Imran Muhammad Ambursa, my Hausa friend, a colleague and a class-mate furnished my knowledge after interviewing him, about Almajiri Child, because basically, I usually thought Almajiri is a beggar or a peasant in a society. But alas, Almajiri in Arewa culture means studentship- someone who left his locality or who is made to leave his locality in quest of knowledge, Islamic knowledge particularly.
The interview, coupled with what my eyes have seen ever since my stay in Northern Nigeria: the children of unkempt bodies; struggling survival with bowls, the children of hungry bellies; with torn tattered clothes wore, the homeless children; wandering streets beneath scorching sun and sleeping verandas in night hours, would make me to go for transformation of Almajiri Education System in North rather than banning the system with lively facts and witting points.
The system has truly took another dimension and has lost its motive. My friend, Ambursa narrated to me of the olden days practice and nowadays practice of Almajiri education system. He stated that his father also went to Almajiri school during heydays in Zaria and after acquiring Islamic knowledge, he came back to his hometown before vying for Western education. He stated basically the reason then was that if one is allow to study within one’s vicinity and around one’s family and relatives, one would not be strengthen in such knowledge.
Arewa almajiri education system then, was just a custom of Arewa people to send their children to some Malams in particular areas (villages or cities) in order for those children to be imbued with Islamic knowledge, especially, memorization of Quran. Then, it was dainty with religion, moral right, natural justice and good conscience, because the aim then was to furnish the society with religious knowledge.
Pronto! Sarcastic enough and so ironic- nowadays you would see these Almajiris who have been sent away from their abode, from their biological parents to Malams in villages or cities, wandering streets with tattered clothes. You would see them at public places; filling stations, markets, motor-parks, a place-like cinemas, they wander romancing hot weather for their daily breads, they wander hugging cold weather for where to sleep, taking plastic bowls as their ever companies, silently singing songs of dirgeful nature and looking piercingly to beget what to eat! One million dollar question to be asked: are they orphans- without parents or are they without relatives? Sad.
My friend narrated to me the ordeals and traumas of this system, to which he witnessed and encountered “korokoro”. He shared live sad stories of some Almajiri children. To quote him verbally, he narrated:
“There is one boy, he use to wash dishes, everything for us. I asked him since when he was in this town, he said 7 (seven) years ago. He was from one village in Niger state. I asked him how far, do you memorise Quran, he said ‘No’. I said ‘Okay’ what did you memorise, he said 3 (three) hizbs. Imagine only 3 (three) hizbs for 7 (seven) years! Their fathers just like abandoning them!” He concluded.
He also narrated of one grownup Almajiri whose legs had forsaken his locality.
“There is one town we use to go to farming, one man now come, the man we were staying in his house. Told where he sent his child to Almajiri school five years ago and fortunately enough, we are at the village, the boy now arrived but cannot even recognize where his home was, they said this is your town but he didn’t even know where to go. He was just hanging around. It was one of the brother that saw him and shout Musa, are you the one? Hey! When did you come back? He now direct him to his house.”
Imagine. One ought to imagine these sorts of stories that are sour to one’s ears. But sad enough- poets/writers had tried, have been trying enough but yet no yield, using their inks to glue medulla oblongatas of our country: the stakeholders; the businessmen; the elder statesmen; the godfathers; the government officials; the royalties; the generals; the politicians, to do battle and pour water on the fire of this menace which is capable of causing arson to the whole nation! Kudos to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, the only administration sighted recently trying to sanitize Almajiri practice by partnering with Islamic Development Bank to build up to 35 modern almajiri schools across northern Nigeria, most of which have been abandoned by current state governments. Shame.
And sad enough- most of these Almajiris are not even acquiring Islamic knowledge, know not how to pray, freshen up not, memorise not Quran, wasting their precious life-time by planned “Beg-Chop-Sleep”, turning nuisance; one even need not to confirm the basis of thuggery for these Almajiris have been denied their “Educational Objectives” and “Social Objectives” as entrenched in Chapter II of Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Also, sad enough- as my friend unveiled to me the secrecy of some of those Malams, that a single Malam can have up to 200 Almajiris and during raining season, these Almajiris turn to men-fit-for-farm! That most of those Malams care not how their claimed-students survive, how they live, how they bath, how they sleep. Where are the Legal-Bulldozers to invoke section 34 of Chapter IV of Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria? Of right to dignity of human persons, of right not to be subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment, of right not to be held in servitude! Who will wake those slumberous parents that know, of course that Malams can’t at all cater for their children, yet, sending their children is their only choice to reduce the level of their own responsibility by hiding under the canopy of Islamic injunction that “seeking for knowledge is mandatory for all”?
The main recommendation for all these ‘palabas’ lies on government; for the security and welfare of the people is the premium and primary purpose of government- this is entrenched in section 14 sub (2) of (b) of Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Also, there ought to be local coordinators enlightening villagers or peasants of the consequence of irresponsible mass production of children, by killing the doctrine of “I-fit-do, I-fit-do” bedevilling in Arewa culture. Lastly, promulgation of a strictly enforced legislation(s) by Northern State Assemblies and National Assembly transforming these Almajiri schools to modern ones, like government public schools but they should be imbued with pure Islamic knowledge.
Preferably, the system ought to be banned but, it may result to conflict of interests or religious hullabaloo, hugger-mugger and ding-dong for many would opine on ‘pejorative’ of Islam. Time beckons…
©Hammed J. Sulaiman
Poet/Essayist/Writer, Student of Law from the Most Peaceful University in Nigeria, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. UDUS Pen Press Journalist. Editor at Winsala Muses Ltd. Editor/Publisher/Veteran Journalist with Republican Newspaper Nigeria.