Taroudant, Morocco - The school year is drawing to a close. Students are busy, or probably overwhelmed with extra hours teachers have scheduled so they can complete the curricula in time.
Taroudant, Morocco – The school year is drawing to a close. Students are busy, or probably overwhelmed with extra hours teachers have scheduled so they can complete the curricula in time.
Prolific teachers multiply their efforts to equip their students with the necessary knowledge and skills required to pass coming exams with high grades. However, other lessons in leaflets were being circulated among female students. These lessons have nothing to do with the coming exam but rather with the “day of judgment”.
I came to my classroom early as usual, and sat on a wooden chair contemplating the vacant tables and think of ways to fit the long review of the previous lessons into a one-hour session. The school bell rang; the students entered; and I started the review activities after the conventional greetings and icebreakers. As I read through students’ answers, I noticed on a student’s desk a flyer with a photo of a girl and asked to see it. As a teacher, I have to be sure all the students are engaged in the assigned activity and fully dedicated to the subject being taught.
To my dismay, the leaflet contained what is said to be the “rightful” Islamic dress code for women, with pictures demonstrating the “only” acceptable form of Islamic dress and others showing the wrong practices that are contrast with the requirements of some Islamic legal codes. The banned styles believed here as inconsistent with the Islamic code of dress, included girls with headscarves, sleeved shirts and long skirts, the dress style of most of my students. The brochure stated that any dress not covering the entire body of the girl from head to toe is improper, and thus will prevent her from being virtuous and honorable.
A tricky phrase written under a black shape that looked like the upper part of a person read, “You freely choose the way you look, but don’t do it with wilful disobedience”. If those who handed out those leaflets believe in personal freedom, they wouldn’t have copied such a large number of leaflets and circulated them freely among teenagers. They should leave these students alone to shape their own beliefs and choose clothes with which they feel at ease. But those who made themselves the sentinels of morals believe they have the right to impose on people how to lead their own life. Pink Floyd were more on point when they sang “Hey, teachers! Leave them kids alone.”
Personally, I find nothing wrong with the dress style of my students. They all dress modestly and appear comfortable. Yet how would such a brochure help her with study in English class? Later, I learned from a student that all the female students in our small school received copies. “A niqabi student from high school came on Friday loaded with a pile of leaflets and handed them out to all the female students,” said a student. Yet, I don’t think that a student can afford to make all those copies on her own.
No teacher has the right to go beyond the curriculum and start to brainwash the students or engage them in issues that cannot help them acquire the necessary skills and competencies required for a successful school career. One may argue that a teacher is not only an instructor but also an educator. Unfortunately, teachers vary widely in their thoughts on the concept of education, causing students to feel torn between dos and don’ts from more than one “master.” Consequently, students learn social hypocrisy, being tuned with many disharmonious thoughts, and later will develop a schizophrenic character.
Only parents have the right to decide what their children wear, in respect of the school code. Any other attempt to require student styles of dress is unacceptable and should be treated seriously. School administrations and those in charge of the ministry of education should be responsible for what is being circulated among students, particularly when distributed materials do not pertain to the school curricula or the country’s deep-rooted culture.
We have in our culture clothes, manners, and other elements of which we should be proud. By preserving these elements, we preserve our identity.
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