WAEC, Muslims in standoff over veil

General News of Thursday, 22 January 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Prof Jana Naana Opoku Agyemang

There appears to be some disagreement between the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and a section of the Muslim community over the total exposure of the faces of Muslim schoolchildren in pictures for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).

Since news broke that WAEC insists that all Muslims in the final-year of junior high school (JHS) must not have anything obstructing their faces, including the veil, schoolchildren and a section of Muslim leaders have stated that the directive is an infringement on the rights of the children to practise their religion

However, WAEC has clarified the issue of the wearing of headscarves or hijab in taking pictures for the BECE.

It said the passport-size pictures for the BECE must capture all features of the face, such as the ear, the forehead with part of the top hair, the eye, nose, the mouth and the chin.

The Principal Public Affairs Officer of WAEC, Mrs A.N. Teye-Cudjoe, told the Daily Graphic that if candidates could put on veils or scarfs and show their ears, foreheads with part of top hair, eyes, nose, mouth and chin, they would not be barred from taking the pictures.

She explained that the pictures were supposed to serve as identities for the candidates and indicated that the pictures would also appear in their specifications.

Mrs Teye-Cudjoe said WAEC wanted to ensure that the images were clear.

“We have specifications of passport-size pictures that candidates should present to ensure that their eyes, forehead with part of top hair appear in the picture.

“If a candidate decides that because of her religious background she will put on the veil, she has to ensure that we see the nose, the ear, mouth and chin, so that we have a clear picture of who the candidate is,” she said.

A copy of the specifications made available to the Daily Graphic indicated that candidates’ images should be captured without spectacles or sunglasses.

It added that both ears of candidates must appear and the image should be centred.

The Greater Accra Regional Manager of the Islamic Education Unit of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Sheikh Armiyao Shuaib, told the Daily Graphic that he had got reports from the Western Region that some girls were asked to remove their veils to retake pictures for the BECE.

However, he said, the unit had not received any report from any headteacher in Accra about any prospective candidates being compelled to remove their veils before taking the pictures.

Sheikh Shuaib said if for purposes of identification Muslim girls were asked to adjust their veils to expose their ears or part of their veils, then there was “no problem”.

However, he said, the Muslim community “will vehemently oppose” any directive for a complete removal of the veil before taking the BECE pictures.

Sheikh Shuaib said such a directive would be “discriminatory and unfair” and urged WAEC to tread cautiously.