Oct 2, 2010

Almajiri and the MDGs

There are ample indications that Nigeria may not meet up its Millennium Development Goals on Universal Primary Education. Besides the shortcomings of educational institutions regarding the provision of quality education needed, there is also the problem of the Almajiri

The word ‘Almajiri’ is a Hausa interpretation of the word ‘disciple.’ An Almajiri is a Koranic student who has chosen to dedicate his life to the study of the Holy Koran with the express aim of enhancing the growth and advancement of Islam. He is expected to distance himself from worldly things to avoid distractions from his primary divine responsibility. He must live a life of sacrifice

Parents are expected to offer their children for the cause. Thus a child as young as five leaves his parents and his immediate community to a Koranic school hundreds of kilometers away from his home.

Wealthy Moslems are expected to make donations to such Islamic schools to enable them carry out their activities. The schools unfortunately are often the subjects of neglect as such individuals often fail to live up to the divine call. The schools are, as a result, scenes of deprivation and squalor. Due to this, the Almajiri is pushed into the streets to beg in order to survive.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that parents who have in the past given their children for the noble cause are now giving out the kids for the return the children bring as a result of begging.

The Almajiri issue has become a constant source of embarrassment to the governments and the people especially in the north of the country. In an effort to overcome the problem, the governments of some northern states that include Zanmfara, Bauch Gombe, Kaduna and Kano started a programme aimed at integrating almajiri schools to the conventional schools. Following this noble initiative, the streets of the affected states are expected to be free of all Almajiris

Plateau State in central Nigeria is predominantly a Christian state and the Almajiri phenomenon has never been rare in the state. In the past four years however, there has been a sudden influx of Almajiris into Plateau State. You see them in the street of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. The kids with ages ranging from 5 to 11 years come from remote villages in Adamawa, Kano, Gombe, Bauchi and Yobe states. These are kids running away from the hybrid schools in their states

At the Jos Railway station where I met some of these kids, I asked them why they are not in traditional schools. Their answer was that they have not been sent to the schools by their parents. I then asked their opinion about such schools and all of them agreed that they would have preferred to be in those schools but since their parents having not sent them, they have been left with no options. I brought out my mobile phone to take pictures. The little ones ran away despite my promise to pay a token in return.

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