From the dictionary meaning, a public holiday is a day when most people do not go to work or school, especially because of a religious or national celebration.
In Uganda, public holidays are intended to commemorate religious and political events, and contributions of special groups.
There are 12 days designated as public holidays in Uganda according to the Public Holiday Act. They include, New Year’s Day – January 1; NRM Liberation Day – January 26; Janani Luwum Day – February 16; International Women’s Day – March 8; Good Friday (exact day varies); Easter Monday (exact day varies); Labour Day – May 1 and Martyrs’ Day – June 3.
Others include National Heroes’ Day – June 9; Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan, exact day varies); Independence Day – October 9; Eid al-Aduha (feast of the sacrifice, exact day varies); Christmas Day – December 25, and Boxing Day – December 26.
It is upon the importance attached to the commemoration of these days that the Constitutional Court earlier this week ordered government, through the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb), to refrain from organising national examinations on gazetted Muslim religious holidays.
To that effect, the court issued a permanent ban against Uneb conducting examinations on days coinciding with the Muslim religious holidays.
Justice Elizabeth Musoke, who wrote the lead judgment, said the practice is inconsistent with the right to freedom of religion of Muslim students in particular, and the right to manifest their practice of religion through observance of religious holidays guaranteed under the Constitution.
Indeed, postponing the said examinations should be the remedy to such scenarios.
We welcome the court decision because it was reinforcing the observance of Eid al-Aduha that had for long been violated.
Just like Justice Muzamiru Kibeedi — one of the five justices – said, since the two Muslim public holidays are known, government officials should be in touch with the Muslim leaders who should tell them which would be the most likely days to celebrate Eid al-Aduha and Eid al-Fitr.
The Constitution calls for the observance of the rights of citizens by practicing their various religions, including Islam. Hence the court decision clearing this confusion is welcome.