BY GBENGA OLARINOYE
OSOGBO— The solution to the crisis over the new education policy of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State is not yet in sight as the state government and Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, are poised for a showdown.
The state government had, yesterday, summoned parents of the 92 students identified as the masterminds of the two-day tension that rocked Baptist High School Iwo, Osun State.
But in a counter directive, Osun Baptist Conference, OBC, asked all its members invited to Osogbo by the state government on the issue of the crisis in the school to shun such invitation.
Baptist High School, Iwo was for two days engulfed in crisis as students of the school appeared in different clothes that correlate with their religious beliefs.
While the Christian students who wore choir gowns sang Christian songs, the Muslim students, who appeared in hijab, on the other hand sang Islamic songs while some masquerades also appeared the following day in the school.
The state government last year introduced same uniform for all the public secondary schools students in the state and also legalised the use of veil, hijab.
A statement by the Director of Bureau of Communication and Srategy to Aregbesola, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, in Osogbo yesterday said: “Preliminary investigations reveal that 92 of the 2,500 student population in that school were involved in a protest over the wearing of hijab.
“In view of the development, government has, therefore, invited parents of the 92 students involved in the protest for a meeting at 4 pm on Friday in Osogbo with a view to finding a lasting solution to the issues.
“The government also wishes to state that a panel of inquiry is to be constituted immediately to investigate remote and immediate causes of the perennial disturbance at the Baptist High School, Iwo.
“The panel is to comprise representatives of the relevant organisations such as the All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Parents Teachers Association, PTA, and community leaders with officials of the Ministry of Education.
“It must be stated that the government recognises protest as a legitimate avenue for registering grievances in a democracy which must be peaceful and decent. However, it will not condone acts of indiscipline in any form from any quarters.
“We restate our commitment to the total reform of the education sector just as we are determined to bring reforms to other aspects of our people’s lives in Osun.”
OBC asks parents to shun meeting
The OBC, in its counter directive, reads in part: ”The Osun Baptist Conference has asked parents and guardians of the Baptist High School, Iwo who were invited to a meeting by the state government to discuss the issue of hijab to shun the invitation.
“The directive is contained in a communique issued to journalists in Osogbo, yesterday, after the end of the meeting of executive committee of the conference.”
The communique signed by the President of OBC, Rev. Paul Oluwole said: “The OBC had the support of the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria in the state to ask parents and teachers to shun the planned meeting and to ask Christian students to continue to wear religious garments to their schools.
“That the Baptist community in Osun State and Iwo community is vehemently opposed to the use of hijab in Baptist High School, Iwo.
“That no parents and students be invited to Osogbo under any guise to intimidate the parents and their wards, rather if there is any information to pass, it should go through the normal channel such as the school authority or the Parents Teachers Association.
“That in view of our observation that the wearing of hijab in Baptist High School appears to have the backing of the state government, we hereby also authorize and mandate all our Christian students to wear their religious garments.
“That Tutor‑General and officials of the Ministry of Education should stop henceforth to intimidate students and their parents.”