The newly appointed Amirah (President) Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), Alhaja Rofiah Idowu Sanni has revealed how she survived victimisation and rejections as a teacher for using Hijab in public schools throughout her 35-year teaching career.
Sanni, a retired Principal, who now wears niqab (veil) revealed that she was rejected twice in public schools because of her Hijab.
She made the revelation in an exclusive with Muslim News on Tuesday, few days after she emerged the 10th Amirah of the faith-based Muslim women organisation.
Narrating her ordeal as a young teacher some years ago, Alhaja Sanni said she was rejected in the first and second public school in Oyo State, adding that, “to avoid rejection in the third school I was posted to, I came up with a plan, which helped me overcome the incessant molestation for using Hijab.”
According to her, “All glory and adoration are due to Allah. The most important thing in life is for people to know you for who you are. Before I started using niqob, everyone knows that no single person can toy with my Islam. Not only that, they know that I am also an advocate of Islam.
“The day I got my letter of assumption of duty, the first school I was posted to rejected me after seeing me on Hijab. That was in May, 1985. When I got to another school, I was rejected again.
“The irony is that I was to teach Physics and they were seriously in search of a Physics teacher, but just because of my mode of dressing, I was rejected.”
Sanni while speaking on how she sailed through the hurdles, narrated, “When I realised that it was because of Hijab they didn’t accept me, I came up with a plan when I was going to the third school. Sadly, the ministry didn’t see anything wrong in their action.
“When I got to the third school, it’s IMG Grammar School, Sharp Corner, Oke Ado, Ibadan, I removed my Hijab on getting to the gate. It wasn’t convenient for me but I said to myself, I must get this appointment. The principal and the staff were so much happy that a physics teacher had been posted to their school. Immediately, they gave me letter of resumption of duty. I was given the timetable and in no time, everybody became my friend.
“I did same the second day by removing my Hijab at the gate. I did that for 4 days, Monday to Thursday. During the period, I made sure I didn’t go late to school . As early as 6:30/7am, I was already in the school. That made the principal to like me specifically. In fact, I started assisting her children in thier physics assignment.
“On Friday of that week, I went to the school with Hijab. Then the Principal started shouting, saying what kind of dressing is this? Then, I pretended as if I am not Yoruba, because I had been speaking in English while in school. At the assembly ground, she was telling someone “Ni bo le ti ri Omo Alata yi”, meaning, where did you see this uncultured lady?
“So, she finally confronted me, asking, what’s wrong? I also asked her, what is wrong? I repeated everything she was saying.
“Why did you wear Hijab to the school today? Didn’t you know it’s not allowed?” She asked me, but I pretended I didn’t understand what she was saying in Yoruba.
“When she couldn’t bear it again, she called me to her office to challenge me again. Well, I changed the story for her. I told her, mummy, today is Friday, I will have to go to the mosque for Jum’at and my prayer will not be accepted without putting on Hijab. Then, she said, “okay, there is no problem. Just for Jum’at, right?”
“But on Monday, I used cape Hijab and she couldn’t bear it again, despite the fact that I didn’t use a big Hijab. That was the beginning of our quarrel. As we had this misunderstanding over Hijab, I didn’t go late to school. I was dedicated to my work. In fact, I resuscitated the MSSN in the school and everything was going on well, not knowing that she had gone to the ministry and Teaching Service Commission to report me.
“But, Alhamdulillah, Alhaji Adekilekun from Ede, who was a board member of the commission sent for me. He related everything that happened and my principal’s request to transfer me because of Islam, specifically my Hijab.
“I told him I don’t want to be transferred, unless the woman is transferred. That place is even far away from my home, but because she has requested for my transfer, I will not leave. I left and went back to school.
“She called for a staff meeting and started spewing hate speeches. I stood up to the challenge. I told her it’s because of Islam you hate me and I will not leave this school. As Allah will have it, few days later, she was demoted from Principal to VP for another reason, though I didn’t want that for her. But because of her hatred for Islam, Allah disgraced her from that school.
“A few months after that, l requested for my transfer to a nearby school to my house, because l was heavily pregnant,” she added.
Journey to Niqab
Alhaja Sanni, the wife of Alhaji Kunle Sanni, the Chairman of Oyo State Muslim Community, told Muslim News that she started using niqob when she became a principal.
“As a Principal, it wasn’t easy for anybody to tell me not to use either the Hijab or Niqob,” the New Amirah of FOMWAN said.
Alhaja Sanni however related the insult she got from a fellow Muslim for obeying Allah’s command on dressing.
“There was a time a man from the Ministry came to my school before using niqob. He said, what’s this nonsense you’re putting on? I replied him, what is the nonsense? Unfortunately that man happens to be a Muslim.
“I told him don’t come here to disgrace your fellow Muslim if you don’t understand that it is an injunction from Allah for a mature female Muslim to cover herself by wearing the Hijab, whenever she is going outside her home.
“Putting on Hijab is what Allah asks us to do and that’s what I am doing. The man later begged me after I reported the incident to NACOMYO. Before I knew it, the story had gone viral with people lambasting him and then, he came to beg me.
“So, when I started using niqob, the commissioner will come, other people in the education sector will come. I don’t care whatever they say because I am doing it for Allah, not them. They will later turn everything to joke by saying ‘Alhaja, we’ll like to see your face.’
“Alhamdulillah Rabbil aalamin, we have niqob sisters teaching in our schools who also faced rejections initially, but were later transfered to schools like Isabatudeen and Ansarudeen,” she added.
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