August 16, 2022

Reporters’ Diary

Factual Reportage

Hijab controversy: Students, parents decry continuous closure of schools

Parents and students of the 10 grant aided missionary schools closed down indefinitely by Kwara Government over Hijab controversy have bemoaned the continuous closure of the schools.

Some of them called on the government and stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the crises.

The state government had on Feb. 9, ordered the temporary closure of 10 grant-aided secondary schools in Ilorin, the state capital, pending the resolution of the controversy in the schools.

The schools are C&S College, ST. Anthony College, ECWA School, Surulere Baptist Secondary School, Bishop Smith Secondary School, CAC Secondary School, St. Barnabas Secondary School, St. John School, St. Williams Secondary School and St. James Secondary School.

Muslim leaders had insisted that students should be allowed to use hijab in those schools but their Christian counterparts said such negates the heritage of the missions, who built the schools.

However, the state government, after several meetings with the stakeholders, approved the use of hijab in all public schools in the state and ordered the reopening of the affected schools on March 8.

The government, however, rescinded the resumption in the early hours of Monday, March 8 for safety reasons.

Permanent Secretary, Kwara State Ministry of Education Kemi Adeosun announced in a statement that the schools earlier told to reopen on Monday, would remain shut.

A student of Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam, Sarah Ajayi, said that she was not aware of the reversal and expressed her disappointment in the new development.

She said it was unfortunate that innocent students that were not worried about their dress codes were made to suffer for the interest of both parties at loggerheads.

At C & S Secondary School, the students were seen loitering around the school’s premises.

One of the students, Shola Adeyemi, said the day would be wasted for him as his parents had left home and gone out with the keys.

“I will just stay around in the neighbourhood till they return because they assumed that I am in school.

“When the government knows that they want us to remain at home, they shouldn’t have put out the notice; this is really bad,’’ Adeyemi said.

 Bimbo Ogunbiyi of St. Barnabas Secondary School said that, “only God knows when the school will be reopened as both parties do not want to accept defeat.”

A parent, Mr Kamal Hassan, who came to drop his daughter at St Anthony’s Secondary School, expressed disappointment in both parties for suffering the innocent students.

“For how long will the schools remain closed when other public schools are still going on with their academic activities?

“We cannot continue like this because the future of our children is at stake. Now that two elephants are fighting, it’s the grass that is suffering,’’ Hassan said.

Another parent, Mrs Hannah Bisiriyu, called on the government to allow the schools to reopen without the use of Hijab while continuing consultations with the stakeholders.

“This is to ensure that the students do not lose beyond normal as this is the third week that they have been at home with no end in sight to the problem,’’ she said.

There was presence of soldiers and civil defence officers in some of the schools visited in anticipation of resumption.