Hijab controversy casts shroud over Ibadan school

Students of the school in hijab

Students of the 55-year-old International Secondary School at the University of Ibadan on Monday returned home early as the management of the school locked up the classrooms sequel to the enforcement of hijab use among Muslim students by their parents under the aegis of International School Muslim Parents’ Forum.

As a result, on Tuesday, the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) summoned an emergency meeting to stop an imminent crisis in the school and resolved to channel its resolution to the governing council for a final decision on the matter.

At the meeting, it was established that whenever a child is admitted in the school, teachers determine where the child belongs based on religious beliefs of the child’s parents, and the management successfully separated Christian children from Muslims.

The school, according to some parents who spoke at the meeting, made A class in Senior Secondary School 1 (SS1) for Christian students while B class is meant for Muslim students.

In view of this and other reasons, the International School Muslim Parents’ Forum, led by one Abdurrhaman Balogun addressed a letter to the principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe, stating their intention to enforce Hijab use on their female children.  The Muslim forum argued that apart from the fact that it is part of their religious belief, it is also part of their fundamental human right as stipulated in the constitution .

The parents in the letter entitled “Notification of Muslim parents’ resolution on Hijab for our Muslim girls in ISI” signed by Alhaji Abdurrahman Balogun (chairman) and Mrs. Bilikis Badiru (secretary), copied to   the Chancellor, University of Ibadan and Sultan of Sokoto, the pro-chancellor and chairman of council, University of Ibadan and many others, insisted that hijab was not meant for every female child but those willing

Reacting to the development, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics, Professor Abideen Aderinto who doubles as the Chairman Court of Governors of the school, stated that the jungle approach being used by the parents would not be tolerated.

Professor Aderinto who said the school is a private one  and not run with any kobo from government stated that it  has rules governing the dress code which all parents agreed to.

Aderinto explained that after he received the letter on November 9, he held a meeting with the forum on Saturday for more than two hours adding that he was shocked and disappointed that the parents could be frustrating efforts of the management at restoring the glory of the school.

“I am the chairman of the Court of Governors and I am a proud Muslim. ISI is a private school. UI does not fund it. It is funded by the fees collected. It is unfortunate that this is coming up now. Even the Parent-Teacher Association is not aware of the idea by this group. Indeed some other Muslim parents expressed shock when they heard about this forum. Since its establishment in 1963, the school has not experienced any religious crisis and we would want to guard against it. The Muslim and Christian students have places to worship in the school. Whoever desires to change the rules should go through the process. The teachers do not feel safe and so could not have taught anybody because it is a strange development. I appeal to these people to stop their action and allow peace to reign in the school. It is even strange that this matter was not discussed at the Parents Teachers Association at all headed by another Muslim and lawyer, Barrister Kazeem Olaniyan”

To ensure the crisis was amicably resolved, the Board of Governors of the school rose from its meeting with a resolution that the dress code of the school be maintained.

The board resolved that the dress code as contained in the school’s rules and regulations be maintained while the school management has been empowered to enforce it appropriately.”

The board appealed to parents to abide by the extant rules of the school to enable it fulfill its mandate of providing sound education for children.

The school’s alumni association also said the present controversy must be viewed from the perspective of principles and governing laws of the school and not through religion.

In a mail sent to the chairman, Board of Governors, Professor Aderinto, the president of the association, Tive Ekpere, maintained that the uniform policy was introduced to disabuse socio-economic inequalities, discourage segregation and minimize distraction from academic activities.

Ekpere stated that the agitators must note that the school is a private one and is governed by its own policies, laws and regulations, adding, “The International School Ibadan (ISI) is a secular international school established to admit and provide the best possible education for boys and girls from all over the world; irrespective of their ethnicity, creed, race or religion. It’s a center where children are brought to learn from one another with the aim of finding their common humanity.

“The uniform is unique and is the fabric that has bound ISI culture and tradition till today. Beyond this, the association wishes to advise that all overt religious activities on the school campus be discouraged henceforth. While we believe that every student should be free to practice whatever religion they wish, we are also persuaded that the exercise of such rights must be carried out within the bounds of civility.”

Daily trust

Hassan Usman Author

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