In a country like Nigeria that is basically split between Christians and Muslims it should be explicitly clear in a place like a university that there should be room for religious diversity.
Nigeria’s learning and professional study environments should take the lead towards committing to equality, and freedom, most particularly freedom of religion and freedom of expression. And promoting gender equity which refers to promoting fairness in education.
There is a recent controversy which led to protest at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, that involved the Dean of the Faculty of Nursing, Professor Ajibade Bayo Lawal. The Dean was reported to have hand-picked a female student in a humiliating manner, for dressing in Hijab and covering her face with Niqab.
The Dean apparently was addressing the nursing students and practitioners on code and professional dressing.
Media reports revealed that witnesses to incident said that Professor Lawal stated that the approved code of dressing for the nursing students does not include wearing of hijab, or head scarf, or niqab, a veil used as a face cover.
During the incident Lawal reportedly targeted the fully dressed muslim female student in question, and in an authoritative manner with many students and staff around, requested for the matric number of the student. He then instructed the targeted female to choose from three options: It is either she goes and come back the next semester, next session or never come back again.
At the end of the reported questioning and verbal threats, the student who was begging the Dean while reportedly on her knees along with others, succumbed to the sudden enforcement and removed the niqab.
According to the media reports the same Dean while in another state of anger slapped a student.
As a result of this incident some students carried out a protest to raise issues of gender tension, as well as speak against the reported humiliation of a female Muslim student. This incident is clearly important on many levels.
Lawal’s reported open and angry acts in a setting featuring many persons in a professional learning venue put the school in an awkward situation in terms of how the school treat students in general.
The perceptions of gender discrimination are fully highlighted by the behaviour of a male in authority. The violations of rights of women and girls draw on the need for the school management to fully address this type of worries and pressures.
There is need to address how apart from students’ code of dressing, one man like Lawal can openly bar the wearing of religious symbols by targeting a female student for her rights to religious expression.
There is need for Nigerian universities and learning environments to adopt uniform policies or dress codes in professional departments or schools especially, that generally permits accommodations and exemptions from such policies or codes to as to allow students to wear religious clothes, head coverings, symbols, or other wears.
For promoting the school’s name in ridicule, mistreating the student’s self-esteem, and engaged in the suppression of free religious expression, Lawal could gain from being placed on some form of ‘calm down’ leave, and get general sensitivity training. The university and other schools must not be seen as allowing these discriminatory acts, as such this university should take actions on Lawal in order not to be seen as promoting attacks on and discrimination against women.
Let’s hope the victimized female sees thorough improvements and changes from the university as it could be sued by the student for creating a hostile environment on its campus that increased the likelihood of shaming and discriminating of women, intimidating and harassment of students, and allowing religion-based discrimination against females.
John Egbeazien Oshodi who was born in Uromi, Edo State is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government Consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional and Career Development. A former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at the Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African settings. In 2011, he introduced the State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and the Nasarawa State University where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. The Development Professor and International Liaison Consultant at the African University of Benin, and a Virtual Faculty at the ISCOM University, Benin of Republic. Founder of the Proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, Openness. Author of over 40 academic publications/creations, at least 200 public opinion writeups on African issues, and various books.
Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi, a forensic psychologist based in the United States, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org