By Ola Ajayi
IBADAN—THE peaceful atmosphere of the International School Ibadan, a privately-owned institution situated on the campus of the University of Ibadan was ruptured, on Monday, when some Muslim female students, wearing Hijab and their parents, stormed the school premises.
Their strange looks and mode of dressing forced the co-educational school which perceived there could be breakdown of law and order to shut down academic activities temporarily.
The education system of the school, founded by a German-British man, Kurt Hahn, was patterned after the United Kingdom curriculum. Its funding comes mainly from United States International Agency for Development and Ford Foundation.
To encourage the founder, the defunct Western Regional Government provided the expansive land for the establishment of the school.
Since its inception on October 13, 1963, it has excelled academically with over 148 qualified staff and 48 classrooms.
But, its enviable and peaceful academic excellence was disturbed when some parents under the guise of ISI Muslim Parents Forum tendered their demand that willing Muslim girls should be allowed to use the head scarf (Hijab) in line with their religious belief.
According to the group led by Alhaji Abdurrahman Balogun and the Secretary, Mrs. Bilikis Badiru, there are two Court of Appeal judgments affirming that the use of hijab as a fundamental right in Nigeria under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The use of hijab, for Muslim girls, is now a global phenomenon irrespective of personal or professional callings; student, lawyer, nurse, Doctor, security personnel, teacher among others, who willingly adorn it.
The Body of Benchers in Nigeria recently endorsed the use of mini-hijab not only at the call to the bar ceremony but also at the Nigeria law school and indeed in the legal practice.”
Balogun, who is also a parent in the school said: “I am here to drop my children. We gave the school notification that in line with the constitution in all ramifications, be it the school rules and regulations, norms and constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria that our daughters should be made to wear Hijab.”
Continuing, he said: “But, I am surprised and shocked that too that classes were shut and assembly was also cancelled because students wear Hijab today. I don’t know the correlation between the two, students wear Hijab and the classes were shut. We will not accept anything until our daughters are allowed to wear Hijab. I want my daughters to be wearing Hijab because there is nothing that says that they cannot wear it even the school rules and regulations. So, wearing Hijab is in conformity with the school rules and regulations and the extant law.”
Students Christian Movement, Osun/Oyo reacts
Reacting to the issue, the Students Christian Movement of Nigeria, SCM, Osun/Oyo Sector, in a statement issued by its President, Dr. Adebayo Kolade, through the Mobilisation Officer of the SCM in Oyo and Osun States, Dare Ajongbo condemned the intent and timing of wearing of hijab by some female students of the school should be questioned.
He said: “We received with shock, the news of the disruption of academic activities at the International School, University of Ibadan on account of the forceful introduction of hijab by some Muslim parents on Monday November 12, 2018.
“While the incident may, on the surface, appear like an internal affair of the University community, we are constrained to react for a number of reasons. First, the University of Ibadan is arguably the most notable institution in the city of Ibadan. Whatever happens there has a way of impacting the city of Ibadan and beyond.
“The timing of the ‘self-help’ by these Muslim parents is quite suspicious. Why would religious disaffection be brought to fore during the very week that the University of Ibadan is celebrating her 70th Anniversary, and playing host to her Chancellor, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto – the Number One Muslim in Nigeria?”
“It is curious that such a plan can still see the light of day despite the fact that both the PTA Chairman and the Chairman of the Court of Governors of the School are Muslims and have (at least) expressed their disapproval.
“If this is a vote of no confidence in the Islamic faith of these leaders, then we must be alarmed that a rebellious strain of religious extremism is trying to take root in the UI community (of all places!).”
The SCM noted that the issue of hijab wearing in primary and secondary schools has particularly become a thorny issue in the South West of Nigeria, adding that history has shown that school uniforms were introduced as a tool to obliterate differences of economic class, tribe, religion, and so on among impressionable minds as children gather in schools.
“For a nation in need of unity, the school uniform helps to shield these young minds from the impact of various adornments that fuel segregation in society; it makes them to see fellow students as equal; not different, superior or inferior. Any alteration in adornment that makes the school uniform to be no longer uniform therefore assaults/destroys the core essence of the idea of school uniforms.
“The question to ask those who seek to modify school uniforms is this – why are we so intent on sowing seeds of division among our youths? Why are we so determined to emphasize what separates us? The hijab controversy has done great damage to unity amongst our children; and has to a great extent fueled segregation in our schools. Why bring it to such a distinguished environment like the university community?
Chairman, Court of Governors of ISI speaks
Apparently shocked at the development in the school, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Abideen Aderinto who doubles as the Chairman Court of Governors of the school said: “I am the Chairman of the court of Governors and I am a proud Muslim. ISI is a private school. UI does not fund it. It is funded by the fees collected. It is unfortunate that this is coming up now. Even the Parents Teacher Association is not aware of the idea by this group. Indeed some other Muslim parents expressed shock when they heard about this forum. Since its establishment in 1963, the school has not expressed any religious crisis and we would want to guide against it.
“The Muslim and Christian students have a place to worship in the school. Whoever is desired to change the rules should go through the process. The teachers do not feel safe and so could not have taught anybody because it is a strange development.
“I appeal to these people to stop their action and allow peace to reign in the school. It is even strange that this matter was not discussed at the Parents Teachers Association at all headed by another Muslim and lawyer barrister Kazeem Olaniyan.”
Vanguard gathered that the school management, at a meeting of the PTA, had taken a final decision that Hijab wearing will not be allowed in the school.
The comments infuriated one of the agitators that he walked out of the meeting.