Decades after failing to consummate the growing rate of almajiri and out of school children in Nigeria, the federal government recently embarked on advocacy visit in the affected areas to meet with traditional rulers and states government to work together and reduce the number of children roaming the streets. Now, there seems to be a glimmer of hope as traditional rulers agreed to seek ways to integrate the system into western education. HENRY TYOHEMBA reports.
There are an estimated 10.5 million children on the streets begging for alms, specifically known as al majiri in the northern part of the country. These children often become a pool that can be tapped into by anybody with evil intentions. The federal government, following these issues, established over 153 special schools to cater for the needs of such children across the federation. Yet, there seems to be much to be done as most of these schools are based on Islamic learning rather than the basic education meant for every Nigerian child.
Recently, the federal government embarked on an initiative which involved meeting with the Northern emirs and states government to officially hand over these schools and seek for their cooperation in ensuring that the almajiri schools in the region are being integrated into the western education, could make the children so utilised. The traditional rulers, on their part, pledged to use their position to sensitise and encourage their people on the necessary need to integrate the basic education into the almajiri school system and provide other necessary assistance.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that there are a number of laudable critical challenges ranging from feeding, shortage of teachers, lack of water and electricity in these schools. However, the major challenge has been the unwillingness of some Ulamas to cooperate with the federal and state governments which is hindering the success of the al majiri schools.
Our findings further revealed that these al majiri schools could not be utilised because there is no formal certification given after graduating from their schools. Integrating the basic education in the system will enable them to acquire the knowledge of both which will enable them utilise their studies.
The programme of almajiri children, which actually started during the late president Umaru Yar’ adua’s administration, was inherited by former president Goodluck Jonathan and thereafter, the programme continued. Now, among the 153 al majiri schools constructed all over the federation, north east has a fair share of 40 of such schools.
The executive secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Hamid Bobboyi, who spoke during an advocacy and monitoring of projects executed in the north east states where issue of out of school children is worst hit, said basic education is the right of every child so it is in that regard, that the commission came out to go round the schools to identify the challenges and meet all the stakeholders to find a solution.
Represented by the Waziri of Gujba, Ali Gaji Grema, the UBEC boss said the whole idea was to meet with traditional rulers and states government to look deep into how this ugly trend can be eliminated
Speaking in that regard, the Shehu of Borno, His Eminence, Alh (Dr) Abubakar Umar INB Garbai, who commended government officials for making the move, explained that it is something very important and assured that he would keep on telling his people about the importance of the project through sensitisation and advocacies. “I will assemble my district heads and discuss this important issue with them so that a solution can be found.”
Recently, the minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, said the number of out- of- school children in the country had dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million in the last three years due to what he described as the efforts of the president, especially with the school feeding programme.
The chairman of SUBEB, Bauchi chapter, Prof Yahaha Ibrahim Yero in response to this, said that the main problem is that there is no substantive figure being carried out to know the exact number. According to him, the figure could be higher or lesser than the one given. Yero further lamented the self-centered persons, who, for their sole interest are encouraging the issue of street roaming by children because they are benefitting from it.
“The biggest challenge of this is from some self-centred scholars who are not happy that these children are taken off the streets. Some scholars are benefitting from it and they don’t want it to be checked. This is a bitter truth but those who are concerned know that these problems exist,” he said.
Unlike Yero, the Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Mohammed A Abubakar, who welcomed the delegation in his office, said it is always a pleasure to see a committee of that nature coming to your state, especially the one involving the al majiri education, purely basic education and the progress and how it can be sustained and continued with.
He said the advent of his administration has always been to make education the top priority because without basic education for the youths, they don’t have any future.
Represented by the Chief of Staff, Abdu Sule Katagum, the governor said: “Everybody is not happy about the way almajiri situation is going on. Children are still roaming the streets and homeless. The traditional Ulamas, who are used to this system, don’t want to let go so, all of us have to put our hands together; federal government, local government and traditional institutions to make sure that we try. The inbuilt psychology of our people is worn out, let them realise that it is better to allow these children to go to school and learn.
“Of course, everybody knows Boko Haram. Anything can come up. They are a pool of warriors that can be tapped into by any evil mined person. So, we have to avoid them falling into the hands of these people.”
To accomplish the mission, the team similarly visited Yobe State where heads of government agencies, traditional rulers and the al majiri schools were visited to identify the shortcomings and look for a way out. The Yobe State governor, Dr Ibrahim Gaidum, appreciated the members of the committee for the visit and pledged to give his total support to eliminate the out of school children in the country.
Gaidum, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Baba Mallam Wali, said the issue of almajiri is a situation which has been in the system of education in the northern part of the country, especially in Borno.
According to him, about 1,000 years ago, that was the system of education practiced since the establishment of the Kanem Borno Empire.
He said a lot of Mallams were there during that particular period in order to educate and that was how the Islamic education was disseminated in the North East and throughout the Southern Sudan area.
The governor said, “Mallams are the ones being provided everything but as time goes on, economy changes, and a lot of modernisation has happened.”
“I think this is the first step you have started. We have six schools in Yobe and compared to the number of Islamic scholars in the almajiri’s, it is still minimal.
“But it is a good experiment which we can start with SUBEB and expand and if the experiment works very well, we can think of how to replicate this system into other areas. So, by handing over these schools to SUBEB, they will start operating the system. So, it is going to be a very big experiment in the six schools in Yobe. We have started something about it and are presently in discussion with some of the Ulamas around the areas where these schools are located. So, once the experiment goes on, we are going to monitor it and see the performance of the schools.
“Here in Yobe, we have a lot of Islamic schools now. These Islamic schools are another window where you have most Islamic education and formal education. In fact, we started with Islamic colleges in order to marry the two so that people can now understand that what is Islamic education is Western education,” he added.
Everybody is not happy about the way almajiri situation is going on. Children are still roaming the streets and homeless.
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