There was anxiety Wednesday in Ilorin, Kwara state capital on the reopening of shut grant-aided secondary schools over hijab (veil) controversy.
Both Christians and Muslims exchanged hot words, almost snowballing into fracas in some of the schools.
The state government had late Tuesday night announced the reopening of the schools, saying the peace-talk on the vexed issue continues.
The state government argued that its policy of allowing female Muslim students to wear hijab in the grant-aided schools is aimed at entrenching peace and harmony.
The affected schools closed by the state government over three weeks ago over hijab hoopla include Cherubim Seraphim College, St Anthony College, ECWA School, Baptist Secondary School and Bishop Smith Secondary School all in Ilorin.
Others are CAC Secondary School, St. Barnabas Secondary School, St. John School, St. Williams Secondary School and St. James Secondary School all also in Ilorin.
But early in the morning Wednesday scores of Christians and Muslims barricaded the gates of some of the schools.
At Baptist Secondary school, Surulere area of Ilorin, the situation was worst as security operatives were drafted to restore law and order to disperse the Muslims and Christian leaders who exchanged stones at each other over the development.
Some Muslims groups who had laid siege on the main gates of the school chanted “Laillah Illaha Lahu, Laillaha Illah lahu” .
All efforts made by these Muslims group to allow their students to enter the affected were rebuffed by the Christians who were also at the main gate of the affected schools.
It was at this point that, the security operatives, deployed to the school to avoid the breakdown of law and order disperse them with tear gas.
The waiting students and teachers who were willing to resume fled the area while the schools gate remain shut.
At Cherubim and Seraphim grammar school, Sabo Oke, Christian leaders in their white robes staged peaceful procession at the main entrance of the school and prevented both students and teachers from resumption.
The protesters wielded placards with inscriptions such as ‘otoge give us our schools back’, ‘no to Hijab in Kwara,’ ‘Kwara is not an Islaimc state, Kwara is for all,’ ‘our schools is our heritage,’ ‘we
oppose the hijab in our schools.’
The same scenario played itself out at Bishop Smith Grammar school along Agba dam GRA,ilorin and St Anthony College.
Principal Officers and security men were who supposed to open the gates were nowhere to be found.
The teachers gathered in groups at the school gate while someChristian leaders were also there to monitor the development.
Already, the security agencies like police, civil defence corps, soldiers have been deployed to all the affected schools to prevent the breaking down of law and order.
Earlier, Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development Mrs. Mary K Adeosun said that “the government is convinced that its policy to allow willing Muslim
schoolgirls to wear their hijab in public schools will lead to sustainable peace and communal harmony anchored on mutual respect and understanding.
“This path to mutual respect, understanding, and peace with regards to hijab had long been adopted in all of the northern Nigeria and many states in the Southwest such as Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and Oyo States.
“As the students resume normal classes, the government took special notice of the plight of those of them preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and hereby directs affected schools to hold at least two-hour extra lesson for all the intending candidates after school hours daily.
“The government will provide light lunch for the students until the beginning of their exams while teachers allotted for the extra coaching will get stipends for their efforts.
“This is to bring the students up to speed ahead of the impendingexternal examination.
“The closure of the schools was necessary to forestall security breaches which may affect lives and properties.
“The government sincerely commends the Christian and Muslim leaders for their understandings and their efforts to build peace within their respective communities in the past weeks.
“It urges everyone to join hands with the government to raise a generation of schoolchildren who will respect one another’s differences and together build a sustainable future for our state.
“Finally, the government reminds all its employees such as school principals and teachers in the affected schools to take special note of the policy.
“There will be zero tolerance for violations of anyone’s fundamental human rights under their watch.”