Holiday on Indian festivals by two London boroughs sets off a row

Teaching community insists schools should decide on holidays

21 October 2009: Even as the Hindus groups have welcomed the decision of two London Councils to consider declaring a holiday on Indian festivals of Diwali, Eid and Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary in community primary and secondary schools, the educators have come out in the open to criticize the move. The teaching community is of the opinion the decision on festival holidays should be left to the schools.

The issue came to fore after two London boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham came out with a new school calendar. The calendar makes a mention of three festivals which can be considered for holidays in the institutes.

The head teachers, some of the community members and others have come out in the open against the resolution. The decision is also being seen as an obligation even on the schools which have negligible students from the religions like Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.

Head teacher of Walthamstow School for Girls Rachel MacFarlane said the decision was being viewed as an imposition even on schools with small number of students following Hindu, Sikh and Islam.

Councilor-cum-cabinet member for children and young people in Walthan Forest Liaquat Ali said he was aware of the concerns and had asked for a review to identify holidays found appropriate by Waltham Forest’s children, parents and teachers.

Available information indicates the decision of the two councils has even led to the airing of protest by local newspaper readers, who are apparently of the belief that the decision means taking political correctness a bit too far.

Going a step ahead, Waltham Forest secretary of teachers’ union Ian Moyes has urged the council to drop the requirement.

The Waltham Forest council, on the other hand, has asserted the school holidays policy is appropriate to raise awareness of different faiths and cultures within the school community.
Hailing the decision, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement issued in Nevada, USA, meanwhile, described it as “a step in the right direction”. He asserted awareness on other religions created by these holidays would make the borough children well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens.

Zed, also the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said the decision would go a long way in making Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs feel equal and full members of British society. This, in the process, would bring about cohesion and unity in the community.

Zed also quoted Newham Sir Robin Wales as saying in his recent Diwali message that he was proud to be the Mayor of the most multicultural and culturally diverse community in the country. Zed added the Mayor’s one of the pledges was "An Active and Inclusive Community".

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