MURIC criticises WAEC over ‘anti-Muslim’ software

School girls in hijab [Picture used for illustrative purpose]

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has criticised the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) over the deployment of what it tagged some “anti-Muslim” software in the registration of candidates for the 2019/2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for school candidates.

MURIC said its office has been inundated with reports from Muslim students, their teachers and parents that the WAEC software being used for capturing during registration always “malfunctions” whenever the prospective candidate is with hijab.

The human rights group said it suspects that the application was deliberately designed to automatically reject hijab.

As a result, MURIC has called on WAEC to review the software by making it hijab-compliant.

This was revealed in a statement on Monday, 17th February, 2020 by the director of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola.

According to the statement, “Reports from state branches of MURIC concerning capturing for 2020 WAEC registration has been alarming and disappointing. In faraway Minna, Niger State, at the Hasha International School,
students had issues with capturing in hijab. The same reports came in from several secondary schools in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Lagos, etc and it resulted in the officials asking Muslim students to remove their hijab for capturing since, according to them, the hijab was not being captured by WAEC’s software.

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“Here lies the riddle. Several questions come to our minds and it appears only WAEC can answer them. So, over to WAEC. Muslims pay the same amount for WAEC as all others. Why are our daughters being victimised? Why are they being set aside for embarrassment? Why must their religion become a source of discomfort for them? Why are the Muslim parents being made to go through psychological trauma?

“And now to fundamental issues that are directly connected to WAEC’s software in the questions. Who designed the software? Why is the software not capturing the hijab used by Muslim female students? Why would it be designed specifically not to capture Muslim females wearing hijab? Are we saying Muslim children cannot be Muslims anymore until they take non-Muslim identities? Why didn’t the designers of WAEC’s software put the hijab into consideration ab initio? Was there any test-running before the design was approved? If there was a test-running, who supervised the test-running and where is the report?

It also called for investigations into the controversial software.

“MURIC demands answers to these questions without delay. Controversies over WAEC registration, stereotyping and maltreatment of Muslim candidates and imposition of anti-Muslim time-tables have become recurring decimals over the years. MURIC has intervened peacefully and diplomatically over the years. Yet the controversies keep popping up year in year out. We warn that Nigerian Muslims are running out of patience concerning WAEC’s intransigence and its contemptible treatment of Muslims. This examination body should therefore be blamed for any breakdown of law and order over its obnoxious and anti-Muslim policies.

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“It is our considered opinion that WAEC is being used by certain forces to retard the educational progress of Nigerian Muslims. We also suspect very strongly that the controversial software is one of the plans of Islamophobic elements to frustrate Muslims after it became evident that no examination body has the right to ban Muslim students from using hijab.

“We demand a probe into circumstances surrounding the development, operation, deployment and application of the software being used by WAEC with a view to
identifying reasons for the constant rejection of hijab by the software. For a transparent exercise, we suggest the involvement of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), a Federal Government agency, in the investigation.

“We further demand the co-option of a Muslim expert into the team of investigators. We volunteer to supply the Muslim expert and to pay for his or her services. We urge WAEC to accept these suggestions as well as the offer in order to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the examination body has no hidden agenda against Muslims. He who must come to equity must come with clean hands.

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“To cap the edifice, we demand quality service for hijab-wearing Muslim students as part of their Allah-given fundamental human rights. We affirm that something is fundamentally wrong with a software that constantly fails to recognise a particular mode of dressing. We strongly suspect manipulation from source. We therefore demand a transparent probe of WAEC’s capturing software without delay. This incident must not repeat itself in 2021. A stitch in time saves nine.” could not immediately confirm the veracity of the allegations made by MURIC but a recent report on hijab related discrimination in Nigeria shows that 41 percent of such cases occur in schools.

As at the time of filing this report, WAEC Nigeria spokesperson, Mr Demianus Ojijeogu said the Council has no comment on the controversy.

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