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  • How Hijab controversy threatens Kwara’s harmony
  • How Hijab controversy threatens Kwara’s harmony

    Hijab Controversy: Return our schools, Baptist, ECWA tell Kwara govt

    By Demola Akinyemi 

    KWARA State is known as the State of Harmony, but that is being threatened by the controversy that is trailing the wearing of hijab by students in secondary schools founded by Christian missions, but which have been taken over by the state government. 

    The agitation for or against the wearing of hijab did not start with the present administration. It similarly occurred during the administrations of Dr Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.  

    During their time, the two former governors did not make any specific pronouncement on the matter, obviously for political reasons. Government ownership of the schools now is not in doubt since it pays the workers and runs them, a situation backed by court pronouncements, the former owners cannot be said to now have any real control over them.

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    So, when the crisis resurfaced under the present administration, the determination of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to tackle the problem once and for all was not in doubt. 

    This old wound was lately reopened when some Muslim stakeholders, at a press conference in Ilorin, appealed to the state government to prevail on former owners of the schools to allow female Muslim students wear hijab.

    Their spokesman, Alhaji Ishaq Abdulkareem, said that since the state government had taken over such schools, the former missionary owners no longer have control over the grant-aided schools. Abdulkareem said that allowing Muslim female students to wear hijab would be in conformity with the judgment of the Kwara State High Court in 2016 and that of the Court of Appeal in 2019.

    It was this development that prompted Governor AbdulRazaq to call a peace meeting with the religious leaders so as to resolve the issue. The meeting which involved Muslim and Christian leaders was to allow them to take positions and offer opinions on how to resolve the differences on the hijab question in the schools. The government subsequently set up a committee to look into the hijab controversy.  

    Surprisingly, few days after the press conference by Muslim stakeholders, Muslim students in Christian schools put on hijab to their schools and were turned back at the gate by the school authorities.

     The development led to street protests by the concerned students, and that prompted the closure of the 10 affected schools by government and commencement of consultations with stakeholders. The  affected schools were C&S College, Sabo Oke; St. Anthony College, Offa Road; ECWA School, Oja Iya; Surulere Baptist Sec. School and Bishop Smith Sec. School, Agba Dam. Others are CAC Sec. School, Asa Dam; St. Barnabas Sec. School Sabo Oke; St. John School, Maraba; St. Williams Sec. School, Taiwo Isale and St. James Sec. School, Maraba, all in Ilorin. 

    Following the protests by Muslim students over the stoppage of the wearing of hijab, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN chose the option of praying to God so as to have peaceful solutions to the controversy. They also made some key demands which included the return of their   schools and no use of hijab and that they do not want the schools to lose the identity of being built and owned by churches. The well-attended prayer session by members from various units and denominations was held at St. Barnabas Anglican Cathedral, Sabo-Oke, Ilorin.

    In their submissions, Rev. J. S. Dada, President, Kwara Baptist Convention and Rev. Reuben Ibitoye, State Secretary of CAN, said Christians in Kwara State were making two key demands: “The return of our schools and no use of hijab in our schools,” and that CAN does not want the schools to lose the identity of being built and owned by churches. Barrister Shina Ibiyemi, CAN Legal Adviser, who spoke on the legal angle of the controversy, said there was never any time the hijab issue was a subject of contention in the law court in the state. He therefore implored the people to arm themselves with fact and safeguard against misconception. However, the state government in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Mamma Saba Jibril, said the 10 schools in Ilorin, would remain shut pending the announcement of the state government’s position on the matter.  

    Kwara State Baptist Conference and Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, told the state government that they would resist the wearing of hijab in their schools by all legitimate means and also demanded the immediate return of their schools. 

    The groups which spoke at different press conferences in Ilorin, said they were not consulted before the decisions were taken, stressing that the state government was ill-advised in approving blanket wearing of hijab by female students in grant-aided mission schools in the state.

    The President, Kwara Baptist Conference, Rev. Victor Dada, said the church has no fewer than 38 schools across the state, adding that the state government took a wrong decision by its blanket approval of the wearing of hijab for female students in mission schools.

     “The state government was ill-advised in taking that decision. The state even acted in contempt of court as the case is still pending before the highest court in the land – Supreme Court. We want to warn the government that the step it wants to take by approving the use of hijab for all public schools and grant-aided  schools in the state will lead to avalanche of reactions, the end of which no one can predict. By  this move, the state government is saying the Muslims’ purported rights are superior to those of the Christians. What we are saying is that no one, not the Kwara State Government or even the Federal Government can force hijab on our children or in our schools. We shall not hesitate to use all legitimate means to protect our heritage. We will defend our faith and protect our property,” he said.

    While parents and students waited for the schools to reopen last Monday, the state government, in the early hours of the day, came up with an announcement that the schools would remain shut indefinitely.  

    In announcing the schools’ closure till a later date, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the decision was taken for safety reasons. The statement was titled, “Hijaab: 10 Kwara schools to remain shut for safety reasons.”

    It read, “The   Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development wishes to inform members of the public that the 10 government schools where the use of Hijab is disputed will remain shut until a later date. This decision has been taken for safety reasons.”

    However, Vanguard reliably gathered that the state government is currently engaging the Christian bodies at official and personal levels with a view to settling the matter amicably. How soon that would materialise, only time will tell.

    By Demola Akinyemi 

    KWARA State is known as the State of Harmony, but that is being threatened by the controversy that is trailing the wearing of hijab by students in secondary schools founded by Christian missions, but which have been taken over by the state government. 

    The agitation for or against the wearing of hijab did not start with the present administration. It similarly occurred during the administrations of Dr Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.  

    During their time, the two former governors did not make any specific pronouncement on the matter, obviously for political reasons. Government ownership of the schools now is not in doubt since it pays the workers and runs them, a situation backed by court pronouncements, the former owners cannot be said to now have any real control over them.

    So, when the crisis resurfaced under the present administration, the determination of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to tackle the problem once and for all was not in doubt. 

    This old wound was lately reopened when some Muslim stakeholders, at a press conference in Ilorin, appealed to the state government to prevail on former owners of the schools to allow female Muslim students wear hijab.

    Their spokesman, Alhaji Ishaq Abdulkareem, said that since the state government had taken over such schools, the former missionary owners no longer have control over the grant-aided schools. Abdulkareem said that allowing Muslim female students to wear hijab would be in conformity with the judgment of the Kwara State High Court in 2016 and that of the Court of Appeal in 2019.

    It was this development that prompted Governor AbdulRazaq to call a peace meeting with the religious leaders so as to resolve the issue. The meeting which involved Muslim and Christian leaders was to allow them to take positions and offer opinions on how to resolve the differences on the hijab question in the schools. The government subsequently set up a committee to look into the hijab controversy.  

    Surprisingly, few days after the press conference by Muslim stakeholders, Muslim students in Christian schools put on hijab to their schools and were turned back at the gate by the school authorities.

     The development led to street protests by the concerned students, and that prompted the closure of the 10 affected schools by government and commencement of consultations with stakeholders. The  affected schools were C&S College, Sabo Oke; St. Anthony College, Offa Road; ECWA School, Oja Iya; Surulere Baptist Sec. School and Bishop Smith Sec. School, Agba Dam. Others are CAC Sec. School, Asa Dam; St. Barnabas Sec. School Sabo Oke; St. John School, Maraba; St. Williams Sec. School, Taiwo Isale and St. James Sec. School, Maraba, all in Ilorin. 

    Following the protests by Muslim students over the stoppage of the wearing of hijab, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN chose the option of praying to God so as to have peaceful solutions to the controversy. They also made some key demands which included the return of their   schools and no use of hijab and that they do not want the schools to lose the identity of being built and owned by churches. The well-attended prayer session by members from various units and denominations was held at St. Barnabas Anglican Cathedral, Sabo-Oke, Ilorin.

    In their submissions, Rev. J. S. Dada, President, Kwara Baptist Convention and Rev. Reuben Ibitoye, State Secretary of CAN, said Christians in Kwara State were making two key demands: “The return of our schools and no use of hijab in our schools,” and that CAN does not want the schools to lose the identity of being built and owned by churches. Barrister Shina Ibiyemi, CAN Legal Adviser, who spoke on the legal angle of the controversy, said there was never any time the hijab issue was a subject of contention in the law court in the state. He therefore implored the people to arm themselves with fact and safeguard against misconception. However, the state government in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Mamma Saba Jibril, said the 10 schools in Ilorin, would remain shut pending the announcement of the state government’s position on the matter.  

    Kwara State Baptist Conference and Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, told the state government that they would resist the wearing of hijab in their schools by all legitimate means and also demanded the immediate return of their schools. 

    The groups which spoke at different press conferences in Ilorin, said they were not consulted before the decisions were taken, stressing that the state government was ill-advised in approving blanket wearing of hijab by female students in grant-aided mission schools in the state.

    The President, Kwara Baptist Conference, Rev. Victor Dada, said the church has no fewer than 38 schools across the state, adding that the state government took a wrong decision by its blanket approval of the wearing of hijab for female students in mission schools.

     “The state government was ill-advised in taking that decision. The state even acted in contempt of court as the case is still pending before the highest court in the land – Supreme Court. We want to warn the government that the step it wants to take by approving the use of hijab for all public schools and grant-aided  schools in the state will lead to avalanche of reactions, the end of which no one can predict. By  this move, the state government is saying the Muslims’ purported rights are superior to those of the Christians. What we are saying is that no one, not the Kwara State Government or even the Federal Government can force hijab on our children or in our schools. We shall not hesitate to use all legitimate means to protect our heritage. We will defend our faith and protect our property,” he said.

    While parents and students waited for the schools to reopen last Monday, the state government, in the early hours of the day, came up with an announcement that the schools would remain shut indefinitely.  

    In announcing the schools’ closure till a later date, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the decision was taken for safety reasons. The statement was titled, “Hijaab: 10 Kwara schools to remain shut for safety reasons.”

    It read, “The   Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development wishes to inform members of the public that the 10 government schools where the use of Hijab is disputed will remain shut until a later date. This decision has been taken for safety reasons.”

    However, Vanguard reliably gathered that the state government is currently engaging the Christian bodies at official and personal levels with a view to settling the matter amicably. How soon that would materialise, only time will tell.

    The post How Hijab controversy threatens Kwara’s harmony appeared first on Vanguard News.


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