By Demola Akinyemi – Ilorin
Contrary to the directive and expectations of Kwara state government, that the ten affected schools be reopened, violence marred the exercise as the Christians and Muslims in one of the affected schools engaged themselves in a war of words and eventually threw stones at each other over the resumption of students.
Vanguard reliably gathered that despite series of interface by the state government with the Christian leaders, which include the offer by the government that the schools would be returned to them, the Christian leaders were adamant and resolute on their demands.
During Vanguard monitoring at Baptist Secondary school, Surulere, the situation was worst as the security operatives had to disperse the Muslims and Christian leaders who exchanged stones at each other over the development.
Some Muslims groups who had laid siege at the main gates of the school were jointly chorusing “Laillah Illaha Lahu, Laillaha Illah lahu”.
All efforts made by these Muslims group to allow the students to enter the affected schools were rebuffed by the Christians who were also at the main gate of the affected schools.
The development however snowballed into a serious crisis as they were attacking each other with stones and pebbles.
It was at this point that, the security operatives, deployed to the school to avoid the breakdown of law and order disperse them with tear gas.
The waiting students and teachers who were willing to resume fled the area while the schools’ gate remain shut.
At Cherubim and Seraphim grammar school, Sabo Oke, Ilorin Christian leaders in white garment occupied the gate, drumming and singing and disallowed the students and teachers from resumption.
The Christians in white garment were armed with various placards such as “O To Ge” give us our schools back”, “No to Hijab in Kwara”, “Kwara is not an Islamic state, Kwara is for all”, “Our schools is our heritage”, “we oppose the Hijab in our schools”.
Same at Bishop Smith grammar school along Agba dam GRA, Ilorin and St Anthony grammar school, along Offa Road, Ilorin where the school principal and security officer who supposed to open the gates were nowhere to be found.
The teachers gathered in groups at the school gate while some Christian leaders were also there to monitor the development.
Already, the security agencies like police, civil defence corps, soldiers have been deployed to all the affected schools to prevent the breaking down of law and order.
The affected reopened schools are, C&S College Sabo Oke, ST. Anthony College, Offa Road, ECWA School, Oja Iya, Surulere Baptist Secondary School and Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam.
Others are CAC Secondary School Asa Dam road, St. Barnabas Secondary School Sabo Oke, St. John School Maraba, St. Williams Secondary School Taiwo Isale, and St. James Secondary School Maraba.
At Bishop Smith grammar school along Agba dam road, a staff of the school, Malam Abdulraaheed Gambari, in an interview with journalists urged the government to be firm in its decision and restore normalcy in the affected schools.
He said, “Some of the parents wish that their wards use hijab to school, the government has already intervened in this matter, and made their own stance that the Muslim students who wish be allowed to use Hijab in the Christian schools.
“They are not forcing it on non-Muslims. The issue is that the Christians can’t still be behaving that the schools still belong to them when indeed the government owns the schools which they also know.
“We just came to school, and met the gate closed, we didn’t see the principal and the security to open the gate. The solution should come from the government, to be honest with you this school is populated by mostly Muslims, any students who wish to wear hijab should be allowed”
But Venerable David Babatunde Alao, one of the Christian leaders differ as he insisted that they would not allow any of their students to wear hijab.
“As at last week Tuesday at our meeting our resolution was still the same, no students would be allowed to wear hijab in any of the Christian schools. I don’t believe that our leaders would sell us out. So, we are still on it.
“The matter is in supreme court, why is the government intervening, in fact, its a contempt of court. The government should allow the court to dispose off the matter instead of taking a stand.”
As at the time of filing this report students and teachers have returned home, while the ten schools remain deserted as the stakeholders await the next step of the Kwara state government.
Recall that the statement about today’s resumption is contained in a statement issued by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of education and human capital development Mrs Mary Kemi Adeosun.
The statement reads, “The Kwara State Government hereby announces the reopening on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, of the 10 schools that were recently shut down over the hijaab question, even as government’s peacebuilding efforts continue.
“The government is convinced that its policy to allow Muslim schoolgirls to wear their hijab in public schools will lead to sustainable peace and communal harmony anchored on mutual respect and understanding.
“This path to mutual respect, understanding, and peace with regards to hijaab had long been adopted in all of the northern Nigeria and many states in the Southwest such as Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and Oyo States.
“As the students resume normal classes, the government took special notice of the plight of those of them preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and hereby directs affected schools to hold at least two-hour extra lesson for all the intending candidates after school hours daily.
” The government will provide light lunch for the students until the beginning of their exams while teachers allotted for the extra coaching will get stipends for their efforts.
“This is to bring the students up to speed ahead of the impending external examination. The closure of the schools was necessary to forestall security breaches which may affect lives and properties.
“The government sincerely commends the Christian and Muslim leaders for their understandings and their efforts to build peace within their respective communities in the past weeks.
” It urges everyone to join hands with the government to raise a generation of schoolchildren who will respect one another’s differences and together build a sustainable future for our state.
“Finally, the government reminds all its employees such as school principals and teachers in the affected schools to take special note of the policy.
“There will be zero tolerance for violations of anyone’s fundamental human rights under their watch.” The statement concluded.