The decision of the Northern States Governors’ Forum to end the almajiri’s system of education is a welcome development. In an interview with Channels TV, Kaduna state’s governor, Nasir El-Rufai stated that the Northern state governors have begun the repatriation of the almajiris to their home states while each state government will return them to their parents and back to school. He further noted that he has reviewed a law that will formally prohibit such a system in Kaduna State.
While it’s a laudable effort from the NSGF, why did it take so long for political stakeholders in the North to abolish the incongruous educational system even after the plethora of facts have been provided to prove that the Tsangaya system is obsolete?
The political blogger Jon Schwarz, states that “the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself.” Political Will to solve an acute societal problem is strong when the lives of the stakeholders in government are at risk. Succinctly, the move to ditch the almajiri system was born out of self-preservation and mortal fear of the COVID-19 virus. Out of the 169 almajiri children returned to Kaduna from Kano, 65 of them have been tested positive for Coronavirus. That’s a scary 38.5% and it makes the almajiris potential carrier of this novel virus that is no respecter of societal status. Hence, the move by the Northern elites to cancel the region’s out of date educational system.
The almajiris wouldn’t have become potential demography of infection for coronavirus if the Northern power elites had taken advantage of the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 which makes free basic education compulsory for six years with minimum three years of junior secondary schooling, or the Child Rights Act that states that a Nigerian child must be in school up to the high school level. In contrast, successful Northern governors have looted the UBE funds.
However, it is pertinent to focus on the present and plan for the future but the same people that have vowed to end the Tsangaya system are already playing the game of calumny and political shenanigans with the almajiris’ predicament. The political stakeholders in the North must accept that ending the region’s archaic educational system must go beyond mitigating the spread of the coronavirus through the almajiris and making mere political statements, but rather, the integration of the almajiris into the modern academic system is a powerful strategy for straightening the region’s socio-economic development.
In the end, coronavirus is just another bleak period in the history of humanity, the virus will pass and everything might come back to the way it was. The effects of the pandemic will necessitate a national economic plan that will require ingenuity as well as compromise, how would Northern political leaders solve the problems of 10 million children who are already at a disadvantage in a rapidly changing global world?