Some WAEC officials in the Western Region are said to have asked candidates taking passport-size photos during registration for the exams to remove their headscarfs or hijabs because they concealed features including forehead, nose and chin.
However, the Islamic community says the directive violates their religious freedom.
For instance, the Islamic Unit of the Ghana Education Service in the Western Region is demanding that WAEC withdraws the directive to Islamic schools.
But WAEC has rejected suggestions it is victimizing practitioners of any religion.
Mrs. Agnes Teye Cudjoe, Public Relations Officer of WAEC, told Joy News though the issue has not formally come to the attention of the council, making exceptions could open the council to a floodgate of demands.
She however said candidates could wear their hijab if only they could still show the required features in the photographs.
She explained that the specification for the photograph was sent to the schools because the council had previously had challenges with the kind of passport pictures sent by schools.
The specifications for passport-sized photograph, for instance for BECE candidates, as are follows:
1. Dimensions: 160pixels (width) by 200pixels (height);
2. Photo background should be plain white or off-white;
3. Candidates' images should be captured without spectacles or sunglasses;
4. Both ears of candidates must appear;
5. All features of the face -- forehead with part of top hair, eyes, nose, mouth and chin must appear in the image;
6. Image should be centred;
7. Candidates must look straight into the camera.
“We have seen all kinds of photographs that you can’t identify people,” so the directive, she said, was to ensure “uniformity”.
The directive is “across board without targeting any group…let’s try as much as possible to adhere to the specification for the candidate for the examination”, Mrs Teye Cudjoe said.
But Deputy Director of the Ghana Islamic Education Unit, Sheikh Shaib told Joy News the directive is a “serious matter of concern for us” having to do with Islamic “believes and values”.
Ideally WAEC should have entered into a dialogue with the Muslim community to understand the issue very well before implementing it, he suggested.
He believes there are ways the hijab could be adjusted to meet the specification required by WAEC without necessarily removing the hijab completely.
“Let me use this advisedly, we violently reject the idea that our girls must completely remove their veils (hijab) in order to take a picture for examination. It violates our right as a religious identifiable group,” Sheikh Shaib stressed.
He said the National Chief Imam as well as other Islamic leaders would be consulted for the way forward after he has gathered evidence.