By Shaibu Stephen Ojate
The lingering crises rocking Christian Missionary Schools in Kwara State over the compulsory use of Hijab by the Muslim students has become a national discourse prompting comments from different quarters.
The public are presently divided along two lines, that is those who come to term and even considered Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as an extremist for going against a policies that is not met for every female students and other who averred that it is strictly an act of Islamic extremism that prompts parent of Muslim students to call for the introduction of Hijab for their wards in an originally pure Christian schools.
Those who frown at the former adduced that the concerned schools presently fall under public institution declaring that discrimination on account of introduction of Hijab in the missionary schools is uncalled for. This school of thought further hinted that the present owner of the said Schools is the State government and it would be out of point for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Christians in general to dictate how the school should be run.
Pundits advancing and promoting the introduction of Hijab had further hit back at Christians saying they themselves always go against the preaching of tolerance in the Church as their present stance on the introduction of Hijab portrays them as unaccommodating of other people’s ways of life.
To make Christianity looks bad in the eye of the public the more, they added that purely and originally Islamic schools turned public school would never discriminate Christian students on account of their religious belief. To further buttress their points, they noted that Kano State is purely a Muslim dominated state and no single Christian student have been forced to use Hijab as part of the uniform in any public schools there.
The above view point of those advancing and canvassing the use and introduction of Hijab in originally pure Christians schools turned public school prompt this article.
To start with, there was one originally Quran school in my home town in Ihima Kogi State called Ebira Muslim College situated at Ikuehi that gives a clear semblance to the present situation in Kwara State. Sometime in late 80s, this
school was primarily established for those who want to build careers in Islamic studies. Islamic Scholars were tutors in this school and the mode of dressing for the students was total body cover. The male wore the usual mallam style dress and female with total body cover with only their eyes open to the public. The use of trousers was for both and Hijab was made compulsory for all female Students in this Islamic school.
After two to three years of the school’s existence, there was decline in admission enrolment of those who wanted to build career in Islamic studies and it was at this point the Islamic elites in the society reasoned and come with a conclusion to turn the school to secular institution to give room for the admission of everyone. During this
period, a proposal to this effect was made to the then State government and approval was given for the partial government takeover of the school and it was thereafter turned to secondary school.
With the conversion of the school, the admission enrolment of students increased and students of two major religions in Nigeria were found in the Islamic turned government Secondary School.
When my fiancée, who is presently my wife, had issue with her former school, I advised her to enroll into the School to finish up her secondary school class. This fiancée of mine was a Christian and was indeed admitted just like several other Christian intakes. The School had fair number of Christians while their Muslim counterpart dominated the school both at teaching and student levels.
During her schooling in this Islamic turned public and partial government grant-aided school, the management of the school declares that all students therein must put on Hijab on assembly ground. The use of Hijab was not only compulsory for female Muslim students alone but for all the students therein irrespective of one religious beliefs. Due
to consistent pressure mounted on every student, my fiancée who is desirous of study, had no option than to sew one to avoid further harassment from the teachers and the prefects who usually beat them on account of not having or putting up Hijab in Assembly ground.
When my fiancée further lamented about wearing Hijab, being a Christians, I still recall that I did advised her to go by their policy as she will not stay there forever. ‘’Behave like a Roman when in Rome”, was my candid advice then.
To educate my reader more, she was not the only Christian student forced to wear Hijab while in the
assembly and in the classroom as they were in hundreds then. The take of the school management was that the school was rooted Islamic even though it was taking over by the government.
This strict policy in this said Islamic turned public and government-aided school was known to every people in the society. The parent of these Christian Students never at anytime revolt nor protest against compulsory usage of Hijab by Christians students in Ebira Muslim College at Ikuehi in Ihima then.
As was observed then, the Christian students who were not comfortable with Hijab policy left the School for another and none or any of these Christian parents put pressure on Kogi State government to put pressure on the school management to back down the compulsory Hijab uniform policy by the students. As the situation was then, Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) had no single teacher and there was no protest matches by the Christian community
over this religious coloured policy.
It beats my imagination seeing people from Kogi State going against the stance of original owners of missionary schools in Kwara State when we have same situation in Kogi State. Has the management of this Ebira Muslim School changed their past religious coloured policy, is what I don’t know since I left the village to Abuja for more than 15years now.
– Shaibu Stephen Ojate, a Journalist and Public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja.
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