Schools create a platform for students (across all levels) to grow love  and understanding between them and create uniformity. Schools are meant to be an environment for students to view each other as equals.

Unfortunately, most of our schools have deviated from this purpose. There is a classicism that has been generated in schools. 

This classicism separates the brilliant ones from those who struggle with academics, the rich from the poor, the nerds from the jocks and so on. These gaps do not only restrain the educational system from achieving its main objectives, the core and foundation of basic learning but, it has also affected most of our perceptions and judgements and has influenced identity politics for long.

The issue of hijab acceptance in schools or not is an example of classicism that one would expect Nigerians to have stopped experiencing in this age, especially in the south region of Nigeria. Recent happenings have informed us that this is sadly not the case.

The concept of uniformity in schools is not limited to dressing or outlook of students. 

It encompasses how every student should feel amongst their colleagues who are from various backgrounds but have found themselves in the same learning sphere.

The use (or non-usage of) of hijab does not obstruct learning or uniformity in any way.

Hijab is merely an attire and a means of expression of some students with certain beliefs. It shouldn't make students who have to wear hijab think that they are different from their colleagues who do not.
 
Private schools are mostly exempted from experiencing such occurrences as much as the public schools.

Private schools have set rules and policies according to the school's proprietary beliefs and they are usually known to the students and their parents or sponsors of which they must abide by. If any of the rules do not conform to the students’ beliefs then they have the right to leave the school for other options except that it had not been stated earlier and it may infringe on the students’ fundamental human rights. In this case, the issue must be escalated to appropriate overseeing bodies. 

Schools run by the government (public schools)  in some places usually have religious names that are either Islamic or Christian. This is because most of these schools were named by Christian missionaries/colonialists or jihadist muslims many years ago and they designed these schools and the activities according to the practices and rituals of their faiths.

After independence was gotten and the responsibility of running our country was upon us,  the government decided to maintain the names given to these schools supposedly to honour those who brought education to our land.

Government schools are not religion specific and as such, such schools are not expected to run by the doctrines or conform to practices of any religious faith.

Therefore, the government must ensure that if the names of such schools must be retained, it does not give the wrong impressions.
School activities are meant to be uniform while holding up each and every students’ fundamental rights to expression of beliefs and holding in higher regard the essence of school education.

In public schools, the onus is on the government to create a common ground with uniform policies that allow diverse and understanding practices in schools.

However, the average Nigerian person or families has created distinct classes amongst themselves where one thinks they are better than the other because they may have some certain privileges or practices that are different from the others’. This is mostly borne out of intolerance for others and the idea of superiority of beliefs that have eaten deep and seeped into their systems.

The “hijab, no hijab” issue is steered by some bigots, people who enjoy unrest and do not understand the fundamentals of education and its activities. If they are left to continue to take advantage of this kind of situation and if the government does not get proactive about finding permanent solutions to these misconceptions it will become an uncontrollable problem.
Happenings that lead to distortion of educational activities (just as it has become normal in northern Nigeria due to incessant insecurity problems that have penetrated almost every if not all aspect of life in the North east)  must be eliminated before it gets out of hand. In this case, it is still a matter of civil rights misconception in the south west.

After students have spent months staying at home and pausing their learning due to the pandemic it is not rational to be closing schools over these kinds of issues in a democratically run country.

The potential disaster of this perception must not persist. 

 *Salmah Abdulrahman is an Executive Assistant to Kwara SDGs Office*

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