Tackling the Almajiri challenge

By Femi Ogunshola, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

The Almajiri system of Islamic education is now deep rooted in northern Nigeria. Almajiri derives from an Arabic word, rendered “al-Muhajirun,” in English literal translation, meaning a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.

However, the challenge of the Almajiri education in Nigeria is well known, as the children instead of being in school roam the streets, begging for arms.

This menace is thriving because of the apparent tacit support of parents and Quranic teachers.

However, efforts by successive administrations to address the menace has proved abortive, while most northern governors resorted to threat to arrest parents whose children roam the street begging for alms.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in his bid to put an end to the practice, established Almajiri schools across some northern states, but till date, teenagers of the Almajiri schools, dot most cities of northern Nigeria begging for arms.

Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State said the plan of the state government was to integrate them to formal education, while not depriving them the right to be taught religious matters.

Speaking through the State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Shehu Muhammad-Makarfi, the governor noted that the state government would integrate Almajiri schools into the state’s formal education system.

He said that the government would discuss with Quranic teachers to assuage their fears and agree on a format for the full integration of the Almajiri schools.

According to him, we want to meet them in order to identify problems and agree on ways to address them for the smooth integration of Islamic schools into formal education.

He said that part of government’s plan was for the Almajiri school students to attend formal schools in the mornings.

“The Almajiri school students will be allowed to do their normal Quranic studies, but they will be taught English and Mathematics, from there we will get to know their actual problems,” he said

“There is nothing wrong in accommodating Almajiri into classrooms.

“Let them come in and study, but they should bear in mind that they will be taught formal education.

“We don’t want a situation where pupils are going round without formal education.

“Remember they can memorise Holy Quran and when you eventually give them the chance for formal education, you will be surprised with their performance.”

Mr Nasir Muhammed, a Jigawa based journalist, said looking for alms and left over food is what they know how to do best, they will not think of going to school but to make money for their parents.

He noted that the only way to check the Almajiri in the north is to stop their parents from “sending them to beg for alms or the government should come hard on parents whose children are into Almajiri.’’

The journalist stressed that lack of policy for free education for the boys may have contributed to their unwillingness to go to school.

He called for free education policy for both boys and girls, adding that leaving the boys out of free education policy would only make them vulnerable to Almajiri

He criticised Jigawa Government education policy that gives priority to girl-child education.

Prof. Ahmed Modibbo, former Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), noted that northern states’ governors frustrated the integration of the Almajiri school system with basic education.

He stated that the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan spent about N15 billion on the construction of more than 100 model schools in the north to reduce the number of children roaming the streets in the region.

According to him, the schools are rotting away as they have not been put to use since they were constructed years ago.

He spoke at an event, with the theme: “Before the Ban on the Almajiri System of Education in Nigeria,’’ organised by the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.

Modibbo stated that the Almajiri system failed when the colonial administration stopped giving support to Islamic education in 1922, following the establishment of the first teachers’ training college in Katsina.

He, however, expressed hope that with the comprehensive blueprint and draft plan of action introduced by the UBEC in 2017, the implementation of the Almajiri Quranic education project will succeed.

An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Zakariya disclosed that the education system of Saudi Arabia has never witness the kind of Almajiri being practised in Nigeria especially in the northern part of the country.

According to him, the Almajiri we operate here is neither Islamic in nature, it is devoid of the basis of understanding of Islam.

The Islamic scholar queried why the emphasis on Almajiri should be only on boys and not the girl-child

The colonialists understood that the north had a system of administration, but they vowed to distort the whole process via western education, he alleged.

He stated that those who want to eat and take undue advantage of hapless citizens, feasted on the word Almajiri to perpetrate their nefarious act.

Zakariya said that Almajiri is not an Islamic form of education, but a means to take advantage of those who do not study the Quran.

Stakeholders should ensure comprehensive implementation of Draft Plan of Action produced by the UBEC in 2017 in order to end the Almajiri menace. (NANFeatures)

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