Ahead of the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), Muslim Parents have expressed concerns over the possibility of their female wards being denied entry to the Computer Based Test (CBT) centres by some overzealous officials all because of the Hijab.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which conducts the yearly entrance examination for students to gain admissions into various tertiary institutions in Nigeria, has announced that the exams will commence on Saturday June 19 and end July 3 across various centres in the country.
But on Friday, there was a widely circulated report of a candidate who was denied access into one of the registered affiliated centres, the Redeemer’s University, because of her Hijab, the Muslim head-cover.
Case No 1
Narrating the ordeal of his ward, the Chairman of iLead Education Trust, Mallam AbdurRahman Lekki wrote on Facebook that the security men at the gate of the Church refused her entry just because she donned the Hijab.
Lekki queried if that was not a clear sign of what will happen on the day of the examination (today).
“The uniformed men at the gate insisted all Muslims using veil must submit their veils to the security guys before they can be allowed to enter the school premises,” he noted.
“The question is, why will JAMB post Muslims to Christian schools to write UTME knowing full well that the school does not allow Muslims with veils in their premises.”
Case No 2
Muslim News investigations also revealed that there was a similar case at another Christian-owned Bingham University, Auta Balefi, Keffi Nasarawa State, where a prospective female student was prevented from entering the school premises with her Hijab when she went to check
We reliably gathered that the management of the faith-based institution told prospective students the ‘no-Hijab rule’ would be applied during the CBT exams, which has been divided into batch 1 to 3 and expected to commence 7am, 9:30am and 1:30pm respectively.
The aggrieved parents have however cried out for help, calling on the examination body and relevant muslim organisations to prevent their wards from being harassed and denied their fundamental human rights to adorn the Hijab.
▪︎ Bingham, Redeemer’s varsities ask Muslim JAMB candidates to remove Hijab, Parents kick
Muslim parents have nevertheless continued to fault the action of officials of the Redeemer’s University, saying it reeks of religious intolerance.
For instance, Tade Shakir stressed that Redeemer’s University was wrong to have applied as a JAMB center and consequently shut doors on candidates to express their inalienable right to religion.
He wrote, “This issue shouldn’t die here. If the school doesn’t want their facility to be used by the generality of Nigerians, they shouldn’t have applied for it. The school facility is not offered for free as it was in the days of analog. JAMB is paying them and it’s from applicants’ fees. I am just feeling so irritated here now.”
He added, “I wouldn’t want to dwell on why JAMB should post muslims to such schools. I know for a fact that is a system generated posting that doesn’t recognize religion and tribe. However, I want to strongly advise that you (AbdurRahman Lekki) reach out to JAMB via their available social media handles. And also put MURIC in the know.”
For his part, Mallam Jamiu said, “Please, let’s inform the concerned authorities to be at alert because these candidates must write their JAMB ooo. I want to blame the Muslims for this. Neither JAMB nor christians is to be blamed, because we ought to have prepared for this! May Allah safeguard our affairs.”
▪︎ The school has apologised to the victim, her parents - JAMB, says rule does not prevent female candidates from wearing hijab
Speaking with Muslim News on Friday, a top official of the examination body who declined anonymity confirmed the Redeemer’s University incident, saying the center has apologised to the victim and her mother.
“We received one incident. The lady said she went to the Redeemer’s University to identify the school in preparation for tomorrow (Saturday). On getting there, according to her, the security said she must remove her Hijab.
“It was reported to JAMB and we called the center and the center apologised to the lady and her mother. The center blame the security man, saying he was only being overzealous. That was all,” the top official added.
The JAMB official, however, said it was just a single report, and not “reports” as being circulated on social media, thereby telling the students in Hijab to arrive the venues at the stipulated time.
“As far as we are concerned at JAMB, nobody can do such. If they do, there will be consequences,” the source said.
It would be recalled that JAMB, headed by Prof Ishaq Oloyede had clearly stated in previous tweets on its verified twitter handle, saying, “the Board would like to state clearly that our rule does not prevent female candidates from wearing hijab or other dresses that define their faith.
“We would continue to ensure that people exercise their freedom of religion even with the conduct of our examination, so far it doesn’t compromise the sanctity of our examination.
“However, at every center, 2 security operatives (one male and one female) are on ground to screen candidates with dignity and respect. All officials were duly briefed on how to conduct their assignments,” it said.
▪︎ HRAI warns against Hijab assault, urges parents to go to CBT centers with their daughters
Also speaking on the development, Barrister Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, the Director of Hijab Rights Advocacy, HRAI, called on the parents of the children using Hijab to support their daughters by going to the CBT centers with them.
Orolu-Balogun said taking this step will not only help restore the morale of the female students, adding that it’ll also help prevent harassment of other female students in Hijab.
In an interview with Muslim News, the Director of HRAI said, “In this scenario, I think, it is best for parents of the girls in Hijab to go with them to the centers. They should go and give them support. In the process, they can even support other candidates who are denied access.
“If anything goes wrong, they can reach us through our helpline (****080) for the appropriate steps to be taken further. As they call, we would visit those we can and confirm their stories, with facts, get their details and send them to JAMB,” she emphasised.
She noted that the Hijab Rights Advocacy group is ready to work on several reports of discrimination at any centre across the federation and remain proactive, while advising the officials to be law-abiding and peace-promoting citizens.
According to her, “As an organization, our main job is to guard against discrimination and we have always tried to be proactive on this issue. We have been in contact with JAMB in the past and we have been part of the peace monitors that go round to monitor what happened during the examination in the past, as we’ll also do same this year.”
Narrating past experiences, Barrister Orolu-Balogun said although some centres have witnessed such cases, the intervention of the body has brought about normalcy, but not without effect on the candidates.
“For instance, Daleware in Palmgroove. For almost 2 years, we had issues except last year and I think that has been curtailed. Where we have issues now are those institutions owned by churches. We are not against churches owing institutions. Where we have issues is when they apply to be used as a public institution and then deny the members of the public usage.
“Last year, we had issues with Mountain Top University and when they called, I spoke with the VC and he quickly went into action and sent me pictures of ladies comfortably writing the examination. It was resolved. However, the fact that it happened in the first instance is the issue.
“Some candidates became destabilised and were not in their full emotional and mental state to take the exam, thereby putting them at disadvantage during the exam because they are practising their faith. We had a case of a particular candidate that could not write after the hijab was removed from head and had to wait till the following year.
“They applied to become a JAMB CBT centre in which they fulfil all rules and regulations as per physical structure and manpower before they are approved. But we found out that when the examination starts, they change tune and go against the regulations of JAMB. They can’t use their sentiments to affect the lives and future of these candidates. If they don’t want non-christians at their centres, they should not register as a CBT centre in the first place. We have reported this to JAMB and they said they are looking into it.”
She further advised all the centres to obey the stipulated rules and regulations, shun all forms of religious hatred and bigotry and called for patience and calmness on the side of the candidates.
“My advice to the churches is that they should be Christ-like and obey the laws. There are modalities from JAMB and they need to abide by them. If they are not comfortable with women in hijab or men that are visibly Muslims, then they ought not to apply for a public service.
“JAMB also need to roll out stiffer penalties to centres propagating the hatred. It is upon us as Nigerians that we should not promote our religions through hate and bigotry, but only through love.
“People should equally be patient. There is a solution to every problem. They should be calm and follow the rules and regulations as much as possible and they should know it is not part of the rules that their hijabs are removed before writing the exam,” she added.
Muslim News Nigeria