Parents of Muslim students at the International School Ibadan under the banner of ISI Muslim Parents Forum on Friday disclosed that they had filed no fewer than eleven (11) fresh court cases against the school, its principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe, University of Ibadan and UI Vice Chancellor (Academic) over the denial of female Muslim students in the school to use Hijab on top of their uniforms.
They made this declaration while addressing journalists during a peaceful Jummat rally staged by parents and students at the Bodija Estate and Environs Central Mosque in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital to register their displeasure over the matter.
It was gathered that the Muslim parents on Thursday said they had petitioned the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), and the Executive Secretary of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) over the intimidation, molestation and harassment of female Muslim students in the school.
Our correspondent recalls that the use of Hijab by female Muslim students has since November 2018 been generating a lot of controversies which made parents of some Muslim students to jointly sue 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 the university.
It will be recalled that Oyo State High Court under the leadership of Justice Ladiran Akintola, on 26th June 2019 struck out the suit filed by the parents on the basis that the petitioners are not supposed to file the case jointly.
It was gathered that the Principal of the school, Mrs. Phebean Olowe and other staff of the school had since then been molesting, victimising and persecuting the Muslim students whose parents sued the institution through their parents.
But the protesting parents and students while insisting that the use of Hijab is a constitutional right of female Muslim students, 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!!!”
The Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Balogun disclosed that the Muslim parents took the new step of filling the 11 court cases in line with recent harassments of students in the school, 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.
Balogun said, “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.
“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 on 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. 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.
“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.”