From the earlier write-up, in which we traced the brief history of the Almajiri system and how it started in the Nigerian context, it is clear that the system is completely free from the flaws that are associated with it today. The reason for that was clearly spelt out like the similitude of a person that was left to rot, with nothing of the necessities of continuity provided to him/her. It is natural that within little time he/she will degenerate and fizzle out. This is what has become of the fate of the system and all its various components.
So instead of singling out the Almajiri as an end product of a system left to itself to wither away into oblivion, the present policy makers and authorities are supposed to do justice to themselves and look at the near and remote causes of the present sorry state of the whole system.
The situation today is that on a daily basis, what we see are children, the supposed end products of the system, roaming about the streets in tattered clothes, mostly bare footed, extremely dirty, looking malnourished with dry lips and dry faces with rashes all over their body, moving from house to house, street to street, begging for arms, or following a local bread (masa) seller, or openly asking for something to eat. They have become a burden, as well as, a nuisance to the society. It is really sad when you see those small children hungry in the market places, car parks, restaurants, supermarkets including churches (even though they are Muslims) begging for food. They consume all kinds of food, fresh or stale. Their common food is known as Gajala or Dagwalgwale, which is a combination of different kinds of food like tuwo da miya, rice, yam, spaghetti and danwake, all in one container like a fresh vomit.
These victims of neglect were and are also of recent, victims of exploitation. Many people give them leftovers out of sympathy or after exploiting them for menial jobs. Many of them resorted to wheelbarrow pushing, street taunting and so on. It is a fact agreed by most researchers that the Almajiri system has deviated from its original purpose and is currently giving Islam, or rather Muslims, a bad name. These practices are totally un-Islamic and has nothing to do with Islam, whose message is clearly preserved in its primary sources of the Qur’an the Prophetic exposition and application of its contents.
Of course, it is not a choice of the child or his fault to choose this path, but it is the parents and authorities that could not foresee the problem this neglect would generate, and if left unattended. It is clear now on the basis on reports and studies that the Almajiris have become victims of circumstances, and were exploited due to their vulnerability into terrorist activities especially in the North-east. The Almajiri therefor became an easy target for radicalist groups to be brainwashed and recruited for violent, destructive and anti-social activities.
What are the Factors that Contributed to the Present Problems of the Almajiri
Some factors that contributed to the problems of Almajiri include:
Lack of commitment on the part of the government to reform the Almajiri system of education into the mainstream system after several decades of the appearance of the potential danger of abandoning millions of school going children roaming the streets.
As these are Nigerian children with all qualities of being citizens of this country. They have, according to law, equal rights with other children in the nation, as far as provision of basic amenities and services are concerned.
Parental non-concern and ignorance, as well as poverty, as most of these children come from peasant families and rural areas.
The responsibility of educating children, especially the basic and rudimentary knowledge of Islam rest squarely on the parents or guardians. It is only when such are not there, that the responsibility shifts to the community.
The system is also supposed to develop ways and means of maintaining itself, as obtains in other parts of the world.
The managers of the system with whatever they could get from the community in terms of charity and endowments, are to effectively utilize and invest for the continuity of the system. The government has a role here also of assisting and monitoring the progress of children.
The fact that the Almajiri goes out begging and living in bad condition does not mean that nothing can be done to fix the problems. Banning or abolishing Almajirci is not the solution, but what is required is that governments should not shy away from providing for these children as they are providing for other children in terms of facilities and conducive atmosphere for learning. The parents or guardians should also be made to partake in the responsibility as an imposition from the authorities. It is actually possible to revive and sanitize the system and make it work perfectly again. This can be done through adopting a holistic Governmental intervention. It is therefore critical at this moment for governments at all levels to consider Almajiris as citizens of this country for they swore with the Glorious Qur’an or Holy Bible to protect and provide them with opportunities and access to basic education.
Parents of these children should be enlighten and made to understand the harmful effects of the dangers posed by social ills as they affect the Almajiri system and the condition their children that are victims of bad behaviours, delinquencies and all sorts of evil in the society.
Prof. Isa Muhammad Maishanu, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org