In the days of my secondary school, we have our morning assembly in a faction that is rare. It is a school with a population of Muslims and Christians. There is no secret in religion perhaps that is what makes Middle Eastern religions to stand out. Back to the matter, we all assemble together for the morning devotion and information sharing. The Muslims have the prayer and praise session first with some Islamic rhythms and rhymes as well as Suratul Fathiat and other Ayat from the holy Quran. The Christian follow suit with some praise and worship then a prayer session. The students that want to cover their hair put on barrettes. We know that it is not compulsory for a Muslim child to wear hijab until she attains puberty.
The prayer session is usually followed with an announcement from the school authorities and any other information. The only exemption is on Wednesday when the Guardian and counseling unit takes over for some inspirational talks on success and etiquette.
In many of the classes, we had the mix of Muslims and Christians except in a few classes that may have a high population of Muslims, Igbos and so on. In such a situation in junior schools, you might find a level or two with a unique Muslim population. This is to make it easier for the teaching of Islamic Studies (IRS) and to prevent the disorderliness that occurs when merging for religious or language subject. However, that didn’t happen to me.
My class had a population of all Muslims, Christians, Igbos, Hausas, and Yorubas. It was a wonderful experience as we were not bigots neither did we spread inherited hates, perhaps this could only occur in Lagos, a city known for its hospitality to all humans.
On Fridays, the school closes by 11:40 pm. There was a school bus to take Muslims to the University mosque. However, because of the unreliability of the bus, many Muslims students trek the distance to the mosque. During award ceremonies, rewards were given on merit. In my clique of four, we were three Muslims and one Christian. In my class, I can say there was a larger population of Christians but it mattered less.
Do teenagers really care about religious differences? It was either you were famous or not, brilliant or otherwise, fashionable or not, show-off of vanity in the quality of designers students wore and lots more. Can you blame us while we were young at heart? We left the religious bigotry to the adults who paid the bills. In all, it was either you are good and nice, or you were mean and annoying. It will take years for me to realize that not all experienced the tranquility of an unbiased educational environment.
Perhaps the motor of the school (Excellent in Learning and Character) guarded their principles, the fact that they had a well-enlightened set of Parent Teacher Association and boards led by professors and generals. Either way, I am proud of a product of an atmosphere that practice tolerance and coexistence without prejudice.
No teacher ever spread hate speeches, well again the Boko Haram crises hadn’t begun even when the situation changed in 2001 following the 9\11 bombings. We all know that if anything happens to the United States, it happens to all nation. This is because the US has in it representatives of all religions and races. All countries have a significant number of her citizens residing in the US. I remembered when our Government Teacher asked us to debate about the US invasion of Iraq. I argued against and stated that the US had breached all protocols, there was no evidence of a nuclear power plant in Iraq and that in all war, there must be an economic gain. I won the argument not by religion but by facts.
That is how diversified and insightful we were trained to reason and establish our argument convincible beyond a reasonable doubt.Yes, there was a Bible Society, a Muslim Society along with other social clubs of interest.
In Today’s reality even though the Nigeria Constitution safeguards the rights to the religion of each students irrespective of who owned the school, many private schools have now fallen into the borderline of Muslim schools or Christian schools.
“No religious community or denomination shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any place of education maintained wholly by that community or denomination. (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Promulgation 1999 no. 24.)”
I highly note that the Muslim schools makes it difficult for Christian children to attend because of their strict religious dressing and curriculum. The Christians, on the other hand, are accused of luring Muslim students then cunningly converting them. For example, Muslim students that do not close their eyes during prayers are beaten or given the deliverance speech of being tempted by the devils.
When the Lagos state government introduced the religious and national value subject where all religious teaching would be taught together, many religious bodies kicked against it. In the end, the Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Religious Studies had to be taught separately. When the prophet said “seek for knowledge even if it is as far as China” May I remind you that China was Buddhist even during the time of the prophet.
I ask what exactly are we hiding? Are we scared of the children developing their religious values themselves?