The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has decided to make it mandatory for female students of government-run schools to cover themselves up in the province’s educational institutions, Adviser to Chief Minister on Elementary and Secondary Education Ziaullah Bangash said on Monday.
The order was first circulated in Haripur district last week, where the district education officer asked all principals and headmistresses of government schools to ensure that girl students wore an abaya, gown or chador.
“We came across some situations during our recent visits to tribal areas and Kohistan that prompted us to take this decision,” Bangash told DawnNewsTV, without specifying what these situations were.
“We have sensitive areas in the province which require safety measures for the children,” he said, adding that the decision is "also in line with the tribal values and the traditions of Islam".
The adviser further said: “This step has been taken particularly to remove the doubts raised by parents about the safety of their children.
“We have to take decisions which are in the best interest of our culture, people and the province. If such a measure can convince the parents to send their girls to schools, why not go ahead with it?"
The adviser said that it was important to focus on the education of both boys and girls in the province. “Our focus is on educating our girls and we should take every step to enable this,” he added.
Earlier today, the decision was enforced in Peshawar through a notification issued by District Education Officer Samina Ghani, who directed the heads of all government girls middle, high and higher secondary schools in the district to instruct their students to cover themselves up with a gown, abaya or chador "in order to protect them from any unethical incident".
Commenting on the dress code, an official in the Haripur district education office had earlier told Dawn that the decision was "necessary to protect girl students from a growing number of complaints of eve-teasing and harassment".
“A good number of girl students have developed a habit of wearing dupatta or ‘half chador’, which is not sufficient to cover their bodies,” the official had added.
Former KP education minister and Awami National Party MPA Sardar Hussain Babak criticised the decision, saying it will have a negative impact on education trends.
"To make the abaya or burqa mandatory through a notification will have a negative impact,” he said, adding that in KP many school-going girls already wear the burqa.