For the parents, the almajiri system provides an outlet, and a drainage for the excess children at home. For the authorities, it is a relief that they do not have to budget for about seven million Almajiri children’s education and welfare. As for the elite, they don’t care as long as their own children are not involved. But let us remember this adage: a mad dog does not hesitate to bite anybody including the owner of the dog.
Beyond the deluge of tears, beyond the passionate intensity of countless orgasms, the future of our children, of our own mortality and ancestry awaits our constant vigilance and careful nurturing. No seed grows into harvest joy without the planter’s diligent labour of love. Until we come to this understanding, as parents, as family, as community, we will forever stand condemned by the anguish in the eyes and the voices of our children, forever guilty of the nurturing of prospective soul (s) into the devouring jaws of the streets.
Of the many crimes committed in the society today, under-aged children are taking the lead. This is seriously alarming, and if nothing is done and urgently too, our society will never know peace until we pay the full price for the children we have abandoned; until we learn to do the right thing for these children abandoned to the streets. And beyond the children, our society must also learn to do right by the class of socially and economically disadvantaged people produced by various spheres of the society. This is not a prophecy of doom, but from the way the menace of children abandonment to the streets is escalating.
The issue of street children has become one of the most widely discussed social tragedies, but still, a cankerworm that refuses to die. People are witnessing a deluge of talk about the plight of these children, from newspaper articles to radio talkshows, television documentaries and elegant academic discussions. There are also countless NGOs supposedly working for the interest of street children. Well-attended workshops and conferences have been convened on the subject. Even government claims to be doing its very best to address the problem. Yet, in spite of all these well-publicized efforts, the problem seems to be growing big and bigger.
When you look at the almajiri system in the society today, the National Council for the Welfare of Destitutes (NCWD) estimates the current population of the almajiri to be about seven million. One can imagine seven million potential journalists, judges, accountants, engineers, doctors, physicists, computer scientists, etc, wasting away. The system as it is presently being practiced has outlived its usefulness. The system lacks good teachers and a fairly healthy environment. Yet, the society and the parents have abdicated their obligations of properly caring for and educating their children. These bowl-carrying children have now become so ubiquitous in almost all nooks and corners of the northern states such that we would almost be made to believe that, that is where, Almighty God wants them to be.
But the society should remember that God has given us these children in trust, and given us guidelines on how to bring them up and will surely ask us on the Day of Judgment about what we have done in the discharge of that aspect of what He entrusted to us. As it was rightly observed by Professor Idris Abdulqadir, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence between the parents, authorities and the society at large. For the parents, the almajiri system provides an outlet, and a drainage for the excess children at home. For the authorities, it is a relief that they do not have to budget for about seven million Almajiri children’s education and welfare. As for the elite, they don’t care as long as their own children are not involved. But let us remember this adage: a mad dog does not hesitate to bite anybody including the owner of the dog.
One of the almajiri children, Halilu Bello in Rijiyar Zaki shared his experience: “Honestly, I suffer very well, every day, going from house to house to fetch water, doing wanki and wanke-wanke, which literary means washing clothes and plates. When asked whether he knows his parents, the boy said: “Honestly, I know my father, I have seen him once, but right now, I don’t know where he is.” He added: “I don’t know my mother, and I have not seen her before.”
Good enough, it is commendable as most parents create little out of their tight schedule to see that their children are given the best parental supervision and guidance. But it is not enough as more efforts need to be intensified in order to ensure that abandonment of children to the streets becomes a thing of the past.
To this end, the media must place priority on the reportage on this menace to ensure that it is curbed. In this regard, the media needs to increase the tempo of disseminating information and create television programmes that will create mental pictures in the minds of parents on how they should take care of children. The government on its part, must ensure that proper sanctions are put in place for the offenders whose child is found on the street. With these, it will go a long way in alleviating street children.
► Aondover Eric Msughter, wrote from Bayero University, Kano via the email: [email protected]