Facing the monstrous threat of Almajiri system

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Last year, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) raised alarm that the number of out of school children in Nigeria is frightening and a serious cause of concern.

The United Nations agency said although the global pandemic and the attendant lockdown that deprived children of school age from getting access to school, contributed to the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, the swelling insecurity and constant abduction of school children in the northern part of Nigeria continue to pose more serious danger.

However, coupled with the insecurity is the Almajiri system that continues in the 21st century in the north in spite the obvious benefits of formal education.

The system with root in Islamic education in northern Nigeria has become highly controversial due to its lack of parental care, vocational skills, and its promotion of poverty and delinquency. The absence of parental care exposes these young children to radicalisation and suitable recruits for anti-social activities and extremists. According to the former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the system produces recruits for the Boko Haram terrorists. “We have a major issue right now in the North about the Almajiri system. These are young boys, mainly those who have been abandoned by their respective parents. We know that many of them end up as Boko Haram terrorists.

“Right now, where are all the criminals coming from? Go to Kuje prison and find out the ages of the people who end up in jail. For those who are now insurgents and bandits, information reaching us is that many of the heads of those bandits are all young people, because of the way they have been trained. So, it shows immediately, and you don’t have to wait for 10 or 20 years to see the implications of not doing anything to tackle the menace of street children.

To have a policy-backed solution to the issue, the Senate Committee on Education in its 2020 report recommended the integration of the Almajiri Education into the Modern System of Education in the country. The committee urged the Federal Ministry of Education to intensify its sensitisation and advocacy programmes; and engagement of traditional and religious scholars on the plight of Almajiris, and the need to enroll them into the UBE system.

It is rather unfortunate that the state governments in the northern part of the country are less disturbed by the unfortunate reality of the Almajiri system and its threat to the region and the country as a whole.

How well can these states be committed when the 165 Almajiri Integrated Model Schools established by the Goodluck Jonathan administration are left to rot? In spite this we are however gratified that Katsina state is making move to reform and regulate the system. The Chief Judge of the state, Justice Musa Danladi-Abubakar said a committee has been set up to conduct census of all Almajiri schools in the state with a view to repositioning the system.

He said the findings of the committee would be reviewed and s policy, mechanisms, structures and regulations on how the system should work would be formulated.

The CJ also observed that the children have “become prey for unscrupulous politicians who engage them in political thuggery, sectarian/religious violence; some end up as recruits of extremist, religious and militant groups.” He said the contemporary Almajari system depicts the attitude of irresponsible parents that are insensitive and uncaring about the well-being of their children.

He said the situation of the Almajari system today was far from being a reflection of Islamic ideals and principles of seeking Qur’anic knowledge.

In readiness for the recommendation of the committee, they commend the Katsina State House of Assembly already passed the law establishing the State Zakat Agency which would be responsible for the reformation of the Almajiri system of education in the state.

We commend the Katsina state government for this bold initiative and we urge other states in the region to toll the same path. We are confident that should this initiative be followed to the latter, security would be restored to the region and socioeconomic development would pick up for the overall development of the country.

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