The Kano State Government has announced a ban on the practice of street begging known as Almajiris. The development is part of the efforts of the State Government to implement compulsory basic education for the state and eliminate the menace of out of school children. The announcement was made during the launching of Basic Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) and Distribution of offer of Appointment to 7,500 volunteer teachers on Tuesday, at Sani Abacha Stadium Kano.
The Kano state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje said the Almajiri system can longer be condoned and teachers in the state must come in terms with the new development.
“If Almajiri teacher thinks he cannot accept the new policy he has to leave the state,” the governor said.
The new law on compulsory basic education stipulates serious punishment for parents who let their children on the loose to beg in the streets.
“When Almajiri are caught begging, it is not only that beggar is caught, but his parents or guardians. Such parents or guardians would be taken to court to face the wrath of the law.
“This policy of free and compulsory basic and secondary education goes along with its integration of our Almajiri system into the mainstream policy implementation. This suggests that English and Arithmetic must be included in the Almajiri schools’ curriculum,” Ganduje stated.
The former president Goodluck Jonathan invested N15 billion in Almajiri schools to encourage education in the north where there is an alarming number of out-of-school children. Alas, the schools were abandoned to their ruin until now.
Ganduje said the newly introduced system will incorporate English and Math with Islamic studies to enable the children to acquire religious knowledge.
“That will give them an opportunity to continue with their studies to secondary schools and beyond,” he said
He also added that the newly recruited 7,500 teachers will be posted accordingly to implement the new education policy.
“They will be posted to Islamiyyah and Almajiri schools, so that our Almajiri schools would be fully integrated under our new policy of education,” the governor added.
Kano State is notorious for mendicancy, especially by school age children. According to UNICEF, Kano is home to about nine million out-of-school children in northern Nigeria, a situation that does not only breed a bleak economic future for the country but also offers children up for radicalization.
Senate president, Ahmed Lawan said during his time as a senate leader in the 8th National Assembly that the practice of Almajiri has become a way to give terrorists easy targets to recruit.
“The recruits are there; those of 17 years of age who are supposed to be in school but are roaming the streets. Though it’s controversial, a time has come in those states where the Almajiri system was established for over 100 years to see how we can work out a model that will ensure that the system did not continue the way it is today.” Lawan said.
Apart from Kano, other northern states entertain a proportionate share of the Almajiri system, a situation that has also been linked to the prevalence of drug abuse in the region. The Emir of Gwandu and Chairman, Kebbi State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Muhammad Bashar, adding voice to issue said it’s a shame to the north that such a detrimental system still exists.
“It is a shame on the north that you see Almajiri everywhere begging in the streets. The North West has the highest number of drug addicts in Nigeria,” he said.
While there has been considerable applause for the step taken by the Kano State Government, there are also doubts that it may fail. The fear comes from the belief that allowing the Almajiri into the education system will always result in street begging and eventually, turn of events that will threaten sound youth development and pose a danger to the general public.
It is believed that some other factors need to be addressed for the ban to be effective. Shehu Sani, a senator in the 8th Assembly, voicing his concern about the Kano State’s decision said that more laws are needed to put an end to street begging in the north.
“A law no matter how punitive can’t stop or end begging. Many states tried it in the last twenty years, it never worked. The Economic, Social, Religious and Cultural contributing factors must be addressed. A law enforced can disperse them for a while and the factors will return them,” he said.
While many maintain that there is difference between begging and Almajiri, and the latter is culture to be preserved, the reality is suggesting that the latter will never function without the first. Because Islamic tenets in northern Nigeria have promoted polygamy so that men of little means could marry many wives and make many children, even when they apparently have no means of taking care of them.
The former Central Bank of Nigerian governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said the social crisis is being fostered by parents and governments.
He said the crisis has escalated since 1999/2000 when 12 northern states declared that they have adopted sharia Legal System but ignored integral parts of it that addresses important family issues such as child rearing.
“What you deal with is parents forcing young daughters into loveless marriages, arbitrary divorce, and lack of care within marriage after marriage; everyday wives are complaining about husbands who claim their rights but do not face any of the responsibilities of marriage. Women being divorced with their children and husband not taking care of the children, and those children end up on the streets, drugs, political thuggery and violent extremism.
“We speak of the Almajiri problem as if Almajiri is the problem when in fact the problem is the irresponsible fathers who leave their children on the streets, and it’s important that we understand what are the roles and responsibilities of those who have political authority, especially those at the state level, on decision,” the Emir Sanusi said.
The fundamental factors fueling the street-begging crisis in the north appears to be far from the streets, they stem from homes, religious belief and governmental policies that make room for them all. And until it is tackled from these bases, government efforts to quell it will only yield temporary results.