Teachers and students at the ROC De Lijgraaf schools, with branches in Oss, Uden and Veghel, will start the summer vacation a few days later than other schools in North Brabant. The reason is that during the past school year the school had given time off during the Muslim Eid ul-Fitr holiday. In the upcoming school year De Leijgraaf intends to give time off for Eid ul-Fitr as well as for Eid ul-Adha. The summer vacaton in 2008 will therefore also begin a few days later.
The initiative to give time off on Muslim holidays comes from the school board. "We are convinced that we contribute to their integration if we, just as we do with Christian holidays, set out the Islamic holidays as a free day. Integration begins with respect," says chairman Marc Veldhoven.
The employee council had agreed with the arrangement this year, but won't do so next year, after grumbling from the people. The arrangement will go through anyway. Veldhoven: "I heard reactions like: should we also be closed for Chinese New Year. No, since Chinese are not a target group of our institution, Muslims are."
Veldhoven had tried without success to convince secondary schools in the region to join in. "They think it's an issue of the government."
In the Randstad (urban areas of the Netherlands) there are more schools who give all their students time off on Muslim holidays. "That is also very practical," says Z. Arslan of the Institute for Multicultural Development Forum (instituut voor multiculturele ontwikkeling Forum) Moroccan students often want to take time off on Eid ul-Fitr. In order to prevent absenteeism it is then sensible to make it a day off.
The organization Inspraakorgaan Turken agrees. "I recognize that the Netherlands has many religious viewpoints, yet your must make sure that groups don't compete," says manager A. Azeural. Chairman M. Barth of the CNV education union thinks it's good that schools work in this "made to order" manner. "I think it's a sad argument when people say that you shouldn't do something like this in a Dutch school. Islam belongs in the Netherlands. If we take each other into consideration, then life would be nicer."
"I think it should be like that. They also have time off on Easter no? This make us simply equal." Sharon Thomasen's (16) reaction is clear. The student of ROC De Leijgraaf in Veghel thinks it's good that all students get time off on the Muslim holidays. Sharon in not alone. Cansu Solmaz (20) is very happy with the school's decision. "I was born here, this is also my country. It's about respect for each other's culture. And that should come from two sides."
It's a pretty compromise, says Patrick van Meltvoort (17). "I know that there were plans to make of them national holidays, in exchange for a couple of Christian holidays. This is better."
They don't really care that the summer vacation starts later, saying it's only a couple more days anyway.
Zeliha Ozeren (16) thinks it's fine that they now don't have to ask for vacation for the Muslim holidays. "An immigrant kid now won't miss any more class. All schools should do this." She says the holidays are not discussed in school and that everybody is simply happy with the extra vacation day.
Marlijn Geenen (17) speaks of "equal limits". "Otherwise you have these days when all immigrants stay home. I remember that well. I thought that was so stupid." Her friend sitting next to her agrees. "And they should implement this in all schools. My mother thought it was so crazy that I got time off and my sister didn't."
Paul van Veghel (21) says that schools should decide on their own whether they close on Muslim holidays or not. "Personally I say: the more vacation, the better."
Sources: Brabants Dagblad 1, 2 (Dutch)
See also: Netherlands: Can Muslim kids be released from school on holidays? , Netherlands: Trade union supports recognizing Muslim holiday, Muslim kids may take vacation for holy day