Islamists Segregate Boys, Girls in Mali School

Posted June 28th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Even before they seized full control of the Malian city of Gao this week, Islamist militants imposed sharia law on the town's residents.

VOA French to Africa reporter Idriss Fall, who spent several days in Gao last week, found the restrictions extended to the city's lone operating school, where militants forced teachers to segregate boys and girls.

Fall spoke to the head of the school, Amadou Sidi Toure:

Fall says that he noticed the classes are segregated. Toure says, “That is because the Islamists demanded that boys not be seated next to girls.”

The schools in Gao were shut down in April when the Tuareg separatist group MNLA and Islamist group Ansar Dine seized control of northern Mali. However, Toure and other teachers organized an informal school for students trying to get their high school diploma or trade certificates.

Fall noted that, while most women in Gao are wearing Islamic headscarves, the director of Gao's pedagogic training center, Toure Oulematou Maiga, does not.

Maiga says, “I am almost veiled!” and laughs. She adds, “It is our tradition to wear the veil on our shoulders.” Fall says, “But the Islamists want you to wear it over your head, baring only your eyes.” Maiga replies, “Yes, but I don't, because I prefer it this way, and I have never had any problem.”

Fall spoke to several students at the school who said they do not mind being segregated. One girl, Siatou Toure, said she does not mind wearing a veil either, although, she adds, she feels forced to wear it.

As noted in an earlier report, Fall found that some residents of Gao have defied efforts by Ansar Dine and the al-Qaida-linked group MUJAO (The Unity Movement for Jihad in West Africa) to enforce their strict form of sharia, or Islamic law. It remains to be seen whether that defiance will continue now that the MUJAO group has driven the MNLA out of Gao.