Recently, states in Northern parts of Nigeria began the expulsion and ban of the Almajiri System of Education. This is a welcome idea considering the fact that the almajiris have truly become threats and menace to the society. However, one couldn’t help but wonder why the governors had to wait so long to abolish this unsuitable and harmful education system.
When COVID-19 found its way into Nigeria, one of the issues raised by people was the disaster that will befall the country if the virus finds its way to Northern Nigeria. The reason behind their concern was that the almajiris are exposed and will definitely pick up the infection. If this happens, it will be hard to track down their contacts since they roam around freely. The worst is that no one may even know when they are sick or what they are suffering from. For this, COVID-19 will definitely find fertile ground in the almajiris and in Northern Nigeria as a whole.
But the Northern Governors’ Forum saw the risk posed by this group of young children that were victims of an outdated tradition and decided to act immediately. They began the ‘repatriation’ of these adult-children to their various countries, states and local governments. News has it that the numbers ‘arrested’ and ‘deported’ run in thousands but that is not surprising considering that a lot of almajiris roam the streets of the Northern states in Nigeria.
The evacuation of the almajiris has, however, exposed some hidden issues.
- The Almajiris have Identity: The way these almajiris behave in the North will make you think they have no identity. They are treated like animals and they treat others like one too. They manage to go scot free when they perpetuate evil and the law enforcers look the other way telling you they can’t do anything because almajiris are difficult to trace. From what I gathered while in the North, these boys have no identity because no one knows where they come from. But with the directives from the state governors, miraculously these boys have states of origin, local governments of origin and known PARENTS. Are these law enforcement authorities lying to us before or did they develop fictitious identities for the almajiris?
- Some Almajiris are Non-Nigerians: It is a common knowledge that Nigerian borders are porous but it is shocking to hear that parents move their children across the border to become an almajiri. From the report given by Guardian Nigeria of 23 April, 2020, the almajiris are evacuated to Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Nasarawa states and then, the Niger Republic. This calls attention to the fact that the so-called border closure exercise to fight smuggling and COVID-19 may not be effective after all.
- Who Received Them: These almajiris were moved in their numbers and dumped at the mercy of the state governments. This, like my people will say about a public goat starving to death, shows that these boys were dumped to molest the inhabitants of the areas where they are stationed because no one will take care of them. The reason this is insinuated is that most of these people left their states of origin and wandered into places where they are not known. This means that it will be very difficult to trace their parents, who obviously live in the very interior parts of the states (that is if those boys know their states of origin). In other words, until the parents of these boys are located and they are claimed, if at all that will happen, they are on their own.
- Plan to Discourage a Comeback: Of course the Northern Governors’ Forum decided that the Almajiri Education System has been outlawed, but they didn’t state how they will follow that up. They made mention of engaging the Minister of Agriculture so that farmers in the country could benefit from COVID-19 palliatives. But that will not provide the solution to the almajiri menace considering that outdated religious practice, and not poverty, is the chief cause of the problem. Until measures are taken to completely eradicate this human abuse in the name of the education system, almajiris are going to refill the streets of Kano and other Northern states in no time.
- Almajiri could be Handled: The way every concerned authority ignored calls to abolish Almajiri System made it look like it is not abolishable. The first thing people are told when they ask why those children have not been sent to their parents is that if you touch them, they will start an uncontrollable riot and destroy lives and properties. But when COVID-19 that knows no one came, these authorities realised that these boys will be their undoing and immediately sent them packing. Funny enough, they didn’t start an uncontrollable riot. This brings back my first question, “What were the Northern governors waiting for all these while to abolish the Almajiri System?”
Whatever their reasons are, they should be applauded for the efforts they made towards sanitising their states. However, they need to supervise the return of those boys to their and ensure that they (the parents) didn’t release them back into the system again. If so isn’t done, I fear to say that all the efforts of the Northern governors towards eradicating Almajiri System will be a waste.