The management of the International School, University of Ibadan has on Wednesday barred hijab wearing students from classes.
This is coming two days after it earlier shut its premises because some Muslim students appeared in school with the Muslim head covering.
Eight students who resisted attempts to have officials remove their hijabs were reportedly under heavy security scrutiny and excluded from academic activities in the school as classes resume on Wednesday.
One of them told EduCeleb.com that the entirely male security men went as far as accompanying them to the toilet when the need arose. Principal of the school, Phebean Olowe reportedly directed the men to keep close watch on the girls who were made to stay in the school’s library throughout the day.
The ISI, as the school is popularly called, has been embroiled in a controversy following demands by some parents that their female Muslim children should be allowed to adorn their hijab on their school uniforms.
The parents, under the aegis of the Muslim Parents’ Forum (MPF), challenged what they refer to as an infringement of the right to religion of their children.
EduCeleb.com recalls that on 20th of October, 2018, the leader of the MPF, AbdurRahman Balogun wrote the school management informing it of the “desire of the female Muslim students to desist from being forced to act against the dictates of their religion” citing the provisions of the constitution and judicial authorities to support their decision.
But the management through the UI Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Adeyinka Aderinto insisted that the parents could not enforce such dressing in the school as it was privately owned.
In his words, “I am the Chairman of the Court of Governors and I am a proud Muslim . The ISI is a private school. The UI does not fund it . It is funded by the fees collected. It is unfortunate that this is coming up now. Even the Parent Teachers ’ Association is not aware of the idea of this group.”
But the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) disagree with the basis of his decision stating that “the right to use hijab is not a privilege that can be negotiated.”
Speaking through the MSSN President in the B-Zone, Qaasim Odedeji, the group said such a decision by the school management would amount to abusing the girl child.
“We thank the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics for his recognition that the school is privately owned. We trust that this great argument also recognizes that private institutions have no power to abuse the girl child, or any Nigerian, on the basis of religion. In case he is under intimidation from certain private quarters, we urge him to lift the veil from the so called private investors who are hell bent on abusing our girl childs emotionally and physically.
“We trust though that assuming without conceding, that the school is truly private owned, the private owners will be learned enough to know that private ownership does not take away the duty of acting responsibly under the provision of the constitution in respect of the right of Muslim girl-child,” he said.
A long time enduring discrimination
Muslim parents have condemned the development while alleging that the school management was hell bent on rights infringement.
Speaking through Alhaji Balogun at a press briefing on Wednesday, they intimated journalists of how much parents and their children had endured discrimination for long.
They alleged that new Muslim students in Junior School 1 were restricted to one class arm and disallowed from taking similar subjects with their counterparts.
They also noted that Muslim students had never been allowed to become the head boy of the school, irrespective of their high level of brilliance.
They also recalled that for a long time, boarders among Muslim students were forced to attend Sunday church service till the parents fought against it.
This, they said, also led to provision of quite a “small” room to accommodate the estimated 300 Muslim student population of boarders.
They also revealed that a female Muslim students was harassed for using hijab on her school uniform in her mother’s car after school by an unnamed teacher.
It also took sustained pressure on the school management to employ a teacher Islamic Studies at a time in the past when the school had a Christian Religious Studies. As part of making Muslim students have access to a IRS teacher, a former Chairman of the UI Muslim community, Professor Lateef Hussein had to pay the salary of the IRS teacher for two years.
School management keeps mum
Efforts to verify the claims were unsuccessful as management officials were unwilling to speak to the press as they had not been authorised to do so.
When EduCeleb.com reporter visited the school along with other journalists, she was denied access beyond the gates.
After holding newsmen for about half an hour, a security officer told them that the Mrs Olowe was in a meeting and could not meet with anyone. He thereafter dismissed reporters.