Diwali in Mineola (231351)
Credit: Contributed

Mineola Union Free School District in New York state has announced that homework and exams will be postponed on the day of the Hindu festival of Diwali. The Hindu festival of Diwali is the five-day festival of lights that celebrates the new beginning and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is mainly celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains internationally. Hinduism is the oldest and one of the largest religions that still stand to this very day.

MUFSD Superintendent Dr. Michael P. Nagler, in an email to Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, wrote, “Diwali will be listed on the school calendar as a day of worship. As such no homework or exams will be given on that day. Children that wish to take the day off may do so.” Zed, the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, introduced this announcement to persuade the MUFSD to contemplate declaring Diwali an official holiday as the neighboring Syosset Central School District and East Meadow School District have done. Zed stated that it would be a positive action to take, in view of the presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state, as it is important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils. Zed indicated that schools should make efforts to meet the religious requirements of Hindus and show respect toward their faith by not conducting business and scheduling classes on Diwali.

Zed advised all New York state schools, public, private/independent and charter, to sincerely look into making Diwali an official holiday, recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about other religions would make New York students balanced and enlightened citizens who have knowledge of multiple cultures and traditions.

In a statement, Zed urged “New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia to work toward adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the public school districts, and persuading the private/independent and charter schools to follow.”

Zed noted that Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali, which falls on Oct. 19 in 2017.