Students at Rochdale Sixth Form College are in the process of petitioning for a prayer room within the institution as the previous one was removed to make room for a counselling space.
According to the petition which was posted to Change.org, many students have been left “distressed” by the decision and have now taken it upon themselves to persuade their Principal, Richard Ronksley for an area to pray. At the time of writing, it has already received over 2000 signatures, and as it continues to be shared around, this number is only set to get higher.
Speaking exclusively to MVSLIM, a Year 13 student at the college told us just how important a prayer room would be for their Muslim pupils, as well as other religious students who could do with a safe space to practise their beliefs.
“It [a prayer room] is necessary especially during this time of year. Days are getting shorter so we’re currently having to read Zuhur [midday prayer] and Asr [another prayer] during college times,” he said. “Students are being forced to miss both prayers as there are no facilities.”
He continued: “People are saying to go to the mosque,” but the student explained how this can also be an issue due to timing as well as other minor hurdles that don’t allow everyone to pray together. Not only that, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the mosque isn’t always open for use, especially not when there is an influx of people visiting at one time.
The teen later added that students would be content with a “tent in the car park” as they understand there is a limited amount of open space within the institution itself. Even though the college is trying its best, a prayer room is essential for its students, he explained, and clearly, due to the support their petition has garnered, it’s a move that a lot of other people also agree with.
Fortunately, in the past few days, things have turned around. In the most recent update provided to MVSLIM, it seems as though the college is now working with local groups in order to provide the facilities students need, starting with what has been described as a “multi-faith space.”
The Rochdale Council of Mosques also tweeted about the issue, stating: “Today we met with @RochdaleSFC Principle. Who was aware of the petition but was clear that at no stage had he ever intimated there would be no prayer facility at the College. A new multi-faith space is being created for all in consultation with all stakeholders inc students.”
The news comes following another prayer room incident in the neighbouring town of Oldham, where a group of students were forced to pray outside in freezing weather conditions due to a teacher kicking them out of a classroom mid-prayer. The snapshot of the young boys went viral a few weeks ago. It seems as though this re-occurring theme is causing difficulties in multiple schools across the borough, which in turn, reflects on issues surrounding accessibility and inclusion when it comes to different religious practises.
We’re glad to see that Rochdale Sixth Form has listened to its students and is implementing what is necessary for them.