- Aregbesola: I never ordered use of hijab
Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
No fewer than 25 Muslim clerics in Osun State monday morning besieged St. Charles High School in Osogbo and Ife Oluwa Middle School to enforce the court ruling on the adornment of the hijab by female Muslim students in schools in the state.
THISDAY gathered that the clerics went to the schools around 8 am to enforce the court order.
Consequently, the principal of St. Charles High School, Mr. Anthony Famoriyo, reportedly informed them that he could not fulfill their request because he was yet to be directed by the Ministry of Education on the hijab ruling.
Famoriyo, when contacted by journalists, said he told them that no teacher would prevent any student from wearing the hijab the moment they received such directive from the state government.
When THISDAY visited the school, some students of the school were engaged in calisthenic training.
Also some Islamic followers were seen forcefully enforcing the use of the hijab on those identified to be Muslim girls in the school, while some of them were prevented from entering the school because they did not adorn the hijab.
Owing to the melee caused by the clerics, academic activities in the school were disrupted as the group also stormed classrooms to stop the teachers on duty.
However as the controversy over the hijab ruling raged in the state, Governor Rauf Aregbesola for the first time spoke on the crisis, stating that neither himself nor his government ordered the use of the hijab by female Muslim students in public schools in the state.
Aregbesola stated this yesterday at the roundtable on Development Collaborative Framework for Education Development and Advancement organised by the Development and Advancement in Western Nigeria (DAWN) in Osogbo, the state capital.
Aregbesola challenged those who had accused him of ordering the use of the hijab by Muslims schoolgirls to produce concrete evidence to substantiate their claims.
The governor also challenged those accusing him of plunging the state into a religious crisis to present a video or voice recording, written speech evidencing where he commanded or ordered female Muslim students to wear the hijab with their uniforms.
He averred that all programmes introduced into the state’s education rebranding were the resolutions that came out of the education summit organised by his administration shortly after coming into office.
Aregbesola noted that the resolution of the summit, headed by Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, never considered nor recommended any religion.
Speaking on education in the South-west, the governor noted that the decline in education should be worrisome due to the role of education in development and bringing enlightenment to the human mind, which is a platform for leadership recruitment, and the means for character building and good citizenship.
He stated that when he came to government, the first task of his administration was to convene an education summit which was chaired by Soyinka, adding that all intervention of government in the education sector from inception came from the recommendations of the summit and had nothing to do with religion.
According to him, “There is nothing religious in any of our policies. The facts on the ground contradict the claims by the opposition. The choice of my deputy governor tells it all, I knew she is a Pentecostal Christian of the highest order before I picked her.
“Everything we have done in the line of education is in line with the resolution of our education summit.
“Against all speculations, I have not ordered the use of the hijab, I challenge anybody with evidence to come out and show that I have made a proclamation on the hijab.
“If I have permitted the hijab will the Muslim community have gone to court to challenge it, is that not contradictory? Is it a crime that I am a Muslim, is it because I struggle to be a good Muslim that everything I do is misunderstood? I think I don’t deserve all these lies against me.”
The governor told participants that his administration was constructing 100 state-of-the art elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 20 high schools in addition to rehabilitating the existing ones.
He added that the schools in the state before his intervention would have attracted rebuke from animal rights activists if government had put pigs there.
On the Osun school feeding programme, tagged O-MEALS, Aregbesola said that the programme had provided the template for national adoption and implementation of free meals in schools, adding that he was invited by the British parliament twice to share Osun’s experience with the world.
He held that his administration’s efforts and intervention in education had been massive and that there has been qualitative and quantitative improvement in the performance of pupils and general education of youths in the state.
He said: “The following data will put a lie to the unfounded allegation of our detractors that the performance of pupils has gone down under our watch. In 2007, the state government put forward 36,171 candidates for WAEC examination out of which 2,483 representing 6.86 per cent had credit pass in five subjects, including English and Mathematics.
“In 2008, it was 37,715 candidates with 3,813 passes, representing 10.11 per cent. In 2009 it was 39,676 candidates, with 5,545 passes, representing 13.98 per cent. In 2010 it was 43,216 candidates, with 6,777 passes, representing 15.68 per cent. These four years gave us an average of 15.68 per cent.
“However, our administration started sponsoring candidates for WAEC in 2011. That year, we fielded 53,293 candidates, had 11,672 passes, representing 21.98 per cent. In 2012, we fielded 51,463 out of which 11,431 passed, representing 22.21 per cent. In 2013, we also fielded 47,013 candidates, recorded 9,301 passes, representing 19.78 per cent.
“In 2014, we sponsored 47,672 candidates, 9,316 of them passed, representing 19.54 per cent. The average performance for our first four years was 20.88 per cent. Compared with the average performance (13.26 per cent) of the three years that preceded us, the improvement in performance during our tenure was a huge 57.46 per cent.”