Cyberspace is awash with news about a private secondary school in Ibadan has been shut since yesterday 12/11/2018. According to the Punch Newspaper, the closure of the secondary school followed the appearance of some students, dressed in hijab against what the management prescribed as the dress code.
The appearance of the students with the hijab may be the result of the letter written to the management of the school by some parents, under the aegis of the International School Muslim Parents’ Forum, “putting the schools ’ management on notice of this resolution on the rights of our female children to commence the use of hijab from this academic session of 2018 / 2019.”
It is beyond dispute that Hijab is part and parcel of Islam. Its use is a Quranic injunction and stopping a Muslim female student from wearing it contravenes her right to freedom of Thought, Conscience and religion entrenched in section 38 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Judicial precedents are replete and unanimous on it. Read the following cases:
(1) The Unreported case of THE PROVOST, KWARA STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN & 2 ORS VS BASHIRAT SALIU & 2 ORS Appeal No CA/IL/49/2006,
delivered on the 18th day of June, 2009,
(2) Sheikh Oyinwola & Ors V The Governor of Osun state & Ors SUIT NO. HOS/M.17/2013 delivered at the Osun State High Court on the 3rd of June, 2016 and
(3) Abdulkareem v. LASG (2016) 15 NWLR (Pt 1535) 177
Let me quickly point out that cases are authorities only on what they decide. The cases above are specifically on wearing of hijab in PUBLIC (government) SCHOOLS. In my view it is safer to limit them as authorities on the use of hijab in public schools EXCLUDING private schools.
CAN THE POSITION BE THE SAME IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS?
In other words, What if the proprietor decides that none of the students of his school shall be permitted to wear hijab? Can such law be valid in law?
The answer to this poser is difficult and assailable because there is no decided case on the point. But in my view a private school can validly forbid the use of hijab. Yes I say so because private institutions are owned by private individuals and funded by the private individuals. It follows therefore that a private school is run in accordance with the whims and caprices of the proprietor I.e determines dress code, amount to be paid as fees, etc
However, prohibiting the use of hijab can be illegal even in private schools if at the time the students were admitted, the students or their guardians were not informed of the rule prohibiting the use of hijab in the school. In law one can waive his right. So if the students are informed before or at the time of admission, and they accept to study there, it would be deemed they have waived their right to wear hijab in the school. But if the rule that prohibits hijab is brought to the attention of the students only after admission, then the rule would in my view be null and void.
No law can validly prohibit use of hijab in government schools except in circumstances recognized under section 45 of the constitution such as security reasons, health and the like because those schools are sponsored by tax payers/public money who are both Christians and Muslims. In fact I am of the view that issue of waiver cannot even stand in the first place in government schools.
O. G. Chukkol is a student, Faculty of Law, ABU, Zaria, email@example.com
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