During the time we write the Qur’an from the heart, we are not allowed to take a peep at a copy of the Qur’an. Our Malam will not as well when he is checking our work, but if you compare what we write with the printed Qur’an, you will be amazed to see no difference. I mean every sentence, phrase, word, full stop and comma are correct! Our final year project is to write the whole Qur’an again without anyone checking from time to time until the whole book is written. At the end of all our exertions, we graduate and we are called Alaramma (one blessed by Allah).
When I finished, I became an authority in reciting and writing the Qur’an only. I would later move to a zaure (outer chamber of a Malam’s house) for further studies. I got ijaazah (complete permission) from my Malam to write, distribute and teach the Qur’an. All the years of toil, hardship and bara are over at last!
I am yet to decide on which zaure to attend where they will teach me how to understand the language of the Qur’an and other higher studies. I am also thinking of going back to my school and teaching others.
Our learning system in the Tsangaya that I have described is unique. If you go to any part of the world to study the Qur’an – Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and so forth – you will memorise it, know its meanings and exegesis, but you cannot know, for example, how many times a certain phrase is repeated; what is the textual difference between verses having similar messages, wording and intonation; you cannot, also, reproduce, verbatim, what you memorised as text; only a Tsangaya graduate can do that!
When the King Fahd Printing Press of the Glorious Qur’an opened in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, it invited more than 40 distinguished Qur’anic scholars around the world to work on the text of the Qur’an that the establishment will adopt. They went too far if you ask me; one scholar from a Nigerian Tsangaya, who may not even speak Arabic as a language, is pre-eminently qualified to do the job; he would have done that without checking any text of the Glorious Qur’an. That is what Allah has favoured us with even before Nigeria was born!
The other day President Jonathan said the Tsangaya system is the problem, and source of Boko Haram. No, Mr President! It is not. I am Almajiri from Tsangaya, and I am not Boko Haram. Tsangaya is rather a source of pride to this nation. It only needs help with better learning conditions, well-paid teachers and better student welfare to end begging. We don’t need help with curriculum, time-table, computers and school anthem. We don’t want much food or luxury either. We wish to remain frugal so that we will concentrate on our studies better. We want school uniforms and ID cards too; at least that way, you will fish out the impostors better.
While you’re at it, don’t give all these tasks to any contractor; they will ensure you fail. Have records of all Tsangaya Malams and their locations and standardize their living conditions and learning centres to make it easy for the students to learn better. Mandate the products of our school to get Boko education too. Don’t run the two concurrently; they don’t mix well. The Tsangaya studies are very intense and require complete concentration. It takes 7 years, at least. Help the Malams by reducing the ratio of students to teachers.
Graduates of our school do not become thugs and killers; that is the prerogative of those who did not go to school anywhere – neither our type nor Boko. Only ignorance breeds hatred. Ignorance of our education makes the Boko educated think we are illiterate; we are as illiterate in their language as they are in ours. Who said one is superior to the other?
We love Boko too; many of us finish from Tsangaya and start the Boko one afterwards. It will mean that we would start learning ABC at age 14, but we would have had 7 years of education in another field which the kids who got only Boko education can only dream of. In fact, I challenge any Boko professor to show that his thesis is superior to reproducing the entire Qur’an from memory both orally and textually. We get the best of both worlds.
Is the Almajiri School Project of the Jonathan government a genuine concern to improve our lot, or is it, rather, a political tool with which to hoodwink the gullible among our members? What is the aim of this project? Is it to strengthen or to weaken and destroy the Tsangaya system? But why can’t we support this initiative given the huge amount, a whopping 5 billion naira, the government is putting into the formation of 100 Almajiri Schools in over 18 Northern states?
Putting a lot of money into a government project does not translate into the success of the desired goal. Did the crazy amount expended in the power sector translate into more megawatts of electricity in Nigeria? Yes, the money is pumped in but siphoned out from another opening within the system, so, nothing happens. Look at the 100 Almajiri School Project under discussion, for example. Apart from the Steve Jobs-like dazzling commissioning of one Almajiri Model Boarding School each by the President and his vice, have you heard anything about the project? Media reports have it that less than 30% of such schools are almost ready but the remaining 70% are at various stages of completion, or are they? What happened to the 5 billion; so soon in the day?
The project is another opportunity for some people to help themselves to public funds, not least, at this time when public servants, sorry, public thieves steal in trillions.
Why should I support the handling of the future of my Tsangaya by people who have failed dismally in sustaining this country’s education system? If they want me to have faith in the Almajiri Project let them fix Nigeria’s dead public education section, and stop taking their children abroad for studies. Otherwise, the fate that befell the public schools is certain to engulf the Almajiri Project sooner rather than later.
Keep your Almajiri Project alive; keep stealing funds earmarked for the project; let your children take our quota as they are doing already, you will not see us in your classrooms! If you want to help us, help us within our system. Your modern buildings should be in an existing Tsangaya. If you provide a feeding arrangement and wages for our instructors, we shall not have any reason to beg whatsoever.
If you see anyone calling himself one of us on the streets afterwards, arrest him and he will produce his ‘employers’ who lurk in corners with keen eyes counting from afar the money you give to the boys. I have told you our timetable and begging schedule; even with that alone, you can weed out most of the fakes. Add standard uniforms and ID cards to that and you will help us a lot.
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