Osun State: Collateral damage of the Hijab judgment

By Amiel M. Fagbulu

About 30 months ago in the January of 2014 there were skirmishes in some schools in the State of Osun when children belonging to different religious denominations went confrontational and in defiance of the laid down rules came to school wearing their cassocks, hijab, and religious traditional wears of sorts. According to reports the peace of the school was disturbed and gross irresponsibility took over while the school authorities and parents who apparently instigated the rebellious act looked on in glee.

Various interpretations were given to that event, each skewed to promote the favored political or religious agenda of the reporter. In turning that breach of peace into political soap opera the jaundiced views of those reporting, irrespective of whatever coloration they gave to it, missed the greatest import of that tragi-comical display. In their attempt to discredit the governor of the State some were led to propagate moronically that the hijab was an attempt to Islamize schools in the State. They are back at it again claiming that the governor had by proclamation made it compulsory for the hijab to be won in schools.

The Muslim community that felt that its rights were infringed headed for the courts and now in June 2016 that a court judgement has been delivered that the hijab could legitimately be adorned and worn to school, the misguided and disrespectful Christian mission associated with the school has shown total disregard for the laws of the country and has gone back to its mischievous ways. The non-Muslim students in the school had a field day coming to school in all sorts of dresses turning the school once more into a carnival of clowns. The only ‘religious’ dress genre absent at school that day was the blood and cowry-covered tunic of Sango worshipers complete with the diminutive double-edged axe. The outfits of the masquerades that accompany Sango were also fortunately missing.

The endorsement of the bad behavior of the children by the principal of the school was patent by his very unprofessional and illogical pronouncement that because the children clad in buffoonish robes were in class working peacefully together, all was well. One can guess from a distance that he is probably an aggrieved or conniving Christian and a biased teacher who is ignorant of what the education laws say about anything. The competence of the School Board also was put in doubt by its failure to pronounce firmly that impunity and defiance were gross acts of indiscipline in schools that were damaging to the proper upbringing of the children.

A competent court had given its ruling, right or wrong, and all that an educated body had to do was to challenge that decision legally in court if it felt dissatisfied. Rather than do what is right, misguided Christian parents allowed their children to don all sorts of dress to school in clear defiance and disregard of the rule stipulating what dress children could wear to school. Not a word of admonition has been heard from CAN about the irresponsible behavior of a so-called Christian school and the tele-guided children being used as puns.

The State Government on its side has not taken the firm and needed action of suspending the young hooligans the school authority is breeding and enforcing what the laid down rules are. While some may see as wisdom the reticence of the State Government in not coming down hard on the misbehavior of the children as condoned by the head teacher and school authorities, others including the religious fanatics that want a show-down will take further advantage of this matured approach and be emboldened to encourage the children to wear more garish and horrid dresses to school next time they feel like ruffling the feathers of the government and causing mayhem in the State.

In spite of the cautious inaction of the government that in fact owns the school, the rumor mill is churning out the propaganda that the State is at it again wanting to Islamize the schools. Maybe the governor should do the right thing which is to uphold discipline and not bother about political correctness which is to condone irresponsibility and the breeding of impunity in our schools. Schools in the State should not be allowed to turn into breeding grounds for thugs, brazen law-breakers and future cultists.

Schools are sanctuaries where children are supposed to be cocooned for a few hours every day to enable teachers to expose them to carefully selected experiences calculated to negate some of the undesirable acts that bombard learners daily in the community from which they derive. By focusing on the politics and the blame-game and failing to analyze and condemn the unacceptable lawlessness of a few children turned clowns, the sanctity of the sanctuaries has been violated and dealt a very grave blow.

Addressing first things first therefore, the strong presence of miscreants in any of our schools should be a serious matter of great concern to us all especially at the primary and secondary education levels. Turning the traditional school assembly into a carnival is a desecration of the time-honored ritual of sober reflections and belonging that all students share at morning assembly. To look the other way or brush that violation aside is a depiction of both the ignorance and dishonesty of the pontiffs who fiddle while our future is in flames. That is how law-makers learn at school to become law-breakers.

School governance provides clear guidelines for dealing with such ugly situations and any principal that does not know what to do must kiss his job goodbye at least for sometime so as to get retrained and be better prepared for the thunder next time. Also, the School Management Board by whatever name, that schools are expected to have must be held accountable for failing to act promptly either to quell the rebellion or advise the governmental agency responsible to pull out the necessary plugs and douse the fire of the drunken clowns in their multifarious masquerades. Instant suspension is the least punishment for this act of insolence, defiance, nonconformity and recklessness.

Governments no doubt have rules if not laws that guide what can be worn to school. Once that is the case those children who out of mischief or misdirection turn their schools to fun–parks should be dealt with very firmly according to existing rules. Children like the rest of us have no rights to take the laws into their hands and disrupt the learning days of those that are not radicalized and only go to school to benefit from the costly provisions made for their benefit by their parents and governments. The thugs no doubt have the democratic option of respectful and reasoned presentation of their grievances to the school authorities for consideration. The tragedy here is that there is no grievance to attend to; only the goading of the students to be disorderly and disruptive, in order to negate the good works of the government in making excellent provisions for learning and development.

The climate of a school is very important to learning. An unsettled school in which the children are very busy planning how to outrage and ridicule the authorities or confront other children of other faith cannot be effective in promoting learning. A teacher merely standing in front of a class to teach is just one of the many things that need to be done forlearning to take place. The children being in the proper mental frame to benefit from the teacher’s instruction is another. Being in a confrontational or mischievous frame of mind is not a proper frame of mind for learning.

The hijab is the subject of dissent in educational institutions around the world and there does not seem to be a definitive end in view. It has been banned rightly or wrongly in some school systems including in seemingly Islamic countries like Turkey. The central issue is whether the wearing of the hijab is a cultural Muslim requirement or an Islamic imperative. The correct path in any State or country is that laid down by the courts.

The hijab itself is not a controversial ‘dress’; the clash is between secularity and the limits to which the absolute rights of individuals can be pushed. The hijab is not in my view something prescribed by the Holy Quran just as the wearing of an ornamental cross is merely the product of the thinking of man and not a stipulation of the Holy Bible.Irrespective of what I think however, what needs to be determined when there is doubt is whether the cross and the hijab, to take only a few, are fundamental to being a true Christian or Moslem respectively or a good student. Whether they are or not, it makes sense to permit those who choose to wear them to do so. It is the fundamental right of every child to be allowed to choose his religion and worship accordingly.

The caveat in favor of the hijab is that it is not another ‘dress’ but a head gear that can be worn in addition to whatever uniform is prescribed, just like a cap can. These robes and other attires being infused into the debate are dresses that are worn to obscure or replace the prescribed school uniform. These are therefore two different issues any of which can be instated by the courts if called upon to adjudicate. There was therefore no need for the silly theatrics that followed the court pronouncement on the hijab. Those who claim the right to wear the hijab, mitre or even the turban to school should be challenged in court and whatever the courts say should either be accepted or taken to the highest court in the land for adjudication. A school uniform cannot be replaced by any of the dresses worn by these troublesome children since they replace or are not worn to complement the approved dress.

In all these, what schools stand for is the dishing out of good education. Governance should use that as the guiding light in solving day-to-day problems that should not take over the central focus of schooling which is to educate. CAN should know better.


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