With the resumption of Hijab crisis at the International School Ibadan, owned by the University of Ibadan, parents of some Muslim pupils of the school, under the aegis of ISI Muslim Parents Forum, have filed 11 fresh cases against various stakeholders of the school.
The Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Balogun disclosed this on Friday at the Bodija Central Mosque, Ibadan, where some of the pupils and their parents held a peaceful Jumat rally to call the attention of the public to their plight.
At the rally, they sent messages through banners with inscriptions like “Hijab is Allah’s given dress code”, “We ISI students deserve the right to put on our hijab. We cover our heads, not our brains!!!”
Newspeakonline had reported on Thursday that the parents have petitioned the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), the Executive Secretary of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) over alleged intimidation and harassment of female Muslim pupils in the school.
The group, in the petition titled “International School Ibadan Hijab Situation: Preventing a Looming Crisis”, accused the school principal, Mrs Phebean Olowe and staff of the school of “harassing our daughters for adorning the hijab outside the school premises, several metres away from the school gate on 3rd July, 2019.”
It said that the harassments, done allegedly with gun-wielding policemen, continued on July 4 and 5 and was extended to parents who came to pick up their children on July 6
Speaking to journalists after the rally on Thursday, Balogun disclosed that petitions have also been sent to the Inspector General of Police, the Ministry of Education, the UI management and several other related bodies. He said the Muslim parents took the new steps in line with recent reported harassments having exhausted all avenues to engage the school authorities in amicable settlements and after the last case filed was struck out of court last month.
His words: “I want to announce to you that we have refiled our case against the University of Ibadan, the management of ISI, the principal, Mrs Olowe, the DVC academics, Prof. E B Ekeola. We have filed 11 different cases in line with the dictates of the courts. I’m sure that they are being served as we speak”
“Our children were molested, not even within ISI now but outside. The principal, Mrs Phebean Olowe claimed that even all the land that leads to ISI belongs to ISI. She said once they wear the uniform, they must not put on hijab, then they went about removing it forcefully, harassing the parents, harassing the children, trying to force them to sign undertaking and all sorts of things..
On steps taken to settle out of court, Balogun said: “We had three meetings to settle out of court. We shifted grounds. We said, okay tell us the mode of dressing you want, the shape, size, colour. But they insisted that status quo remains. I have here the school rules. There is nothing there that says students cannot wear hijab. Even if there is anything like that, the constitution supersedes any other enabling law. They are not ready to shift. We met thrice in d office of Dr. S.P.A Ajibade, their lead counsel.”
He said the group would use all available legal and peaceful means to resist the infringement of the rights of their children.
“It is not really a religious matter,” he posited, arguing that there have been several court judgements n support of hijab rights in Lagos, Ilorin, Osun and others.
He added: “We expect that any Nigerian in a public owned school, even if it’s a private owned school, you have to obey the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Another parent in the school, Muyideen Boladele Akerele, alleged that the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school have been used against the Muslim parents who are even also members of the PTA.
He added: “If it is my daughter’s right to adorn hijab, non of them can deny that. Just as the chairman has said, we are going about this peacefully. We have never attacked anyone of them, never done anything violent. They are the ones who are trying to provoke us. But we are resolved to be peaceful.
The development is the latest twist to the hijab crisis that broke out in the school in November 2018. It would be recalled that the Muslim students sued the school, its principal, University of Ibadan and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the school who also doubled as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UI.
The Oyo State High Court presided over by Justice Ladiran Akintola, on June 26, 2019 struck out the suit on the basis that the petitioners are not supposed to file the case jointly after attempts to settle out of court failed.