The Hamilton Public School Board is urging Education Minister Stephen Lecce to consider giving all students a holiday for at least one day of Eid, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the month-long fast during Ramadan.
Administrators agreed to write a letter to the minister after hearing that Muslim students are often torn between their wish to join family and friends for the celebration and their need to keep up with schoolwork.
“I think this is an important step in the right direction when thinking about what inclusion looks like in our schools, and that includes schools across the province,” said the president. Board member Dawn Danko at the February 28 board meeting.
“We need to take concrete steps to ensure that we are proactively looking at how we could ensure that students never have to choose between celebrating a holy day or religious holiday and school.”
In presentations to administrators, four executive members of the Westdale High School Muslim Student Association said that while teachers provide stipends for Eid, it is the students’ responsibility to seek accommodation.
They said their preference would be to have two days off for Eid, which is celebrated on different days each year as it is based on the lunar calendar, but having the second day as a public holiday would be a good start.
“I think another big problem is the lack of a transition period,” Isra Bashir said. “After having had the day off to celebrate with family and friends and then maybe going to bed a little later at night or being very tired from the events that happened during the day, we are expect you to wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning to go to school the next day,” she says.
“Whereas if you compare it to winter break or Christmas break, there’s plenty of time to get back into the flow, to transition from partying back to the routine of everyday life.”
The students proposed to dedicate a day of professional activities, when the students are on vacation, to the first day of Eid and to make the second day a school holiday.
Associate Principal Sue Dunlop said that although administrators could move a professional activity day to the first day of Eid, it would affect Muslim teachers scheduled for mandatory training on that day.
She said the board also cannot create a public holiday for students on its own, as the school calendar is regulated by the Department of Education and other public holiday laws.
“I will say, unfortunately, Eid is not one of them. This skews the Christian calendar as well as other holidays, and so for a change to occur, it would be up to the Ministry of Education to make that change.