By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The Lagos State Government has approved the use of hijab in public secondary schools in the state.
Muslim faithful had been agitating the use of hijabs in public secondary schools in the state, but the Lagos State Government had bluntly refused.
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, MSSN, had gone to court to challenge government’s decision to ban hijab in schools and lost at the Lagos High Court.
The MSSN appealed the case at the Appeal Court and won, but the Lagos State Government went to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling at the Appeal Court.
The case is still at the Supreme Court until the government decided to approved the use of hijab in schools pending the determination of the case at the Supreme Court.
This was contained in a circular recently issued by the Lagos State Government granting the use of hijab in schools. The circular was signed by O.A. Olukoya
The circular conveyed the government’s approval “of the outcome /recommendations of the panel on the use of Hijab and urged compliance.
The circular dated 13 November, 2018 has the heading: “Re: Use of Hijab in Lagos Public School.”
“Since the case of the use of Hijab in Lagos State is still pending in the Supreme Court, status quo should be maintained to avoid contempt of court, that is, students should be allowed to wear Hijabs on school uniforms but same must be short, smart and neat and in colour of the school uniform (skirt),” the circular said.
However, the MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit has commended the Lagos State Government for upholding the rule of law through its approval of the use of hijab in public schools.
According to the President of the MSSN, Lagos, Saheed Ashafa, the circular would help to stop harassment and victimisation of female Muslim students for wearing hijab.
He recalled that despite the Appeal Court judgement, female Muslim students were punished and denied entrance into classrooms for putting on the hijab.
By issuing the circular, Ashafa said the Lagos State Government has towed the path of honour and deserved to be praised for such.
He said: “We extol this gesture and the resoluteness of the state government in ensuring that an avoidable strife do not find ways into the peaceful atmosphere being enjoyed in Lagos State.
“We are pleased with this development because the embarrassing way and manner that our members are being victimised, harassed, punished and denied entrance into their classrooms for wearing hijab would stop.
“We have constantly told the state government that while a case on the hijab is awaiting final verdict at the Supreme Court, no teacher has the right to punish female pupils for wearing hijab. The Appeal Court in the case clearly states that wearing hijab by students, whether within or outside the school premises was a fundamental Human Right entrenched in the constitution.
“It is important to notify you that we will not allow further lawlessness and flagrant disregard for rule of law to stay after this circular. The circular would also help to stop the abuse of rights which could have degenerated into crisis or violence that may lead to the disruption of activities in schools in our dear state.
“We commend this intervention aimed at calling teachers, principals and tutor general to order. This circular approving wearing of hijab by students on their school uniform within and outside school premises, will ensure peace and order in our schools and stability in the state’s education system.”
Ashafa subsequently encouraged female Muslim students to be confident, smart and neat while putting on the hijab.
“We hereby call on female muslim students to enjoy their rights without fear of molestation. While exhibiting their rights, they should remain law abiding and be good ambassadors of the religion of peace,” he added.
He congratulated Muslims in the state and islamic organisations for ensuring that Muslims are not denied their rights.
The circular read in part: “Since the case of the use of Hijab in Lagos State is still pending in the Supreme court of Nigeria, status quo be maintained, to avoid contempt of the court, that is students be allowed to wear Hijabs on school uniforms but same must be short, smart, neat and in the same colour of the uniform (skirt).
“Furthermore, schools management are advised to downplay comments and disciplinary actions on the use of smart Hijabs until the final determination of the case by Supreme Court.
“No student should be discriminated against in any form on the basis of religion.
“All principals and teachers must be sensitized to comply accordingly. You are enjoined to adhere strictly to these recommendations.”