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Kwara govt clarifies misconceptions about missionary schools, Hijab

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PHOTO: BBC

• Muslim group urges stakeholders to call CAN to order
The Kwara State government has made clarification on ownership of schools and the question of hijab in the state, saying publicly-owned schools will continue to adhere to government policies while pluralism in recruitment of students and teachers will be maintained.

In a statement by the Secretary to the Kwara State Government, Prof. Mamman Saba Jubril, it stated that, like in most parts of Nigeria, in 1974, government took control of many schools, whose original ownership cut across faiths and private individuals across the country.

Since the takeover, it said the state government has controlled, managed, wholly funded and staffed the schools, which were run and are still being run as public institutions.

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“Various state laws back all of these, especially the Kwara State Education Law of 1996 (CAP E1 of the Laws of Kwara State). These laws are very clear about the status of these schools and the rules guiding them. Such rules include pluralism in recruitment of students and teachers. These schools, being public-owned, are to adhere to policies of government.

“The court has flatly rejected arguments over the years that these schools still belong to either the Muslim or Christian missionaries. So, the government totally rejects claims some organisations are still laying to these schools because the law does not know such claims. The fact that some of these schools retain the names of their founding organisations is purely honorary and in memories of their contributions to education. It does not translate to such missionary bodies owning the schools. This is a matter that has been settled in the High Court of Kwara State,” Prof Jubril said.

The statement reads in part, “The law today is that any willing Muslim schoolgirl cannot be stopped from wearing hijab in public schools. Anything to the contrary will be a violent contravention of provisions of section 38 of the constitution. The Court of Appeal has affirmed this position in at least three different declaratory judgments. The government of Kwara State, a product of democracy and rule of law, cannot go contrary to the law. Besides, the hijab question has come under the concept of pluralism and multiculturalism in the global community, including in the western world. States like Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Lagos have gone through the debate and they all resolved in favour of pluralism.

“Finally, it is important to clarify that the government is not imposing the hijab. It is not mandatory for all our schoolgirls to wear hijab. Rather, the state government approves hijab for any Muslim schoolgirl who wishes to use it. The government is only respecting the fundamental human rights of those schoolgirls. Nothing more. This has been communicated to all school heads via a circular of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development.”

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The Kwara government appealed to members of the public and religious organisations to allow peace to reign and cautioned against comments or conduct that can lead to breakdown of peace and harmony in the state.

Meanwhile, violence erupted yesterday at the Baptist Secondary School, Surulere, Ilorin, Kwara State over the refusal of the school authorities to allow female Muslim students to use hijab. Parents of the students engaged the school authorities in a hot argument, which resulted into a stone-throwing contest between Christians and Muslims.

In a reaction, the Nigerian Islamic human rights group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) called on stakeholders to call the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to order, saying it is to blame for what is unfolding in Kwara State.

In a statement by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, the group expressed dismay that “people who claim to be civilised are disrespecting the rule of law. CAN is to blame for all these. CAN was the one that called on its members to occupy that school. Fortunately, the ugly scene only played out in one of 10 schools. It is a big shame that in 21st century Kwara, CAN is turning its members against democratic norms and the rule of law.”

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