Christians in Osun State, especially members of the Osun Baptists Conference, on Monday protested against the attempted merger of Muslim students wearing hijab with the Baptists High School, Iwo, under the new education policy introduced by Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
Aregbesola last week inaugurated a new education policy in Osun, which the governor said had necessitated re-classification and merger of public schools in the state to reflect the new education system.
The governor, who expressed worry about the protest, however, urged the people to cooperate with the school restructuring, saying the policy was introduced as part of transformation of the education sector by his government.
Aggrieved Christians armed with Holy Bible and Hymn books trooped to the Baptists High School as early as 7:30am and dislodged the students and prevented teachers from entering the school premises.
They said that the merger of the schools, if allowed to succeed, would obliterate the Baptist heritage and that they would not allow hijab-wearing students in a school founded by Christian missionaries.
The Christian protesters defied the presence of armed security operatives and insisted 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 the government’s attempt to equip schools in the state but he said 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.”
Chairman, Osun State Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Elisha Ogundiya, also said that CAN would not allow any programme 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.”
But the governor, in a statement by his media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, allayed the fears , promising that the interest of all groups, organisations, religious and social bodies would be protected in the ongoing re-classification and reform.
He urged the people of the state to discountenance and dismiss “any untrue and baseless insinuation” critics of the government might be spreading across the state.