by Juliana K. Tauna, Kaduna
Northern leaders have been urged to collectively work together towards addressing the menace of Almajiri system by ensuring that these children benefit from their constitutional entitlements adequate healthcare, quality education, and other social amenities in the country.
This call was made Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, in an interview shortly after a dialogue with stakeholders on advancing the rights of Almajiri in Nigeria in Kaduna.
According to him, “The system has been bastardized by self individuals by running away from their parental care and responsibility on the guise of ‘learning Qur’an,’ while what we see now is the opposite, as many of them are being recruited by criminals.
“It is in the Northern Nigeria that we have high rate of out-of-school children, insecurity and poverty. If we continue to work this way, we will face serious problems.
“We want to work with serious government agencies, CSOs, to advocate to ensure that government at all levels come up with framework for implementing the reform of Almajiri system in the country and, also, take away the street children, who have no means of survival and parental care,” the director added.
He maintained that, there is need to save the children, who are victims of the situation in which they are often recruited by politicians to fuel political violence so as to achieve their selfish interests, while some grow up as criminals, involving in drug abuse.
He, however, urged parents to be responsible for their children, adding that “nothing is wrong with the search for Qur’anic knowledge but not with the street begging.”
In a separate interview, Dr Salisu Bala, who is senior lecturer in the Department of History at Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria, while speaking on his view on Almajiri education said government needs to do a lot to ensure integration of Almajiri to conventional system, but stressed the need for synergy between them.
Bala, who is also Deputy Director of Arewa House Centre for Historical Documentation and Research, on his view about the Almajiri system in Nigeria added that government need to do a lot in the area of the Almajiri education, in order to ensure a positive achievement.
He gave a background note on the system, saying, “This is a system that, around 1959 to 1960, the Sardauna (of blessed memory) sent two delegations to Egypt and Pakistan to study the systems in those two countries and come up with a report; and it is unfortunate to say that up to this time, we are still battling and facing problems in the area of the Almajiri system of education, and the government needs to do a lot, including the civil societies, NGOs, in order to overcome some of the major challenges we are facing today.”
He decried that, Boko Haram is another serious problem – where they recruit members through the Almajiri and other banditry groups, who serve the purpose of Boko Haram, including all the other banditry groups that are inherent in the northern state of the country.
While calling on government on the need to embark on the integration of Almajiri system into conventional system, Dr Salisu Bala noted also that “the integration is not enough, if you integrate the Almajiri system into the conventional system.
“It’s as if you are telling the Almajiris to abandon their own system of education, which they inherited centuries ago, to embrace Western culture. It’s not going to work,” he said.
He explained that, there is need to marry the two systems together as well as to support the Malams to ensure that those, who memorize the Holy Qur’an, will be given a kind of certificate as well as a status in the society, government remuneration and access to Western education.
“It is high time for government to come up with
laudable programs at the
Nigeria Board of Arabic Studies, Universal Basic Education Commission on
the Almajiri system of education.
“There is need for synergy between government and owners of the Sangaya as well as those, who are heading the affairs of the Almajiri system of education on ways to resolve the problems. The gesture will go a long way in addressing the problems,” he said.
He explains that, neglect on the group denies them their fundamental rights and also jeopardizes the country’s pursuit of her home-grown technological development and economic transformation.
According to him, it is worrisome that there is no special attention to the Almajiri and other street kids, who are already exposed to poor health conditions and at risk of exposure to the (Corona)virus, given their situation.
“The benefactors of this system of education, who are aged between 4 and 12 years, constitute the largest group of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Estimated at 9.5 million (UNICEF, 2014) of the country’s 13.2 million out-of-school children, they are largely deprived of access to adequate nutrition, healthcare, education, jobs and other social services and protection,” he narrated.
He reiterated on the need to be accountable on the plight of the Almajiri whose vulnerability is as a result of the actions and inactions of adults without recourse to their consents.