Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD), headquartered in Kennett Square in Pennsylvania, has declared a holiday for students on October 19, 2017, which is the date the famous Hindu festival of Diwali falls on this year, in its school calendar for 2017-18.
Hindu cleric Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, described it as a step in the right direction and urged all other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in Pennsylvania to do the same.
Zed thanked UCFSD Board president Victor E Dupuis and other Board members for supporting the Diwali holiday. UCFSD serves over 4,000 students in a 77- square-mile area encompassing seven townships; including Kennett Square, Chadds Ford and West Chester.
Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that it would be a positive thing to do in view of the presence of a substantial number of Hindu students in schools around the state, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils.
Zed indicated that schools 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.
If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali, Zed asked. “Holidays of all major religions should be honoured and no one should be penalised for practising their religion,” Zed added.
Zed suggested all Pennsylvania schools, public-private-charter-independent, to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognising the intersection of spirituality and education.
Zed urged Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera and Chairperson of Pennsylvania State Board of Education Larry Wittig, to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the about 500 public school districts, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksha (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.