The Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, on Monday said neither his government nor himself has ever ordered the use of Hijab by female Muslim students in public schools in the state.
Mr. Aregbesola stated this at the roundtable on Development Collaborative Framework for Education Development and Advancement organised by the Development and Advancement in Western Nigeria (DAWN) in Osogbo.
Mr. Aregbesola challenged those who accused him of ordering the use of Hijab by Muslims to bring concrete prove to substantiate their claims.
The governor challenged those accusing him of plunging the state into religious crisis to present a video or voice recording, written speech evidencing where he commanded or ordered female Muslim students to wear hijab on their uniforms.
“If I permitted Hijab, would the Muslims have gone to court to challenge it? Is that not contradictory? the governor asked.
“Is it a crime that I am a Muslim, is it because I struggle to be a good Muslim that everything I do is being misunderstood? I think I don’t deserve all these lies against me.”
He said the programmes he introduced into the state’s education system were part of the resolutions that came out of the education summit organised by his administration shortly after coming into office.
The programmes has no religious undertones, the governor said.
Mr. Aregbesola said the resolution of the summit, headed by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, never considered nor recommended the wearing of religious garments in schools.
The governor said when he came to office, one of the first tasks of his administration was to convene an education summit which was chaired by Prof Soyinka.
“There is nothing religious in any of our policies,” Mr. Aregbesola said. “The fact on ground contradicts our opposition’s claim.
“The choice of my deputy governor tells it all, I knew she is a pentecotalist of the highest order before I picked her.
“Everything we have done in the line of education is in line with the resolution of our education summit.
“Against all speculations, I have not ordered the use of Hijab, I challenge anybody with evidence to come out and show that I have made a proclamation on Hijab.”
The governor was responding to a controversy sparked by a court judgment approving the use of Hijab by female students in the state.
The Muslim Community of Osun State and the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria had sued the state government asking the court to clear Muslim Students to use hijab.
The court ruled in their favour.
Following the judgment, some Muslim students started wearing head covers to school, a development that irked the state’s chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
CAN then arranged some Christian students of the Baptist High School, Iwo, to wear choir robes and other church garments to school to protest the judgment and spite the state government.
Speaking on education in the South-West at the conference, the governor said the downward trend in education was worrisome due to the role of education in development.
The governor told participants that his administration was constructing 100 elementary, 50 middle and 20 high state-of-the-art schools in addition to rehabilitating existing ones.
He added that the schools in the state before his intervention would have attracted rebuke from animal rights activists if government had put pigs there.
On the Osun school feeding programme, tagged O-MEALS, the governor noted that the programme provided a template for national adoption and implementation of free meals in schools, adding that he was invited by the British Parliament twice to share Osun’s experience with the world.
He said his administration’s efforts and intervention in education was massive and that there had been qualitative and quantitative improvement in the performance of pupils and general education of youths.
He said, “Those who say we are declining are not being honest. The following data will put a lie to the unfounded allegation of our detractors that the performance of pupils has gone down under our watch. In 2007, the state government put forward 36,171 candidates for WAEC examination out of which 2,483 representing 6.86 per cent had credit pass in five subjects, including English and Mathematics.
“In 2008, it was 37,715 candidates with 3,813 pass, representing 10.11 per cent. In 2009 it was 39,676 candidates, with 5,545 pass, representing 13.98 per cent. In 2010 it was 43,216 candidates, with 6,777 pass, representing 15.68 per cent. This four years gave us an average of 15.68 per cent.
“However, our administration started sponsoring candidates for WAEC in 2011. That year, we fielded 53,293 candidates, had 11672 pass, representing 21.98 per cent. In 2012, we fielded 51,463 out of which 11,431 passed, representing 22.21 per cent. In 2013, we also fielded 47,013 candidates, recorded 9,301 pass, representing 19.78 per cent.
“In 2014, we sponsored 47,672 candidates, 9316 of them passed, representing 19.54 per cent. The average performance for our first four years was 20.88 per cent. Compared with the average performance (13.26 per cent) of the three years that preceded us, the percentage improvement in performance during our tenure is a huge 57.46 per cent.”