Schools' cultural clothing

Somali-born Muslim at home in hijab

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014
hijab
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
DIFFERENT STROKES: Naenae College head girl, Emma Cropp, 17, wears the school’s standard uniform while her Somali-born friend Hawo Ali, 17, wears a longer skirt and hijab, in keeping with her Muslim beliefs.

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Wearing a different school uniform from that of her friends has never made Somali-born Hawo Ali feel out of place.

The 17-year-old is in her final year at Naenae College and is one of many Muslim girls in Wellington whose religious customs are being increasingly catered for at school.

"I've never felt out of place wearing it and I came here when I was little so I'm a total Kiwi," she said.

Women's headscarves - known as hijabs - and floor-length skirts have been allowed at some schools for more than five years, but uniform shops are now making the most of the diversity by selling items in the school style and colour.

One uniform outlet in Lower Hutt is even considering producing hijabs with school emblems for those students choosing to wear them.

Naenae College principal John Russell said the option had always been there for Muslim students if they asked and it was about recognising different cultures.

Hawo said family friends approached her about her longer skirt and asked how she felt about wearing it before getting one made as well.

"When I started in year 9 I got given a short skirt to try on but my mum preferred that I wore a longer one, so the woman at the shop made it for me."

Other students had asked why she wore the hijab and she did not mind their curiosity.

"Nobody has ever made me feel left out and I've never felt any different at school because of my uniform."

At home Hawo goes without the hijab but puts it on if men visit.

"If I'm out with friends I cover up and it's fine. I don't really think about being any different."

Her friend Emma Cropp, head girl at Naenae College, said the school's motto was to be accepting of others and inclusive.

"I don't think I ever really noticed Hawo wore something different. It doesn't come up," she said.

Wellington East Girls' College roll had traditionally been culturally diverse and students were encouraged to be curious about others' faith, principal Sally Haughton said.

The school had a dressmaker available to sew a longer version of the school uniform and hijabs could be worn, providing they were in school colours.

Wellington Girls' College principal Julia Davidson said girls wanting to incorporate religious custom in to the uniform was not a problem at the school.

A longer skirt is available that is only worn by students for religious reasons and those students restricted their hijabs to white or black.

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"We're increasingly getting more students taking up these options."

- The Dominion Post

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