The new academic year started Sunday at Kuwait University. Image Credit: Source: Al Rai newspaper

Cairo: Controversy is heating up in Kuwait over a decision to cancel student mixing in lecture halls at the Kuwait University.

The first salvo in the tug-of-war was fired by Kuwaiti MP Mohammad Hayef who quoted Education Minister Adel Al Manea as having agreed to scrap registration for attending mixed lectures.

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In 2015, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court ruled in favour of co-education when it explained that a law prohibiting mixing at educational institutions can be implemented merely by providing seats for females and others for males inside the lecture halls. The minister’s latest decision has drawn an angry response from students.

At least two student groups have called for holding a sit-in protest at the university’s faculties of literature and teachers’ training against the move.

In the same vein, the student group, the Democratic Centrist List, started a countrywide campaign to collect signatures to protect academic independence against what it termed as “political intervention” and to safeguard students’ rights.

Another student group at the school of law said they will file an urgent lawsuit to block the implementation of the contested decision on cancelling mixed university class.

The group has asked students, harmed by the decision, to provide their names to be included in the suit.

On the opposite side, several lawmakers warned the education minister against reversing his decision to cancel the mixed classes.

“Your pledge to us as deputies will make you liable to political responsibility in a case of going back or distancing yourself from the decision,” said MP Fayez Al Jumhur.

Similarly, MP Mubarak Al Tasha said any reversal of the ministerial decision will mean promise breaking and “bowing” to law violation.

“Therefore, there should be accountability for failing to apply or block the law,” he added.

Acting Director of the Kuwait University Fayez Al Dhafiri was last week quoted by Al Qabas newspaper as saying that the institution conforms to the application of the law banning mixing.

“We are working so there is no mixing at studies unless exceptional and actual need arises for this,” he said.

Some civil society activists have decried the decision that was disclosed days before the new academic year, calling it a setback to freedoms in Kuwait.