The Kwara state government says the use of hijab in public schools is not mandatory but Muslim schoolgirls who are willing can put on the headgear.
In the past few weeks, the state has been embroiled in controversy over the use of hijab in public schools, especially those that are referred to as grant-aided missionary schools.
On February 19, the state government ordered the closure of 10 schools over a dispute on the use of hijab by Muslim female students.
The controversy degenerated into violence on Wednesday in Ilorin, where Christians and Muslims engaged in a confrontation following the decision of the state government to reopen 10 schools earlier closed.
The Kwara state government, in a statement on Wednesday evening, signed by Mamman Jibril, the secretary to the state government, clarified its position on the use of hijab in public schools.
According to the state government, the approval on the use of hijab by Muslim female students in public schools was in respect to the fundamental human rights of the schoolgirls.
“It is important to clarify that the government is not imposing the hijab. It is not mandatory for all our schoolgirls to wear hijab,” it said.
“Rather, the state government approves hijab for any Muslim schoolgirl who wishes to use it. The government is only respecting the fundamental human right of those schoolgirls. Nothing more.
“This has been communicated to all school heads via a circular of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development.”
The state government said stopping Muslim schoolgirls from wearing hijab in public schools is a “violent contravention of provisions of Section 38 of the constitution”.
“Secondly, the law today is that any willing Muslim schoolgirl cannot be stopped from wearing hijab in public schools. Anything to the contrary will be in violent contravention of provisions of Section 38 of the Constitution,” the state government said.
“The Court of Appeal has affirmed this position in at least three different declaratory judgements. The Government of Kwara State, a product of democracy and rule of law, cannot go contrary to the law.
“Besides, the hijab question has come under the concept of pluralism and multiculturalism in the global community, including in the western world. States like Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Lagos have gone through this debate and they all resolved in favour of pluralism.”