MY VIEW: Hijab and fire of discord in UIIS

ISI: Suspension of student over hijab provocative -MURIC
University of Ibadan International School

DR. OLUFUNKE ADEGOKE is a parent at the University of Ibadan International School, UIIS, and a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan. She expresses her views on the crisis caused by the attempt by some muslim parents to make UIIS approve the use of hijab for their children.

With reference to write ups concerning wearing of Hijab and subsequent protest by selected Muslim Parents in International School Ibadan (ISI), I hereby make my submission below:

To start with, it’s a pity that Muslims do preach that Islam is a Religion of Peace. All what was said in the write ups by Prof Ishaq Akintola (President of Muslim Rights Concern {MURIC}) and Prof Salisu Shehu (Deputy General Secretary, Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs {NSCIA}) are all FICTIONS. I don’t know why they just don’t embrace peace and live with others peacefully with tolerance. And to say that these people spreading all these false news and information are Professors. Their Professorial status was merited via their scholarship and thus are more informed and knowledgeable and should not misinform or mislead others. They are people who are looked up to in the society for proper direction and guidance.

The Secondary School, ISI, was founded and established by a British-German Educator Kurt Hahn a Christian in October 1963 with funding from USAID, Ford Foundation and donation of land space by the Nigerian Western Regional Government. Most of the pioneer teaching staff were British expatriates’ educators from Gordonstoun in Scotland.

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The school is a co-educational Boarding and Day School, admitting pupils aged 10 to 16. It was primarily established to meet the need of finding a school with a world class standard comparable to schools in Europe and Northern America for children of expatriates, living and working in Nigeria. It opened its doors to pupils of both expatriates of diverse nationalities and highly placed Nigerians. The social setting that ISI provided attracted more patronage from people of all races.

Also the principals who have headed the school have been mostly Reverend Fathers and one Muslim. The first Principal was David S. Snell (1963–1965) of blessed memory; followed by John Gillespie (1965–1968). The longest serving Principal was an Anglican clergy, Archdeacon J.A. Iluyomade (1969–1985) of blessed memory. He was also the first indigenous head of the school. After him was Rev. (Dr.) Dapo Ajayi (1986–1988) also of blessed memory, then Dapo Fajembola (1990–1991) also of blessed memory. Thereafter came the first female Principal, Esther Adetola Smith (1991–2004). After her was R.O. Akintilebo (2006–2007) who was the first Muslim Principal, Dr. M.B Malik (2007–2017) and Phebean O. Olowe (2017-present).

It should be stated that between 2004 and 2006 when the school had internal crises and administrative issues a Non-Academic Staff of the University, Mr. Augustine Onwueme of Blessed memory was assigned by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Odejide as an administrator to manage the affairs of ISI. Mr. Augustine Onwueme was an administrator from June/July, 2004 until his demise in December 2005 on contract basis.

The school dress code with the emphasis of no HEAD COVER means no scarf, beret or the hijab. Permit me to say that the wearing of Hijab is not on religious bases but cultural (way of life). The region where the mode of dressing emanated from was in the Middle East which is a desert and thus the need to protect their eyes from blindness due to the sand dust. ISI is a private school not funded by any Government or even the University of Ibadan. The University of Ibadan only manages the affairs and administration of the School thus informing as Chairman of the School Governing Council to be the appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the Institution.

This is a school where a praying ground is provided for the Muslims to observe their prayers and if you must know it’s because of the Muslims that the school closes on Friday by 12.30pm in other for Muslim students to observe Jumat and they are actually been conveyed to the Mosque in the University for prayers.

Also on Sundays, as the Christian students have their Fellowship in school, The Muslim Student Society (MSS) of ISI has one of the staff of the school who comes around on Sunday to anchor the fellowship with them on ISI premises. The Islamic Religion Knowledge /Arabic Language Studies was introduced into the school curriculum by Mr. R. O. Akintilebo during his tenure. He initiated this by engaging tutors who came and teach the students on a part time bases.

If ISI is discriminating as claimed by the writers, Mr. R. O. Akintilebo would never be employed to head the school as a Principal. His appointment was on merit as he was one of the teachers in the school. Please tell me, is there any discrimination against the Muslims as petitioned by the unrecognized International School Muslim Parents’ Forum (ISMPF)? Why is it so difficult for people to abide by the rules and regulations of a school? No one forced those clamoring for the use of Hijab to bring their kids to ISI. There are lots of Islamic Secondary schools in Oyo state where without any difficulty they can wear their Hijab. The man who started this madness Abdurrahman Balogun (Chairman of International School Muslim Parents’ Forum {ISMPF}, an association not recognized by the school authorities), in ISI who was distributing the Hijab to the girls at the school car park on Monday 12 November, 2018 enrolled his child last year into JSS1. This is his second year in ISI.

Following day, Tuesday 13th November the school management had a PTA meeting and parents made their grievances known to the management. Funny enough some of the parents and the Alumni who attended the PTA meeting to speak were Muslims and they emphasized their displeasure by what their Muslim counterparts are causing in the school. I was at that PTA meeting (being a parent whose child has been attending the school for over three years) and I witnessed all that transpired.

An email sent in by one Alhaja Basirat Banke Adeniyi was read by the chairman, Lawyer Kazeem Olaniyi of the recognized PTA in the school (also a Muslim), where she expressed her disappointment over the acts of the ISMPF and suggested by mentioning Muslim schools in Ibadan that these aggrieved parents can take their kids to, if they cannot abide by the rules and regulations of ISI.

The culprit of this whole madness, Abdurrahman Balogun who wrote the petition about discrimination of the Muslim students in the school and the need to wear hijab was shut down by majority of the parents from talking, for disrupting the peace of the institution which has been established over 55years where the students are all tutored together irrespective of their religion or ethnic differences.

Parents at the meeting were even asking what form of discrimination was experienced by these Muslim children, none was ever mentioned.

The governing council however met on Wednesday 14 November and gave their final verdict that the school will maintain its status quo one of which is no wearing of any form of head cover and anyone who violates this should not be allowed inside the school premises or the parents should take such kids to other schools where it is permitted to wear any form of head cover such as hijab.

The irony about this, is the fact that those parents who are headstrong about the decision of the Governing Council has instructed their daughters to wear the hijab thus hindering their entering the school premises and attending their classes. These are the girls seen outside the school gate with their hijab on, 8 of them in number.

While other Muslim parents abided by the school authorities and Governing Council verdict, instructed their girls to remove their hijab so that they can be allowed to enter the school premises and continue with their classes. These other 8 girls have been attending the school without Hijab for years until their parents are woken from their slumber by this spoiler and enemy of peace, Abdurrahman Balogun who was said to have established the ISI Muslim Parents Association Forum, an illegal association not recognized by the school authorities aside from the PTA.

Funny thing is his own child is attending classes. Do you know why? His child is a boy while those who are supporting his cause have their kids to be girls and with the new rule of no wearing of hijab they are denied access into the school. I rest my case. But the question are: Will the wearing of hijab make their girls more brilliant or better still take them to heaven? If the foreign Christians who established the school had said strictly no other person of other religion except from Christianity should attend, maybe this problem would not have emerged.

The Muslim parents who are supporting this cause some of them actually got educated through their attendance of mission schools owned by Catholics, Methodist, Baptist and Anglican. I went to St. Louis Girls Secondary School Mokola and the late Arisekola Alao’s daughter Fatima who was a junior attended and her other siblings attended ISI. Also the Baale of Bodija Alhaji Rasheed Adesokan’s two daughters, Folake and Tolani attended my school (St. Louis) in fact Folake was my mate. Although she was taken away in her final year because Folake actually converted to a Christian of her own free will.

We have Muslims sending their children to Christian Private owned Universities like Babcock, Bowen, Covenant, Redeemers and so on. Why can’t they agitate for wearing of Hijab in this private owned tertiary institutions, if they can clamour for such in ISI which is equally a private owned Secondary School. At least I know there are Muslim owned universities like Crescent University in Abeokuta and Fountain University at Osogbo all in South West. One can go on and on about this. It’s all optional and choice you don’t have to force your own religion doctrines on others violating the laid down rules and then going about spreading false information of discrimination against Muslim students.

*Adegoke is a parent at UIIS and a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan.

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