KAMANJAB – Unless the ideology of secularism is removed from the Namibian Constitution, it would remain a futile exercise for anyone to call for a specific religious book to be introduced into the public school system, a local Islamic leader said.
Dr Armas Abdul Malik Shikongo, head of the Windhoek Islamic Centre, said: “The constitution also makes provision for private school option which would allow a school to teach whatever they believe in without any constitutional problem.”
Last month, a group of Christian leaders visiting State House requested President Hage Geingob to help reintroduce Bible studies in schools as a means to combat immorality.
Currently, there are arguments for and against Bible studies at schools.
Those who are against Bible studies argue that the constitution classifies Namibia as a secular State, therefore making it inappropriate to have schools teach the subject. Critics believe that teaching Bible studies at public schools will violate Article 1 (1) and Article 21 (b) (c) of the Namibian Constitution and it will also not be acceptable to those who do not believe in any faith.
Shikongo said if government bowed to Christian demands for Bible studies, local Muslims will mobilise themselves and demand the introduction of Quranic studies in the Namibian public education system.
Shikongo foresees advocates of other faiths making similar demands once Christians get their way. Shikongo, an academic at the University of Namibia, does not foresee any introduction of Bible studies happening soon as the country’s constitution would need to be amended first.
“Maybe anyone who would like to introduce Bible studies into the public education system must first call for the change to the constitution, otherwise any such calls would be legally futile at this stage,” Shikongo emphasised.
Namibia being a constitutionally secular State is legally expected to be religiously neutral, according to Shikongo. Public schools are funded by all taxpayers of all religious affiliations and it would thus not be fair to introduce in schools teachings of one faith only.
Government has allowed Religious and Moral Education (RME) in the current public education system as it seems to be in line with the constitutional provisions.
To this, Shikongo said: “This make legal sense, as it is in line with the current provisions of the Namibian constitution. The only concern from the Muslims is whether those who are currently teaching this subject are professionally competent and sufficiently trained to teach the subject. “Muslims would like to contribute to the teaching of any information that relates to Islam or Muslims, and they do not believe their orientation is represented in the current setup.”
Between 80 and 90 per cent of the Namibia population is Christian, while it is estimated that believers of the Muslim faith range between 8 000 to 10 000 in the country.