By Jamiu Folarin
ABEOKUTA – For violating her fundamental human rights over forceful removal of her hijab (female Muslim head covering) and denial to attend classes in public schools in Ogun State, a nine year old girl, Aisha AbdulAleem through her father Muhammad has dragged Mrs Kushimo, the principal of Gateway Junior Secondary school, to the State High Court sitting in Isabo, Abeokuta.
Other defendants who were summoned by the court to defend the allegations are the Ogun State Government, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and her counterpart in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
In the originating summon filed by the lawyer of the claimant, Olusoji Odutan, seeks the relief of the court to declare as wrongful and unconstitutional refusal of Aisha access to education on account of directive of the state government for non-usage of hijab in public schools in the state violating the girl’s rights to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom from discrimination and right to the dignity of the human persons and right to education”.
The claimant in the suit number AB/5271/2018 also seeks for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the state government and its officers from further infringing on the fundamental humn rights of Aisha to use hijab in the exercise of her rights.
“A sum of one million naira in damages against the defendants jointly and severally for the anguish, inhuman treatment, harassment and hardship suffered by the claimant as a result of the defendants’ action”, Aisha seeks relief of the court.
The case which was mentioned for hearing for the second time today (21/12/2018) before Justice Bamgbose Alabi of court 9, was adjourned till 8th January, 2019 after the lawyer to the defendants served counter affidavit and summon.
Lawyer to the claimant, Odutan pray the court to award the sum of N50,000 against the defendant for serving counter affidavit and summon on him on the day of the hearing of the case, as it will take time for him to study and respond to appropriately.
The lawyer of the defendants, Sodipo T.M had apologised explaining that the delay was not due to lack of respect for the court and desire to delay the case but it took time to get her clients’ responses and brief.
It will be recalled that the nine year old Aisha AbdulAleem was denied access to the classroom at St. Peters’ College, Olomore with the principal relying on a supposed Memorandum of Understanding between the Christian Missionaries and the State Government that the students of the school would not be allowed to use hijab.
On the recommendations of the principal and Zonal Education officer, Aisha was taken to Gateway Junior Secondary school for enrolment, but only to be denied access to the classroom after completing all registration formalities, the father had narrated.
In the affidavit deposed at the court by Aisha’s father, Mr AbdulAleem Muhammad, “the problem however started when the claimant was refused access into her classroom by her class teacher because she was wearing her hijab.”
“That upon the claimant being sent home from school by her class teacher (one Mr Shoremi E.O), I went to meet the principal of the school on Monday the 24th day of September, 2018 to ascertain what was happening.”
“That it was during this meeting that the principal informed me that the laws establishing the school do not allow or permit Muslim students to wear hijab to school.”
In an interview with the father of Aisha, Mr AbdulAleem frowned at the “punishment, oppression, harassment, humiliation and denial of his daughter access to education because of her resolve to use hijab within the school’s premises.
“Just like other children, Aisha sat for school entrance examination and was offered admission into secondary school. She was welcomed with hatred, malice and denial claiming that she could not wear hijab in public school.”
Muhammad narrated how all entreaties made to the principals of St. Peters College, Olomore; Gateway Junior Secondary School, Abeokuta; Zonal Education Officer; and the Commissioner for Education were treated with kid glove and disdains.
“The vice principal who was the most senior officer in the school admitted her and fixed into JSS 1A but the class teacher declined, denied, refused and compel her to remove hijab before she can be admitted into her class.”
“The little girl was trying to explain to her that her father has seen the VP on this issue when another female teacher came from behind to jerk the hijab off her head. This led me to seek counselling from legal practitioners and informed the Commissioner for Education at the ninth week that I have been moved to the wall.”