By Mumini AbdulKareem
The 10 grant-aided schools in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, are to remain shut pending announcement of the state government’s position on the use of the Muslim head covering (Hijab) in the schools.
“This is to avert any breakdown of law and order while the government concludes consultations with relevant stakeholders. Members of the public are urged to remain calm and peaceful. Official pronouncement of government’s position is likely this week,” according to a statement by the Secretary to the Kwara State Government Prof. Mamma Saba Jibril made available to National Pilot last night.
“The government urges parents, officials and authorities at the affected schools to maintain peace and avoid making comments or doing anything that could cause further misunderstanding and heat up the polity.”
The issue of the use of the Hijab in schools last week generated sharp reactions in the state following the removal of Hijab from the head of female Muslims who attends Christian Mission Schools that have been taken over by the state government.
A meeting between the Kwara State Government and Christian and Muslim leaders on the controversy generated by the wearing of the Hijab by Muslim students in mission schools in the state ended in a stalemate as both sides, it was gathered at the meeting with the representatives of the state government led by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, refused to shift ground on their hard line postures.
The State Government last week directed immediate temporary closure of some of the schools affected in Ilorin pending resolution of the hijab question in the schools, a statement by the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development reveals.
The affected schools, the listed are Cherubim and Seraphim (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.
Other schools affected are CAC Secondary School, Asa-Dam; St. Barnabas Secondary School, Sabo-Oke; St. John School, Maraba; St. Williams Secondary School, Taiwo-Isale and St. James Secondary School Maraba.
Government had however called for calm and urged parents and religious leaders to avoid actions or comments that may further split the two communities.
Meanwhile, Kwara State Muslim stakeholders including Muslim youth and women organisations, last week called on the state government to prevail on former owners of public schools in the state to allow female Muslim students wear Hijab.
They said that since the state government had taken over such schools, the former missionary owners do no longer have control over the grant – aided schools in the state.
The Muslim stakeholders said that allowing Muslim female students to wear Hijab will be in conformity with the judgment of the Kwara state High Court of 2016 and that of the Court of Appeal of 2019.
They asked the state government to direct schools to allow Muslim female students to practice Islam in all ramifications including observing prayers and use of Hijab by female students”.
Addressing newsmen in Ilorin, the state capital, the Muslim stakeholders, comprising representatives of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Federated Organisation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), and Concerned Parents/Teachers Associations, said that they were surprised that some former owners of schools in Ilorin on Monday and Tuesday forcefully removed hijab from heads of female Muslim students at the entrance gates of the affected schools.
Led by Ustaz Isiaq Abdulkareem, they said they promptly reported the infringement on rights of the concerned Muslim students to the appropriate quarters.
They, however, lamented that at a peace meeting held in the office of Secretary to the State Government on Tuesday, the former missionary school owners, insisted that they were not concerned about the judgements of the Kwara state High Court and the Appeal Court.
“This is the time the government and the people of the state need peace more than ever. It should be seen as calling for trouble as failure to act may lead to people enforcing their rights in their best possible way.
“As a stakeholder in this government, we appeal to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to take bold and urgent step in addressing this issues to avoid possible outbreak of crisis in the state”, he said.
By Mumini AbdulKareem