Updated: Hijab controversy turns bloody as Muslim, Christian parents clash in Kwara school

March 17, 2021
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The controversy over the use of the hijab on Wednesday degenerated to violence at Baptist Secondary School, Ilorin, Kwara State.

The school was one of the 10 shut down last month by the state government over the controversy and reopened only on Wednesday.

The state government had waded in and ordered the closure of the schools to avert violent clashes by Christian and Muslim groups.

On Tuesday, it announced that the schools had been told to reopen but must respect its policy that allows the use of the hijab in all public schools.

“The government is convinced that its policy to allow willing Muslim schoolgirls to wear their hijab in public schools will lead to sustainable peace and communal harmony anchored on mutual respect and understanding,” the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Kemi Adeosun, said on Tuesday night while announcing the reopening of the schools.

According to her, the schools were reopened to enable students to prepare for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

However, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Christian parents at the school barred female Muslim students from entering the school on Wednesday.

This led to a clash with their Muslim counterparts, which later escalated to the rival groups throwing stones and plastic chairs at themselves.

Some of the people were injured before security agents arrived to disperse the fighters.

The spokesperson of the police in the state, Ajayi Okasanmi, was yet to respond to telephone calls put across at press time.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the President, Kwara Baptist Conference, Victor Dada, told journalists that the state government does not respect the rule of law by making pronouncement over a case already at the Supreme Court.

“What transpired this morning is simply because the government led by Governor AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq is not respecting the rule of law and if the state government does not respect the rule of law, there will be chaos.

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“A case that is in Supreme Court and judgment has not been given, the governor is making pronouncement.

“As long as the state government doesn’t respect the rule of law, we will defend our property and our faith.

“We will not allow Hijab in our school because this is a Christian mission school, let Kwara State government respect the rule of law,” Mr Dada said.

At C & S College, Sabo Oke, christians were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions like “Kwara State is for all, not an Islamic state”, “We say no to Hijab” and “Our school is our heritage”.

The protestors prevented the students and teachers from entering the school premises.

Similarly, at St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Offa road, teachers and students were also seen hanging around the school premises as the police, soldiers and Civil Defence personnel were seen trying to calm frayed nerves.

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At the Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam, the school remained shut with few students and security personnel seen around the institution.

However, at ECWA School Oja Iya, academic activities have resumed as students were already seated in their classrooms when NAN correspondent visited.

Background

The state government had shut 10 grant-aided schools on February 19.

It also set up a committee to decide the way forward and later said it had been agreed after consultations that hijab-wearing students be allowed in the schools.

ALSO READ: Hijab Controversy: Kwara grant-aided schools flout government’s order on reopening

The affected schools are Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) College, Sabo-Oke, St, Anthony’s Secondary School, Offa Road, ECWA School, Oja-Iya, Surulere Baptist Secondary School and Baptist Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam.

Others are CAC Secondary School, Asa Dam Road, St. Barnabas Secondary School, Sabo-Oke, John School, Maraba, St. Williams Secondary School, Taiwo-Isale and St. James Secondary School, Maraba.

While the schools were earlier scheduled to resume last Monday, the government postponed the reopening, citing safety reasons owing to the opposition of the Christian leaders.

In-house sources have told PREMIUM TIMES that the government is not ready to reverse the approval of hijab because the affected schools belong to the government and not the Christian missions.

The military government, in the 1970s, took over these schools from the missions who founded the schools.

The schools, now grant aided by the government, had their names changed, but some, like those in Kwara, retained their names.

The missions in Kwara had twice challenged the government take-over of the schools in court but lost the suit at the high court and appellate court.

The missions, comprising different Christian denominations, have taken the case to the Supreme Court.

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