The Kwara State Government has insisted that Muslim schoolgirls can wear hijab in public schools in the state.
This is as it faulted the claims by some religious organisations that they own some schools in the state.
Buttressing its position on the controversy, the state said it took control of the schools in 1974 and has managed their affairs which include funding and staffing, pointing out that arguments that the schools still belong to either Muslim or Christian missionaries have been flatly rejected in court.
This was contained in a statement issued today by the Secretary to the Kwara State Government, Prof. Mamman Saba Jibril, on Wednesday.
The statement was issued following a clash this morning between Christians and Muslims over the use of hijab in a school claimed to be owned by Christians in the state.
The statement read, “The Kwara State Government wishes to once again make clarifications regarding its position on the ownership of schools and the question of hijab.
“The Government of Kwara State, like in most parts of Nigeria, took control of many schools in 1974. Original ownership of these schools cut across faiths and private individuals across the country. Since the takeover, the state government has controlled, managed, wholly funded, and staffed these schools which were ran and are still being run as public institutions. All of these are backed by various state laws, especially the Kwara State Education Law of 1996 (CAP E1 of the Laws of Kwara State). These laws are very clear about the status of these schools and the rules guiding them. Such rules include pluralism in the recruitment of students and teachers. These schools, being public-owned, are to adhere to policies of the government.
“Arguments over years that these schools still (belong) to either the Muslim or Christian missionaries (have) been flatly rejected by the court. So, the government totally rejects the claims some organisations are still laying to these schools because such claims are not known to the law.
” That some of these schools retain the names of their founding organisations is purely honorary and in memoriam of their contributions to education does not translate to such missionary bodies owning the schools. This is a matter that has been settled in the High Court of Kwara State and the Court of Appeal.
“Secondly, the law today is that any willing Muslim schoolgirl cannot be stopped from wearing hijaab in public schools. Anything to the contrary will be in violent contravention of provisions of Section 38 of the Constitution. The Court of Appeal has affirmed this position in at least three different declaratory judgments. The Government of Kwara State, a product of democracy and rule of law, cannot go contrary to the law. Besides, the hijaab question has come under the concept of pluralism and multiculturalism in the global community, including in the western world. States like Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Lagos have gone through this debate and they all resolved in favour of pluralism.
“Finally, it is important to clarify that the government is not imposing the hijab. It is not mandatory for all our schoolgirls to wear hijaab. Rather, the state government approves hijab for any Muslim schoolgirl who wishes to use it. The government is only respecting the fundamental human right of those schoolgirls. Nothing more. This has been communicated to all school heads via a circular of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development.
“We, therefore, appeal to members of the public and religious organisations to allow peace to reign. The government cautions against comments or conducts that can lead to breakdown of peace and harmony for which Kwara State and its people are known over the years.”
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