The plan by the Kukah Centre, Abuja, to build skills acquisition centres where almajiri children in the northern parts of the country can acquire vocations of their choice is laudable. The Most Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, who is the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese and the founder of the Centre, unveiled the plan at a recent workshop on “Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement” for Muslims and Christians, held in Minna, Niger State. Kukah stated the obvious when he said the plan, which was roundly endorsed by the Muslim and Christian leaders at the dialogue, has the power to reduce societal vices, as the children would be empowered and gainfully engaged.
The sad experiences of the country with regard to youth restiveness and criminality support the reverend gentleman’s point, and we are happy that the centre is set to address these problems. All levels of government, religious organisations, traditional institutions and all well-meaning Nigerians who can afford it have a responsibility to contribute to the efforts to stop the rising wave of abandoned and disempowered children in the country. This is a problem that requires all hands on deck if we are to reverse the embarrassing trend and its negative implications for the present and future of the country.
The plan, when fully implemented, will help to take its beneficiaries off the streets. This is very important as the number of out-of-school children, especially in the northern parts of the country, is high. The beneficiaries would be expected to get the most basic education, even as valuable skills and careers are put in their hands.
It is exciting that both Christian and Muslim leaders are agreed and collaborating on this initiative. What this means is that it would have the added benefit of improving inter-religious harmony and understanding, especially in the far north, which the Kukah Centre is targeting for this empowerment scheme. The history of religious intolerance and violent extremism in these parts of the country can hardly be divorced from the failure of our leaders, over the years, to empower large numbers of children in these places with life sustaining skills.
When there is an improvement in interfaith dialogue and collaboration, it will promote national harmony and cohesion. That would be a good place for our country to arrive at, because for far too long, the country has been plagued by religious and ethnic disharmony. This has greatly denied us the opportunity to fully harness the nation’s vast potentials. It is initiatives like this one from the Kukah Centre that can help the country to solve the almajiri problem. We, therefore, call on similar organisations both at home and abroad to support it.
The country, hopefully, is wiser now in the midst of the Boko Haram insurgency which has ravaged the North-East geo-political zone for years now. It has been found that our governments’ abdication of the responsibility to educate and empower the large armies of roving children over the years, and the particularly harsh environments in which the children found themselves, inadvertently channeled some of them into criminality and terrorism.
This is why the Kukah Centre initiative could not have come at a better time than now that such efforts are required to build the almajiri into responsible citizens that the nation can be proud of.
No effort should be spared, therefore, to ensure that this good plan comes to fruition.
The Kukah Centre, it was disclosed, would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign partner to ensure an effective execution of the plan. Let everything that is required be done to ensure that the targeted children benefit from it.
We cannot wish for more.
We call on other public-spirited organisations to do more to get Nigerian children and youths off the streets. It is in the interest of the country to get the almajiri off the streets. The Kukah Centre initiative is an intervention that should even have come much earlier. But then, as is often said, it is better late than never.