Shanaz Takes the Veil

Shanaz Takes the Veil

An Assembly Story for Primary Schools

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When Shanaz visits India with her family she reaches the age from which she is required to wear a hijab. Whilst she is in India she is excited and proud to do this-especially with the other women and girls in her family. When Shanaz returns home to Britain and attends the first day back at school her hijab attracts attention from her curious school friends- but this only makes her feel more special. The reaction she receives the next day, however, is not so complimentary; with boys she considered friends of hers choosing to poke fun at her. Although Shanaz finds a suitable way to respond the ignorance and impudence of others, it continues for some time. With her feelings about the hijab having taken a turn for the worse as a result, Shanaz comes to consider it a hindrance- not something to be proud of. Whilst in India, the process of putting her hijab on with the women in her family seemed wonderful fun- but this is distant memory for Shanaz now who discovers that simple activities like getting changed for PE have been complicated considerably. She stops attending swimming lessons too, only to find that she feels completely left out by her friends. Alone in the playground, Shanaz is approached by the kindly Mrs Nijjer who asks what the upset is for. Shanaz explains that when she was in India she felt as though she belonged to the community, her family- but back in England- she feels ostracized by her friends for being different. Mrs Nijjer listens and reassures Shanaz that the mockery will soon dwindle, as others will lose interest quickly. She also suggests Shanaz uses this time to her advantage- as a chance to bring home that celebration of culture she nurtured in India. Shanaz is encouraged to speak in the Special Assembly to help educate others, moreover remind herself of how proud she felt to wear her hijab in the first place. Midway through this exchange, Shanaz’ friends beckon her to come and play with them-showing her that they still wanted her to be their friend too after all. This story for primary school assemblies aims to help children who feel different to feel proud of their diversity, and their individual identity. It can be very difficult for children to settle when they feel like they do not fit in- but as Shanaz learns here, those who are really true friends do not care in the slightest about ones differences- other than to be positive and interested. Mrs Nijjer’s promise that the taunting will die down helps children listening to have confidence in this fact if they are enduring similar. Additionally, Shanaz’ confiding in Mrs Nijjer as an approachable and gentle adult will support those children who feel that they are experiencing discrimination to speak to an adult about it in order to get help should it be needed. Shanaz’ experiences here will relate to anybody who has to act on anything that perhaps is complicated due to faith or family reasons, and her perseverance and resilience through this will be inspiring and motivating for other children to do the same – if they successfully make sacrifices and learn to accept and find joy/honour in being so committed then they will be much better off in the end. The idea of the Special Assembly reassures children from diverse backgrounds also that they should feel that they are able to speak publicly about their differences- noone should have any reason to hide or feel ashamed. Other children may also be more accepting and respectful of what a hijab is and of the fact that those who are part of a religious community may have to sometimes do things that the themselves don’t understand, and that this is totally okay. This is an excellent story to promote celebration of diversity within primary schools. 

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