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Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes

Students at Finnsnes School in Troms will be allowed to take part in swimming lessons wearing full-body covering swimsuits - also known as burkinis.

Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes
Photo: Wikimedia commons
The arrangement was the result of dialogue between parents and teachers at the school, who held meetings with representatives from Norway's Refugee Board (flyktningetjenesten) and interpretors, according to Nordlys.
 
“If [parents] wish for their daughters to wear burkinis, bought with their own money, then that is okay, but they must having swimming lessons in the same way and together with all the others,” Espen Hay, head teacher of Finnsnes School, told Nordlys.
 
“We made it clear to parents that religion does not provide exemption for participation in swimming lessons. It is important for us that no students miss out on the opportunities everyone else has,” Hay continued.
 
The school hopes that the agreement will boost attendance of swimming classes.
 
“The Education Act [Opplæringsloven] sets out requirements for what must be learnt at school. Subjects or activities can not be rejected by children or parents or even by me as head teacher.
 
“Just as you can't not show up to mathematics because you don't like it, you must take part in swimming lessons,” the Finnsnes School head continued.
 
A swimming club in neighbouring Denmark recently hit headlines after introducing separate swimming sessions for Muslim girls. The director of the club in Copenhagen called the move a “recipe for integration” after membership numbers soared.
 
But burkinis in normal swimming lessons – allowing all children to swim together – should be a natural sight, says Kristin Walseth, associate professor at the Faculty of Education and International Studies at Oslo and Akerhus University College.
 
“It is clearly an excellent initiative to get more students to attend swimming,” said Walseth, who has a Ph.D. in sports, Islam and integration, to Nordlys.
 
“The initiative should be completely uncontroversial. On a practical level, it is actually better than swimmin in normal clothes, since the burkini is made of the correct material for use in swimming pools,” Walseth continued.
 
“Many Norwegian travel enthusiasts have surely seen lots of people using this garment in countries where they are on vacation. It's just a swimming suit that covers a bit more,” the professor said.
 
Ministry of Education guidelines state that policy regarding cases such as the burkini is up to individual municipalites to decide, writes NRK.
 

INTEGRATION

Indian couple in Norway for abusing son

A Norwegian court said on Tuesday it has sentenced an Indian couple to prison for physically abusing their then six-year-old son in a case that has drawn widespread attention in India.

The couple, who were living in Norway for professional reasons at the time, were found guilty of burning their son, today aged seven, with a hot spoon and the father was also found guilty of lashing him several times with a belt. The father and mother were sentenced to prison for 18 and 15 months respectively. 

The Oslo district court refused to disclose their names, but Indian media have identified the parents as Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni, a computer engineer, and his wife Anupama.

Social services were alerted after the boy refused to get off a school bus in March after wetting himself. He said he was afraid his parents would "burn my tongue", as they had threatened to do on previous occasions. Police then opened an inquiry that uncovered the abuse.

The boy said he was deliberately burned with a hot spoon on his leg in January, causing a three-by-five centimetre (one-by-two inch) scar. His parents claimed it was an accident. The child also told judges his father had hit him on the back with a belt on several occasions, which the father denied.

The sentence was in line with the prosecution's request. According to Norwegian media reports, the parents plan to appeal the sentence. The boy and his younger brother currently live with their grandparents in India.

The case made headlines in India, where a number of media outlets had incorrectly claimed the parents risked prison in Norway for threatening to send the boy back to India if his incontinence continued. It followed another highly-publicised case that saw Norwegian social services remove two young Indian children from their parents' custody due to shortcomings in their care.

The family blamed it on cultural differences toward childcare, and the case escalated into a diplomatic row with the intervention of Indian government officials. The children were finally handed over to their uncle in India and Indian social services have since ruled that they should be returned to the mother's custody.

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