By Barr Abdulrahaman Njidda Yebi
Discussing the problem of Out-Of-School Children in the North will not be complete without talking about the Almajiri system being practiced in northern Nigeria which has been one of the major challenges confronting the North and it seems the prospect of finding a solution to the challenge is not at sight.
What makes it very difficult to address the problem is the fact that an Almajiri is one who is undergoing a Quranic study and/or education before an Islamic Scholar (referred to as Mallam in the North). Its association with Islamic religion makes it difficult for our policymakers to rise against it despite the problems associated with the system of Almajirci.
To some, opposition to the Almajiri system is an affront against Islam which is wrong. Rather, those young men who have been into Almajirci are the ones being denied the opportunity to benefit or take part in the affairs of their nation due to their lack of Western education which is a prerequisite for employment by any Government agency or private body and which an ordinary Almajiri lack.
Evidence abounds of how most Almajiris roam our streets without any control or care by the Mallam and their parents/guardians being far away, the Almajiri does as he so wishes without anyone to shape his attitudinal alignments. In some cases, even the Quranic Education which is the primary reason for Almajirci is not attended to by some Almajiris.
All Muslims should be worried about how these young men are wasted away since they can achieve the Qur’anic Education and still attend conventional schools. We shouldn’t look at it from a myopic point of view but be liberal in our defense of the Almajiri system.
The beneficiaries of the Almajiri system are two. One, the Mallam who exploits them after coming back from their daily begging of any money or food item realized therefrom and, two, the criminal who exploits the gullibility of the unsuspecting Almajiri and use him as a willing tool in his hands to cause riot, protest and conflict in the society which from my experience, the Almajiris are often at the forefront in return for a peanut.
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We probably have Doctors, Lawyers, and Astronomats, etc among these Almajiris but for their inability to attend Western education, they are denied the opportunity of realizing their potentials and the nation is also denied of their productivity in various human endeavors.
There should be a law to make it mandatory for all parents to ensure that their children who have to attend school age are sent to school or be liable under the law with imprisonment or fine. This will take care of the Almajiri problem bedeviling the North and will also help curb crime in the society.
It is regrettable to note that at the end of the day, those out-of-school children are the ones that become willing tools in the hands of some bad eggs in the society who lured them into committing crimes and other social vices in the society.
It is possible to go to school (Western Education) and still be an Almajiri, (undergoing Qur’anic Education) just as some of us have experienced in the past. Yes, it is possible because currently, four (4) out of my six (6) children are Almajiris, undergoing Quranic education and still attending the conventional school to study Western Education.
There is no reason for someone to give birth to a child he or she cannot cater for. At least, we have Government schools where anyone can send his child to study at no cost. All hands must be on deck to ensure that we confront this challenge that is staring us in the eyes in Northern Nigeria.
Barr Abdulrahaman Njidda Yebi
A Yola Based Lawyer
Writes in Yola-Jimeta