A situation that could easily have happened in Pakistan is currently developing in Nigeria’s premier institution, The University of Ibadan as its Secondary School known as International School Ibadan (ISI) has been shut down over religious crisis.
According to the management of the University of Ibadan, the school was shut down to prevent violent clashes between protesting members of the Muslims Parents Forum and some students of the University.
The controversy revolves around the fact that some Muslim parents want the Muslim female students to use Hijab as part of their school uniform but the management refused, insisting all students stick to the official dress code.
The Chairman, Board of Governors of the school, who doubles as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), UI, Prof. Adeyinka Aderinto, said management was shocked by the news that some placard-carrying youths, allegedly imported by the protesting Muslim Parents group, had laid siege to the gate of the University Secondary School.
Aderinto said further that he also got a hint that some UI students were mobilising to attack the protesters for disturbing the peace of the institution.
“This hijab crisis started last week Monday and we had discussions throughout that week. But between last Friday and Sunday, we were aware that the Chief Imam of the UI Central Mosque intervened and held talks with the concerned members of the forum. At the end of the meetings, they (members of the forum) said there won’t be any problem and even agreed that all the concerned pupils should come to school without their hijab.
I was shocked when I got information this morning (Monday) that some people had been imported to barricade the ISI gate. So, after consultations with some stakeholders, I directed that the school should be shut down until further notice.
We closed it because we didn’t want anything untoward to happen; we don’t want to endanger our students’ lives. We will come up with a decision in due course; definitely, it won’t be too long before we reopen the school because WAEC (West African Examinations Council) and other examination bodies, which will involve our students in their examinations, will not wait for us.”
The chairman of the Association of Boarders’ Parents, Mr Lukman Ajibade, said the school would soon be reopened for academic work, because the management had shown enough commitment to calm frayed nerves and restore sanity to the institution.
Aderinto later sent a signed statement appealing to the parents to remain calm over the closure of the school.
The Muslim Community of Oyo State who is at the centre of the storm however disagreed with management of the University that ISI was a private institution.
According to the General-Secretary of the group, Sheik Ismail Busari, the claim by the management of the school ran contrary to the Nigeria’s constitution that was used in establishing the institution in 1963.
Addressing journalist at the gate of ISI, Sheik Busari said;
“When has the ISI become a private establishment when the UI DVC Academics is the Chairman of the board?
And Section 32 sub-section 2 of the 1999 Constitution as amended guarantees the right of Muslim ladies to wear hijab. We are operating a common law but as you can see, the common law is not common in Nigeria. Even in Europe, Muslims and Christians learn side by side. It (hijab) is allowed in Europe not only for students, but for military men and uniformed men. Hijab is decency; it is a form of protection; its appearance distracts nobody.”