Norway: Swimming classes for Muslim girls pose dilemma

Norway: Swimming classes for Muslim girls pose dilemma

The head of the youth committee in Bergen thinks that it's a dilemma that many Muslim girls don't learn to swim because they're not allowed to go into a pool with boys.

"In Norway we're not allowed to separate boys and girls in education. I think that's a principle that we should adhere to and that also Muslims parents should accept," stresses Røssland.

Yet she thinks it's necessary to find practical solutions so that Muslim girls would also participate in swimming classes.

"It isn't just about integration. It's also a question of the girls' safety. We can't let the girls drown because we will force them to go to swimming class together with boys," says Røssland.

She stresses that she won't support having girls and boys completely separated from each other in gym class.

"The Norwegian study plans don't allow it. Muslim students must also follow the law," says Røssland.

Education director Kjellbjørg Lunde in Hordaland county also thinks that girls should be able to have their own days in the swimming pool.

"I have nothing against having separate swimming groups for Muslim girls as long as it's not offered in regular education," says Lunde.

In Drammen a youth school was forced to start separate gym classes after a demand from the education director.

At Galterud school in the Fjell district [in Drammen] they've had separate physical education for girls and boys groups for a couple of years.

"The reason was that many Muslim girls just disappeared from class because they weren't allowed to be together with the boys," says counselor Anne Sofie Portaas of the education department in Drammen municipality.

Portaas says that several schools in Drammen had problems with getting the students to show up for gym classes. This was especially noticeable at the youth schools levels [ie, high school].

"It's a great measure if a special swimming course can be organized for girls as an extracurricular activity," she thinks.

At Møllergata school in Oslo, 80% of the 200 students are of foreign background. Principal Eva Kjøge says the school has had sex-segregated swimming lessons for several years.

"we did it mostly of practical reasons, but also to get everybody with us, including the Muslim students," says Kjøge.

"This year, most of the swimming classes are held in mixed groups. But in addition we offer a swimming course for Muslim girls," she says.

The principal thinks that eventually it will be possible to give all swimming classes in mixed groups.

"But we should go forward gradually. It's important to closely inform the parents of what it involves to have joint classes. We used a lot of time to speak with the parents and explain to them how swimming classes are conducted. We show them also the changing rooms and pool and stres that it's always a female teacher there when the girls are changing," she says.

Source: BT (Norwegian)

See also:
* Oslo: Debate about segregated swimming classes
* Norway: 'there is no sneak Islamization here'
* Norway: County to adapt swimming classes for Muslim girls

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