Dear Shepp Adviser,

We moved to Shepparton last year due to my wife’s medical training and my work commitments. I have two kids attending Bouchier Street Primary School. On April 27, the school gave our kids ‘School Photos’ envelopes, advising that class photos would occur Tuesday, May 3. I immediately called the school and advised the receptionist that May 3 is ‘Eid-Day’, which is holy celebration of Muslims that takes place on the last day of Ramadhan (the holy month of fasting for Muslims around the world).

I advised that our kids cannot attend on May 3 as we will be in Melbourne celebrating Eid. The receptionist noted my call and said someone will contact me. The way the school receptionist took my call and behaved like she had no idea what I was talking about, I was not satisfied I wrote a detailed email to the vice principal and asked, if possible, school photos could be held on any other day or even the next day – otherwise our kids wouldn’t be able to attend.

The vice principal replied that evening. He wrote back, “Hi Aziz, I will endeavour to do some follow up regarding this tomorrow. Thanks very much for your email. I will get back to you!” – but I kept waiting for a reply from the school and no reply was sent.

I felt bad that my kids will miss out due to Eid. The school didn’t do anything, not even reply to our request. We came to Melbourne on Tuesday and just before the Eid prayer was about to start, I had a call from the principal asking me if I could bring my kids to school tomorrow for their individual photos. It felt like a joke – or someone teasing you, you know.

School management knew we were celebrating Eid on Tuesday. They did not reply to our request for whole week and then they decided to contact us on Eid day, which was heartbreaking and felt like adding insult to injury. The principal thanked me for bringing this “issue” to her attention which they were not aware of, but she said that the photo company could not change the date. I was extremely patient with the principal over the phone and accepted whatever excuse they might have.

I am not furious. I am only disappointed about what happened and wanted to request our state’s Education Department to advise State Schools to be more responsive and sensitive to such issues especially in areas like Shepparton, which is densely multicultural and multi faiths. I will be writing a detailed email to the Minister of Education about this matter and will see if he has time to respond to my email.

Since this experience was published in The News (10/05/22), I’d like to clarify:

1) My sole intention was/is to make our local schools understand about the significance of other cultures and traditions important dates and ‘Eid-ul-Fitar’ is one of those most important days when Muslims celebrate end of 30 days fasting which is called ‘Ramadhan’. 

2) My second intention to raise this issue was/is that no parent should be put in such an awkward position where they must choose between school photos and their most important celebration of the year – be it Eid, or Easter or Christmas or Dewali. 

3) I was only disappointed because the school promised to get back to me once I informed them about the significance of Eid and what it means to us and to our kids, but even then they chose not to reply to my email, rather the principal called me on the very day when we were celebrating Eid. 

4) If school photos and other similar events such as school excursions and other ‘combined’ events can avoid Easter, Christmas or other state/national holidays then why not keep at least those communities in mind whose kids are at your school? 

I hope my letter doesn’t offend anyone and it only highlights an issue that I, as a parent, genuinely felt and I would request others to read with compassion and with a fair go in view. 

 Aziz Bhatti