Parents of Muslim pupils of the International School Ibadan (ISI), have petitioned the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), and the Executive Secretary of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) over alleged intimidation and harassment of female Muslim students in the school.
The development is a new dimension 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 26th 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.
The Muslim parents are now accusing the school principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe and other staff victimising the Muslim students whose parents sued the institution.
In the petition titled “International School Ibadan Hijab Situation: Preventing a Looming Crisis”, signed by the group’s Chairman, Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Balogun and Secretary, Hajia Bilkis Badiru, the Muslim group said the situation in the school could degenerate into a breakdown of law and order in the University of Ibadan and Oyo State at large if not urgently tackled.
It read: “This flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of the girls to adorn the hijab especially outside the school premises was considered an affront on the collective sensibilities of the Muslims who have children in the school. However, we calmed ourselves down thinking the principal was quoted out of context.
“It was therefore disturbing that the school principal through a staff of the account department, Mr. Odewale and a security guard, Mr. John Mike took the laws into their hands by harassing our daughters for adorning the hijab outside the school premises, several metres away from the school gate on 3rd July, 2019. Although, the girls were later allowed entry, but only after they have been thoroughly disgraced in front of their peers.
“On 4th July, the situation became worse as the girls were thoroughly disgraced outside the school premises under the watchful eyes of the Chief Security Officer of the University of Ibadan, the school Vice Principal, Mr. Akintunde, Mr Odewale of the Accounts Department, hordes of security personnel from both the University and the school and some gun-wielding policemen. The matter was promptly reported to the leadership of the University of Ibadan Muslim Community, who swung into action by contacting the University Administration. This probably informed the decision of the school authority to relax their draconian posture on 5th and 8th July to a more sinister but less observable form of harassment.
“On Saturday, 6th of July, her father, who is an academic staff of the University of Ibadan was also given a dose of the subtle harassment as a plain-clothe security official of the school was surreptitiously snapping his pictures while exiting the gates of the school, after picking his daughter at the end of extra class.
“On 8th July, the devastating but subtle harassment continued with Mr. Omokunmi abandoning his Vice Principal duty and standing at the school gate to stalk and continuously cover the movement of the girl in question right from the gate to her class as well as other three Muslim girls. We wish to state that we would not be liable for any breakdown of law and order that may result from the actions of overzealous elements who may want to use the opportunity presented by the matter to foment trouble within or outside the school premises.
In another petition entitled “International School Ibadan Hijab Situation: Request for Intervention”, addressed to the NHRC, the parents alleged: “It is worth noting that the school management is aware of the girl’s medical condition. Despite forcing the girl to expose herself to cold, the girl was made to face a hurriedly composed panel of the Students’ Disciplinary Committee (SDC) for the concocted offense. In addition, she was also arraigned for adorning the hijab outside the school premises and threatened with either suspension or expulsion.”
It stated further that “based on the above and other forms of harassment, we have contacted our lawyers to handle the matter as law abiding citizens.
As a national human rights institution vested with power to protect rights of all Nigerians as provided for in the 1999 Constitution ( as amended and international and regional Human rights treaties, we call on you sir to intervene in this matter.
“We noted your prompt action in defence of some women allegedly arrested on grounds of nudity at a night club in Abuja. Sir, the actions of the school authority on the use of Hijab are contrary to the provisions of the constitution as interpreted by superior courts as well as the jurisprudence of the international human rights bodies. We look forward to the Commission to protect the rights of these children to freedom of religion and expression; and right to education.”