Hindus are urging Peel District School Board (PDSB) in Ontario (Canada) to close all its 253 schools on Diwali, most popular of their festival, which falls on October 19 this year.
Many public school districts in US states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already reportedly declared day-off for students on October 19.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that it if would be a step in the positive direction, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils, who were reportedly in substantial numbers in PDSB schools.
As PDSB had declared two other religious holidays on their 2017-2018 school calendar, why not Diwali, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, asked. Moreover, PDSB needed to follow its own statement"The board does not favour one faith over another"and its stated "Value" of "we are inclusive", Zed stressed and added that holidays of all major religions should be honored.
Rajan Zed indicated that PDSB should make efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali. We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc.; by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.
Zed suggested PDSB to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make PDSB students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.
Headquartered in Mississauga, PDSB, one of Canada's largest public school boards, serves about 154,000 students spread in 1,254 square kilometers of Ontario's Peel Region; which includes Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga. Tony Pontes is Director of Education, while Janet McDougald is Trustees Chair.