From Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Ahmed Inusa, aged 11, is an amaljiri. His foot tells it all: White, bare and coarse as a result of years of trekking within and around the ancient Kano city, Kano State.
With a white- defaced bowl, a tattered upper wear that could barely pass as a shirt, a torn short and a ready-made melody that pinches the the giver’s soul, he is set for his daily alms begging venture within the metropolis.
Each morning, he treks pass Igbo Road, Sabon-Gari and returns a few hours later, through the same path.On his way going out or returning home, to resume at his school somewhere at Konar-Hudu Quarters, he picks from everywhere, including the dustbins and begs from everybody that catches his fancy.
Inusa told Daily Sun that many of his colleagues come from different Islamic schools at Brigade, Konar Jaba and from small towns along Ungogo while observing that each day, they trek towards Abubakar Rimi Market, (Sabon-Garri Market) Singer Market, up to Abattoir and Kanti- Kwarii Market, where they are certain to encounter benevolent givers or better still, buyers at the market who need their assistance for a token.
But Inusa is certainly not alone in the alms -begging. Hundreds of other under-aged boys walk the same pathway in the ancient city, eying different popular markets and juicy spots for alms.
The sad truth is that these under-aged beggars are back in town. At every turn of the state capital, they are there in numbers. They are easily found along Airport Road, Bata, Zoo Road, WAPPA, BUK Road, Zaria Road, Hotoro among others.Often, they situate themselves at junctions, bus –stops, motor- parks, markets and worship centres, including homes of wealthy individuals, where they knock at the gates, asking for food or any other give-away.
These almajirai recently invaded Sabon–Garri despite the fact that this is predominantly a non-Muslim residential quarters. This area is a safe nest for their exploits as they are unlikely to be picked up by the Islamic police -Hisbah guards – that sometimes checks their presence within the Hausa/ Muslim dominated areas.
Daily Sun investigation reveals that at nights, they come after outdoor fun seekers, trace them to their beer – drinking joints and parlous and get them to part with something. They typically move from seat to seat and table to table, looking at their targets straight in the face, invoking pity and pains.
According to Brown Ogechi, a 70-year-old pensioner, there are indications that “many of those under- aged people, who were evacuated from the state at the peak of the pandemic have since found their way back to the state.”
He noted that with the present number of almajirai on the streets, “it is obvious the state government has given up on arresting the scourge. It will be an embarrassment if government fails to implement all that it said it was introducing to correct the almajiri system.”
Abubakar Ado, a teacher with a college of education in the state, absolved government of blame over the resurgence of almajiri- beggars.
He argued that with the threat of the pandemic, government saw the almajirai as a major traffic of C0VID-19 but held that with the threat a bit over, government may have decided to thread more cautiously on the matter, given the amount of resistance it generated:
“The religious institutions are very powerful in Kano and you cannot succeed as a government if you dare to ignore their concerns. I guess the government decided to depriotitize the whole idea. That is why you see the boys everywhere.”
At the height of the pandemic last year, the 19 northern governors resolved to end the practice and culture of almajiri in the region.
In Kano, Governor Abubakar Ganduje outlawed begging, announced a free and compulsory education program and repatriated over 2000 almajirai to their home states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Gombe, Bauchi, Kebbi, and Zamfara.
In return, he received Kano State-born almajirai operating in other states, pledging to admit them into three new additional almajiri boarding schools located in Kiyawa, Bagwai Local Government; Kanwa, Madobi LG and Bunkure, Bunkure LG.
Mohammed Kiru, Commissioner for Education, had announced that each of these schools could admit 320 almajirai in the first year, adding that they are expected to receive an intake of a total of 960 almajirai in the first year of take-off:
“Kano State Government has already produced an integrated curriculum that contained Quranic studies, memorization and some normal education and after graduation, we have secondary schools, which would provide for a successful transition of these students.”
In addition to these, Ganduje set out new guidelines for the establishment of almajiri schools: “For anyone to establish an Islamic school in Kano State today, we have to make sure that there are provisions for their dormitory, there is a feeding arrangement and there is a holiday and break period in their curriculum.”
Kiru admitted to Daily Sun: “Internally, we have taken care of our own almajirai. We put up a law called Free and Compulsory Basic Education, passed by the state House of Assembly and signed by Governor Ganduje.
“I have taken this bill to the five mirs, the emirate councils urging them to also disseminate the same information to the district heads, to the village heads and ward heads so that the people under their charge will be aware that there is now a law in place that you must take your children to school, either conventional primary school or to the Tsangaya schools.
“All the almajirai that were repatriated to Kano during the pandemic, we have taken care of them. We have handed over to the local government chairmen and have provided clothes and medication to these children. In addition, we profiled each and every one of them and now we are given them admission in one of our almajiri schools that is coming on board.
“But the problem we are facing now is that there is no law to take care of intruders and when I say intruders, what I mean is children coming from other states into Kano. We truly need a law to take care of that aspect so that we will be able to prosecute whoever is sending his child to Kano to come and beg.
“Our main problem is this law that has passed the second reading in the state House of Assembly and as soon as we get that law, I assure you that all these street beggars or under- aged beggars that you see will become a thing of the past.”
He said the proposed law would empower the state to prosecute the parents of such under- aged children irrespective of whether they are resident in Kano or outside Kano, adding that even the teacher of an almajiri who is caught begging on the streets would be prosecuted:
“There is no where that the law cannot pursue you. If you commit an offence in Kano, the law will pursue you.”