The University of Ibadan International School has been shut indefinitely for denying female Muslims in the school the right to wear Hijab (head scarf) by the principal of the school, Phebean Olowe.
The decision to stop academic activities was due to the appearance of some students who were adorned in Hijab against what the management described as the school dress code.
The Punch newspaper, Daily Trust as well as some other media houses, reported the incident.
According to the report by The Punch newspaper, some parents, under the aegis of the International School Muslim Parents’ Forum, sent a letter dated November 9, 2018, and signed by Abdurrhaman Balogun (chairman) and Bilikis Badiru (secretary), to the Principal of the school, Mrs Olowe, and the deputy vice-chancellor, Academics, UI, Abideen Aderinto.
They stated that they were “putting the schools’ management on notice of this resolution on the rights of our female children to commence the use of hijab from this academic session of 2018/2019,” according to the report.
The report further revealed that the forum argued that “Hijab-wearing for young Muslim girls, apart from the fact that it is part of their religious belief, is part of their God-given fundamental human right as well as in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Consequently, both school assembly and classes were cancelled when Hijab wearing students were sighted by the school authorities, the report further highlighted.
Parents’ approach not acceptable
Reacting to the development, the report stated that the deputy vice chancellor, academic, Mr Aderinto, who doubles as the chairman, Court of Governors of the school, said the jungle approach being used by the parents will not be tolerated.
Mr Aderinto said the school was a private institution and not being run from any subvention from the government.
He said the school had its rules governing dress codes, which all parents agreed to.
The deputy vice-chancellor said he held a meeting with members of the forum on Saturday for over two hours after receiving a letter from the group on November 9.
Mr Aderinto, according to the report, said he was shocked and disappointed that the parents could be frustrating the efforts of the management to restore the glory of the school.
“I am the Chairman of the Court of Governors and I am a proud Muslim. The ISI is a private school. The UI does not fund it. It is funded by the fees collected. It is unfortunate that this is coming up now. Even the Parent Teachers’ Association is not aware of the idea of this group.
“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 meeting of the Parent Teachers’ Association headed by another Muslim and lawyer, Mr Kazeem Olaniyan,” he said, according to the report.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Balogun expressed surprise that the school was shut down because of the female students adorned in hijab.
According to the report, he maintained that the forum would continue to forge ahead with its agitation until “our daughters are allowed to wear hijab.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned the act of the school.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday morning, the director of the group, Ishaq Akintola, said the ban is an invitation to chaos and a threat to girl-child education.
According to MURIC, Mrs Olowe ‘is a failure in administration. She is out of touch with reality. This principal is retarding the progress of UIIS. She can only be an agent of destabilization to have behaved this way.
“Britain and America are encouraging the wearing of hijab in their schools but here we find a school administrator constituting herself into a clog in the wheel of progress, particularly in the area of girl-child education,” Mr Akintola said.
He said a good administrator will consult parents before taking such a sensitive decision and there are a lot of opportunities for her to do that.
“Religion is a sensitive matter. She must have a hidden agenda otherwise she would not have made such an attempt in view of the proliferation of hijab stories in the news. No school administrator worth the salt will issue an anti-hijab instruction in view of recent events around the country unless such a principal is from Mars or Mercury,” he said.
The Islamic group commended the parents who participated in the peaceful protest at the school gate, noting that peaceful protest is an extension of dialogue where there are grievances to address.
“These parents have refused to abdicate their responsibilities. They have a duty to educate their children and to monitor their progress as prescribed in Qur’an 2:233. They have successfully done that. They also have a duty to protect their children from abuse, stigma and religious discrimination.
The Muslim group also urged the university authority to intervene in order to avoid it escalating to serious issues.
“UI is a centre of academic excellence. The authorities should not allow administrative shenanigans and educational charlatans to turn its International School into a centre for religious apartheid. It is high time UIIS realised that Nigerian Muslims have come of age.”
The group said the school principal, Mrs Olowe should resign “if she cannot tolerate the sight of female Muslim children in hijab because she is going to be seeing quite a lot of them these days.”