The appeal was made in a statement signed by the presidents of all the different Baptist conferences in the South-West in reaction to the order by the Kwara State government which gives Muslim female students the right to wear hijab as part of their uniform in all schools in the state.
The PUNCH reported that the order was rejected by the Kwara Baptist Conference and other Christian organisations which forced the government to close down 10 schools in the state
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The Christian organisations say that hijab would never be allowed in the schools built by their Christian forefathers. They also demand that the state government should stop granting aid to the schools and return them to their original owners.
However, the state argued that it took control of the schools in 1974 and has managed their affairs which include funding and staffing, pointing out that arguments that the schools still belong to either Muslim or Christian missionaries have been flatly rejected in court.
The claim by the state has been faulted in the statement by the South-West Baptist Conference which cited the 1974 Education Law Edict of Kwara State signed by the then military administrator, Colonel Lasisi Bamigboye (Rtd).
The statement said, “There is no gainsaying that Christian mission organisations, as far back as the mid 18th century, 1865 to be precise, have and are still playing significant roles in providing qualitative primary and post-primary education in Nigeria. The evidence of this can be seen in the number of mission schools established within Nigeria, Kwara State inclusive. Nigerians will recall that some Muslims attended our mission schools and they were not forced to change their religion, people in that category served the nation.
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“Worthy of note is the 1974 Education Law Edict of Kwara State signed by the then military administrator, Colonel Lasisi Bamigboye (Rtd) which categorically states, and by interpretation, that the Voluntary Agency Institutions (i.e the mission schools) are not taken over by the government, but the management of staff (the teachers) is the only thing the government of Kwara State is taken over. Furthermore, the edict states that the proprietors still retain the right of ownership; names of schools remain as given by the proprietors; religious orientation and practices in the school’s remain generally undisturbed; the total tone of the institutions remains the responsibility of the Board of governors of the school as the main organ of the proprietors.”
The Conference lamented the attacks which Churches and mission schools have been suffering since the hijab crisis started in Kwara.
“We saw again on Monday, March 22, how some churches were attacked even while their gates were firmly locked by throwing stones and dangerous objects into their premises. This shows that these are coordinated attacks on churches in Ilorin and the issue at hand is beyond wearing hijabs in our schools. At least the schools were not opened that day,” the statement said.
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The Conference issued a list of demands and advised the Governor of the State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, to attend to them.
The statement continued, “It is high time the Kwara State government started considering returning mission schools to the original owners as we have seen in Lagos and Ogun States, heaven will not fall as we built these schools originally. As Baptists, we have shown in these two states that we have what it takes to maintain and cater for our schools, staff and students, and we are willing to accept what belong to us originally.”
The demands require the state “to be unbiased in the discharge of orders as pertaining the wearing of hijab in the mission schools since the matter is still in the Supreme Court with the State surely served by the Supreme Court and to allow the rule of law reign supreme as regards wearing of hijab in Christian mission schools.
Also, “For the interest of peace and uninterrupted educational system, any Muslim parents who want his/her child or children to wear hijab compulsorily should honourably withdraw his/her child or children to Muslim established schools instead of causing mayhem in the mission schools.
The Governor was told “to allow the Christian mission schools to operate in accordance with the provision of the 1974 Education Law Edict of Kwara State.
“To facilitate educational policy that will engender and not endanger the peaceful coexistence in all educational facilities in the state.
“To not politicise the issue of wearing hijab in Christian mission schools as these schools have the statutory uniforms expected for all pupils and students to wear each time they come to school.
“To curb civil and religious societies irrespective of their religious affiliations from promoting campaigns capable of disrupting the peace and smooth operation of the mission schools and their immediate environments.
“To mediate with fairness and justice between all concerned stakeholders to allow for peace to reign in the matter as the future of the pupils and students of these affected mission schools are in jeopardy.”
The Conference encouraged Christians in Kwara to “stand firm, unmovable and toe the path of law and order knowing that our God will surely continue to fight for us.”
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