Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
One of the greatest challenges of most governments in the North is the Almajiri phenomenon. It is largely represented in school-age children roaming the streets, begging for alms to take care of themselves or to return to their local clerics.
In many state capitals in the region, it is common to encounter many of these children at junctions, traffic lights and motor parks, armed with empty bowls, asking for alms. In many instances too, they could be found in homes of members of their immediate community, engaged in menial tasks assigned to them.
The tradition of Almajiri dates back in time but has only grown in this form in the post-colonial era, arising that in the end, a huge population of human resources in the region are untrained in the Western style of education or are missed out of government opportunities and upbringing like their contemporaries who are with their parents.
The Kebbi State Government in concert with some of non-governmental organizations attempted to address the problem through the instrumentality of free education and the introduction of some of the values of Western education to their schools. Some Islamic teachers were deployed to undergo Western educational programs organized by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School.
Only recently too, the Mass Literacy Programme and Almajiris Initiative (MALPAI) Foundation, run by wife of Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Aisha, celebrated restated its commitment to get these children back to school. The foundation vowed to do the needful to arrest the trend, which is beginning to affect the overall face of childcare delivery in the state.
Governor Bagudu said at the occasion that N900 million was earmarked for disbursement to Almajiri schools with a view to ensuring that every child acquired both Western and Islamic education. He declared that Almajiri schoolteachers and students would be supported financially: “Facilities such as accommodation, teaching and learning aides would be upgraded.
“Pupils would be taught English and Mathematics with a view to enabling them to progress in their studies up to colleges of education, polytechnics or universities. The aim is to assist the less-privileged, orphans and Almajiris to have a better life, which is the best programme of human development.” He urged parents and guardians to enroll their children in schools, assuring that government would support and encourage them to excel in all fields.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Basic and Secondary Education, Rafaatu Hammani, explained that there is a determined effort to ensure that no school age child is found roaming the streets during school hours. During an advocacy visit by the technical team on the Best Education Delivery for All (BESDA) to the Emir of Argungu, Samaila Muhammed Mera, She said: “The main objective is to give education to all children, especially the out of the school children, the Almajiris, nomads and fishermen children, I mean,, all categories of children. They will be taught in Hausa for the first three years.”
Desk Officer for the program, Hassan Umar, said 504 Islamic Quranic schools would be integrated into the mainstream education system, “50 percent of primary schools in the state would be involved in the literacy programme.”
Emir Mera directed district heads in his domain to commence the mobilization of out-of-school children for enrollment in their respective districts. He warned that each district head would be held responsible for the failure of the programme.
He said he has taken full responsibilities of the enrollment of the children while acknowledging that if all these out-of-school children were in school, the society would be a better place.