in KP many school-going girls already wear the burqa.”