The attempted merger of Muslim students wearing hijab (veil) with the Baptists High School in Iwo, Osun State, under the new education policy by the Rauf Aregbesola administration, has been resisted by Christians in the state, especially members of the Osun Baptists Conference.
Gov. Aregbesola last week inaugurated a new education policy in Osun also known as the 4-5-3 education system, which he said resulted in the re-classification and merger of public schools in the state to reflect the new education system.
The governor, who expressed concern over the protest, however, pleaded with the people to cooperate with the school restructuring policy, saying it was introduced as part of transformation of the education sector by his government.
But yesterday, aggrieved Christians with their Holy Bibles and Hymn books trooped to the Baptists High School as early as 7:30am and dislodged the students while preventing teachers from entering the school premises.
They argued that the merger if allowed to gain ground, would erase the Baptist heritage and that they would not allow hijab-wearing students in a school founded by Christian missionaries.
Despite the presence of heavily armed security operatives, the Christian protesters carried on peacefully insisting that they would not allow the merger to work.
Presiding minister for the 35 Baptist churches in Iwo land, Rev. Bayo Ademuyiwa, said the church had nothing against government’s attempt to equip schools in the state but that the church would not allow any attempt to erase its identity and heritage.
He said, “Our forefathers and missionaries sacrificed their lives, resources and everything to establish schools, reputable schools with morals and values and that is why the Baptists in Iwo land are here to protect our schools.
“Without any doubt, the Baptists in the state are known for excellence, decorum and dignity. These virtues are highly cherished by the Nigerian Baptist Convention and this is the reason why the Baptists are making these two submissions which are, ‘Baptists in Iwo land say no to merger of schools and Baptists in Iwo land say no to the use of hijab in Baptists schools.
“While we welcome genuine efforts to provide modern infrastructures and equipments in schools in Osun State, the Baptists see merger of schools as a step in the wrong direction as it will rob us of our identity and bring more pains to parents and students.”
Speaking in the same vein, Chairman, Osun State Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Elisha Ogundiya, stated that CAN would not allow any policy to erase the legacy of the Church.
Ogundiya said, “We have maintained this stand from inception and we will continue to defend lawfully what belong to us as Christians in the state.”
“As a major stakeholder in the state, the leadership of CAN expects the state government to invite us to discuss this issue without delay. We wish to explain it clearly that at no time did the new leadership of CAN in Osun held any meeting with the state government on the issue of merger of schools.”
However, Gov. Aregbesola, in a statement by his media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, allayed the concerns of all groups, organisations, religious and social bodies in the state, saying their interests would be protected in the ongoing re-classification and reform.
He pleaded with people of the state to disregard and dismiss “any untrue and baseless insinuation” critics of the government might be spreading across the state.