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UK Issues Guidance on Helping Fasting Muslim Pupils in Exams

LONDON – The Association of School and College Leaders has issued guidance for British schools on how best to accommodate pupils who are fasting, offering recommendations to help Muslim students who will be observing the holy month of Ramadan during summer exams.

“Contributors to this paper have offered sound and useful advice for schools and colleges in supporting their Muslim pupils during exams,” Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told School Week on Wednesday, April 20.

Morga is one of the Muslim leaders who were consulted on how best to accommodate pupils who are fasting, and could therefore be affected by tiredness or dehydration during Ramadan which falls this year between June 6 and July 5.

Released on Wednesday, the document was put together in consultation with a large number of representatives of the Muslim community in Britain, including Imams, academics and religious education leaders, along with exams officers and other prominent educationalists.

The document was urged to preserve the well-being of Muslim students who will be taking exams while fasting, though the exam timetable was slightly amended.

School staff are being advised to keep pupils informed of “allowances” within Islam for breaks from their fasting “if they feel it will in any way jeopardize their performance”, and should provide a supervised, quiet space to rest between exams for those who are avoiding school canteens.

The guidance also stated that revision lessons should be run in cooler classrooms as well as consulting students on whether the prefer sessions to take place in the morning or the afternoon.

Although fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the guidance said that the teachings of the religion also say that education is a “religious and moral duty”.

“The Islamic tradition has an established history of discussion, debate and reasoning,” Khola Hasan, a member of the Islamic Shari`ah Council, told School Week website.

“There are many concessions for hardship in observing religious commandments,” Hasan, who was one of those consulted on the guidance, added.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

In Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.