By ‘Wole Adedeji, Ilorin
The dust over the ‘Hijab’ dispute in the Baptist High School, Ijagbo, Oyun Local Government of Kwara State is not over yet and government is to blame, Christian Concerned Elders and Stakeholders have said.
The elders who are stakeholders in the school had on 25th April 2022 written a letter addressed to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq asking him to reopen the school earlier shut at his instance in the interest of the students particularly, those who would be sitting for the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE)
Speaking with journalists in Ijagbo, the Christian leaders said the students of the Baptist school this time around had already registered for WASCE and needed to be taken through preparatory coaching by their teachers which a continued closure of the school on the order of the governor would not allow.
The elders said that the governor caused Baptist High School Ijagbo to be closed unnecessarily long, and that he also painted the picture of insensitivity to the fate of the students particularly those who would be sitting for their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, SSSCE.
They accused the government of acting against an agreement and wondered why even after a panel of enquiry set up by the governor submitted its report over a month ago, all the governor still did was to set up another White Paper Panel to look into the first report apparently, to deliberately keep the Baptist High School Ijagbo perpetually under lock and key.
In the letter of appeal dated 25th April 2022, the elders said: “Our appeal has become compelling at this time because the final year students are due to sit for their WAEC Exams, sometime next month (May 2022). It is bad enough that these innocent students and our future as a community, State and Country have lost enormous learning opportunities due to the closure of this school.
“They are now at the risk of not sitting for their WAEC Exams. This is a most undesirable situation which your Excellency, as father of these children and indeed, the State, should not allow to persist any longer.
“We reckon that history that history will not be king to any administration that allows such avoidable fate to visit these otherwise innocent children at this time”.
It was gathered that final year students of the Baptist High School who had registered for National Examination Council, NECO, SSCE gathered around their school recently to do thumb printing for the examination which some Muslim brothers kicked against threatening another round of crisis.
According to the elders, some Muslim parents who had already registered their wards in different schools for the WASCE kicked against Christian students thumb printing even outside the school premises insisting that government had closed the school already and threatened to cause another mayhem for what they termed opening of the school.
They alleged that their action was as if government was obviously acceding to their protestation but directed the said students to go to Government Secondary School, Offa, to take the impending examination, an action they felt was not done in good faith.
They added that though the Ijagbo Christian community expressed its preference for Government Secondary School, Ipee, but was shocked that most Muslim students had gone to other schools to register for the examination thus leaving mostly Christian students on the class roll.
“It is apparent therefore that the intention of those Muslim friends who interestingly are non-residents of Ijagbo is to make Christian students miss the examination,” an elder alleged.
It would be recalled that there was a bloody clash at the school in February 2022 over wearing of ‘hijab’ by female students said to be at the instance of some Muslim parents who stormed the school to enforce wearing of the religious apparel. The melee that followed led to the death of one person.
Also, earlier in 2021 there was a large-scale arson which claimed lives and wanton destruction of properties and churches in Ilorin, the state capital over the same ‘hijab’ issue leading to the closure of Christian schools by the government.
As part of resolutions to the problem at the time, government set up a panel of enquiry to look into the matter as well as an agreement signed by both government and parties in the ‘hijab’ crisis that any action be suspended until a ruling of the Supreme Court in an Appeal filed by Christians over forcing wearing the apparel in mission schools is delivered.