The School Uniform is on the verge of extinction and we'll miss it
A recent Appeal Court judgement granting the right to wear Hijab in public schools in Lagos State to the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), may just signpost a new era in public education.
The School Uniform as we once knew it, may be dying. Long live the School Uniform.
But to inter the School Uniform, we'll have to begin from Osun State.
In June, 2016, Muslims dragged the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola led government before the court over the refusal of some ‘Christian’ public schools to allow their female students wear the Hijab.
The Principal of Christ African Middle School, Osogbo, Mrs. Micha, reportedly walked Muslim students out of her school for wearing the Hijab.
Justice Jide Falola of the Osun State High Court ruled in favour of the Muslims; as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) raged and kicked.
Falola declared the wearing of Hijab lawful, citing the right to freedom as enshrined in the nation's constitution.
After the judgment, the Osun State Chapter of CAN instructed Christian pupils to adorn church robes to school if the state government was going to implement the ruling. A few pupils and students obeyed and wore church and choir robes to school the next day.
The move by CAN set off a religious debate in Osun; pitting Christians against Muslims.
“Muslims have been wearing Hijab to schools for a very long time. As a Christian, it doesn’t hinder my faith or ability to learn. If the CAN leadership has a problem with it, they should approach the law courts, rather than embark on actions that could cause disaffection amongst the peace loving people of Osun”, wrote Kikiowo Ileowo, a Chief Strategist at Revamp Media and Publisher of online newspaper, The Paradigm.
Governor Aregbesola, a Muslim, was accused of instigating a Hijab crisis in his own State.
He was forced to defend himself.
"If I permitted Hijab, would the Muslims 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 being misunderstood? I think I don’t deserve all these lies against me.
“There is nothing religious in any of our policies. The fact on ground contradicts our opposition’s claim.
“The choice of my Deputy Governor tells it all, I knew she is a Pentecotalist 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 Hijab, I challenge anybody with evidence to come out and show that I have made a proclamation on Hijab", the Governor said.
As students and pupils returned to the classrooms in Lagos on Monday, the Lagos State Area Unit of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), issued a stern warning to Tutor-Generals/Permanent Secretaries, principals and teachers.
Respect the Appeal Court judgement granting the right to wear hijab in public schools in the state, the MSSN warned.
The All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), also asked its members not to order students to remove the Hijab. Seizing the Hijab from a student was also warned against.
“Though, we do not expect any teacher to act to the contrary, if they do, we urge our members to ensure that they resist removing the hijab with their own hands.
"They should ensure that the teacher or overzealous principal do it themselves. And after any of the education stakeholders does that, he or she should be prepared for legal and mass actions, said Saheed Ashafa of Lagos ANCOPSS.
CAN has filed a stay of execution on the Hijab ruling in Osun. The Christian body had said the Judge's ruling "violates the religious rights of the original owner of the missionary schools as agreed upon when the schools were taken over by the then government of Oyo state in 1975”.
When students and pupils begin to appear in schools across Nigeria dressed in choir robes and Hijab, it may just be time to bid the old School Uniform, one final farewell.
The era of the Uniform-less public school in Nigeria may just be a lot closer than we thought.