Almajiri: Open letter to Northern Governors
By Abdu Abdullahi
Your Excellencies may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you as you serve humanity with utmost dedication and lofty sacrifices. May He continue to guide your fruitful thoughts and actions for the provision of good governance that ensures socio-economic justice and prosperity for your people.
I sincerely salute your dogged courage and uncommon perseverance as you are heavily saddled with tremendous challenges of governance. It is really and profoundly appreciating how you relentlessly strive for human and physical development amidst scarce resources.
Your government is popularly known and described as government of the people, by the people and for the people. In other words, it is not discriminatory. It is an all inclusive government in form, character and functions. It is presumed to serve the interest of all segments of the society. This globally modern government is the hope of the hopeless, the defense of the defenseless and the voice of the voiceless irrespective of gender, age, tribe, religion and of course, social status.
Thus, it is strongly believed that you have the full capacity to meet the diverse needs, yearnings and aspirations of your people.
You are aware of the social dynamics of your people and their different aspirations. For instance, the elite are part of your social fraternity even though they don’t hold political offices. Their socio-economic security is formidable and cannot be destroyed. They hold the key to their future. Though unemployment is biting very hard yet, young Nigerians undergoing courses in universities and other tertiary institutions are hopeful for a bright future when they complete their studies. The class of the Nigerian entertainers is not losing hope either. In fact, the members’ living is continuously upgraded. To show the relevance of soccer entertainment, the Jigawa state government recently declared open a modern stadium in Dutse which gulped more than 500million Naira.
A little child attending a primary school has focus and ambition. The pupil wants to complete his or her primary education successfully, proceed to junior and senior secondary schools to end up with good results and build a foundation for the future. Their parents, the society and even your government have great hope in them for, they will be tomorrow’s leaders.
Your Excellencies, from these narrations, I am trying to raise the impression that depending on one’s socio-economic status, our hopes are high and low. These hopes are directly or indirectly influenced by your programmes, policies, projects. Thus, your main social duty is to ensure the protection and promotion of the hopes of the most vulnerable, fragile and naïve.
At this point, it is with a deep sense of concern that I present the pathetic and wretched condition of the Almajiri life with a view to finding a positive solution. The horrible tale of the Almajiri is not alien to you. You know him to be completely innocent, hopeless, voiceless Nigerian child who seems to be the only law-abiding citizen without any aspiring future. You will never deny the fact that his case is genuine that needs political will to address. You must have faith in him so that he can have faith in you. Let us all feel his severe pains. Let us recognize his human essence. Let us give him a chance to build his hope and fully utilize his human potentialities.
You will agree with me that the Almajiri does not feel the soft touch of our human heart. We ought to present to him our human face and motivate him for high achievements. The primary purpose of this is to make him understand that he was never born to be an Almajiri but to be fully Allah’s representative on earth.
We all know that the Almjiri is an abandoned child in a troubled world. He is a living vagabond whose future is very obscure and undefined. He is absolutely on himself, ignorant of the fact that he has legitimate and fundamental right to the share of the national cake. The system he is undergoing has given him the wrong notion that he is worth nothing in the society and possesses no potentialities. Thus, your timely intervention for his sustained social security is fundamental.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Charter on Rights of the Child both define a child as any one below the age of 18 years. Nigeria is a party to that convention and agreed to its various articles. Article 27 of that UN Convention recognizes the right of the child to a standard of living for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual and social development. Article 24 states that no child should be deprived of the right to health care services. Article 28 demands the state to make primary education compulsory and available to all. The term compulsory here denotes that the state should take measures to ensure that no child should be left without primary education. Article 31 insists that the child must have rest and leisure. It is therefore your duty to facilitate the entrenchment of these usurped rights of the Almajiri.
We are all aware that these rights are not obtainable for the Almajiri child. He is the only responsible Nigerian that has no accessibility to healthcare services. His ailments are religiously and traditionally treated or resigning to fate. The Almajiri is not enrolled in the primary education system to learn basic skills to prepare him for future economic life. The Almajiri does not know rest and leisure. From morning to night, he is battling to make ends meet begging for alms. He does not know how to play games to boost his physical being. Even the little time he has for studies is inadequate for him to acquire the best knowledge after rigorous toil.
Your Excellencies, you are fully conversant with the condition of the Almajiri which is very dehumanizing. It is for this reason that there were attempts in the past to address his predicament. In 1950, the government of Katsina enacted a law to forbid the migration of Mallams and Almajirai as it happened in other states in the Northern region. In 1980, the former Sokoto state government promulgated a law to regulate the movement of the Almajirai. The edict was entitled: The Control of Juveniles Accompanying Qur’anic Mallams Adoptive Rules. In 1987, the Kano state government set up a 10-member committee on Almajiranci. And in 1997, the Sokoto government again set up another committee to advise it on how best to tackle the problem of the Almajiranci. The committee recommended among other things the rehabilitation of beggar- destitute in the state and the incorporation of Islamic Educational System in the New National Policy on Education.
According to the United Nations Human Development Index, countries are measured in accordance with their economic prosperity, respect for rights and quality of the lives of their citizens. In respect of the Almajiri, you know that his economy is very poor, his right to dignity has been usurped and the quality of his living is very awkward. Thus, your greatest task is ensuring his promotion to the mainstream society so that he can feel a sense of belonging.
With due respect, I would like to draw your attention to Malala Yousafzai’s empathic assertion. She declared and I quote, ‘Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world’. Her mentioning of one child changing the world calls for sober reflections. Indeed, the Almajiri child is not thinking of how to change the world. His thinking begins and ends with how to serve his stomach. The pen he is supposed to use is no longer his priority. It would dishearten Malala to discover that millions of Almajirai in our society are wasted because their human potentialities are neglected, underrated and untapped. Consequently, our world remains unchanged because we erroneously feel that the Almajiri has nothing to offer.
Your Excellencies, the pathetic condition of the Almajiri should be accorded the priority it deserves because you have the capacity and available resources to tackle the problem. Napoleon Hill submitted that, ‘If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way’. The opportunity is now at your disposal to right the wrong. You have the chance to consolidate on past attempts at reformation. The only way you can strike a difference from past attempts is to ensure a synergy approach which will produce significant outcomes. A conference on Almajiri would therefore not be an unworthy venture.
Yunusa Zakari Yau and Festus Okoye conducted a research on the topic: The condition of ALMAJIRAI in the North West Zone of Nigeria. The findings of the research were published in 1999. It is imperative here to catch a quick glance at their recommendations for saving the Almajiri for your attention. One, government should see reform as a means of addressing specific urban social problem such as bara (begging) and juvenile delinquency as well as a means of meeting educational needs of the citizens. Two, government should intervene through assistance and regulatory framework. Three, government should carry out public enlightenment program to explain the rational of intervention. Four, government should enact appropriate legislation and set up effective machinery for their enforcement, to protect children from child labor and other forms of exploitations. Of course, there are other possible and practicable suggestions to these.
In his famous poem, ’Arewa: Jamhuriya Ko Mulikiya’ Sa’adu Zungur said, Matukar yaran mu suna bara……… up to the last stanza. He warned us of the dire repercussions of Almajiranci. It is with profound optimism that I hereby remain faithful to your prompt and decisive action on this prolonged and devastatingly social problem.
Abdu is from Galadanci Quarters
Ringim Jigawa State