Almajiri practice, version of child abuse
By Adamu Muhammad Nababa
Northern Nigeria, and specifically Jigawa; Kano; Katsina; Kaduna; Niger; Sokoto; Kebbi; Zamfara; Bauchi; Gombe; Borno; Adamawa; and Taraba States have become notorious for the prevalence of almajiri practice for decades. No justification has ever been sought to understand why we are more Catholic than the Pope.
All Arab countries in the world do not send their children to the streets to beg for food, cloth, shelter or water to drink in the name of seeking Quranic knowledge. It is time we stand up and face the reality staring us in the face. Whatever one may say, or however one looks at it, it remains a child abuse. It is totally not Islamic. It is dehumanising. A deprivation of child’s right to live a decent life.
For those who may not know, or who may want to twist the facts, the almajiri child is the subject we are talking about. The child sent by his parents to another town or city for the sake of learning the rudiments of the Holy Quran but without provision of food or shelter, cloth or shoes. In fact, the guardian teacher is not even held accountable for the welfare of the child. The truth is the child fends for the upkeep of the guardian teacher, in most cases paying a stipend to the teacher daily or weekly. And he begs for his food on the street to survive. The child is never scolded if he refuses to pray five times a day or walk bare footed. It is essentially, a child abuse or if looked at deeply, a child slavery in the garb of religious endeavour.
Our Ulamas, of whatever persuasion, are culpable in this callous misrepresentation and manipulation of the Islamic faith for their own selfish interests. They never condemn it, neither do they allow their children into it nor support governments to check it. The elites, whose children are often those with the silver spoon in their mouth, are equally culpable because the almajiri is used as a cheap labour for domestic purposes.
Our scholars in the Ivory tower, the University dons have never been known to stand for the rights of these bewildered children. If only one of their trade mark actions of going on strike at the slightest provocation could be extended for the cause of this abused child to force government to address the issue as a matter of national interest, there could have been a great change.
The human right activists including government versions do more harm than good in not taking the almajiri menace with the seriousness it deserves. Yet there are bodies established to protect human rights, child trafficking and enforce immigration laws.
The news that Northern State Governors are looking at the possibility of taking a firm stand on the matter should not deceive us. We have heard such efforts in the past which have all been abandoned for political reasons. Hinged on the Covid-19 pandemic, the Governors should be given the support they need. On our part, we should make sure they do not abandon it half way as was done in the past. There are a lot of efforts made in the past which did not work out and the system continues with more vigour.
Now is a time to search our souls. Is almajiri beggar proper? What it is? Why are we indifferent to its ills to our religion and cultural values? It is time to check ourselves and act now!
Nababa wrote in from Kano and can be reached on email@example.com