Destitute Children roaming the streets in Northern Nigeria are almost becoming a normal feature. The children commonly referred to as “Almajiri” derived from the Arabic word Al-Mahaajirun, which literally means, a learned scholar who propagates the peaceful message of Islam. Almajiri system has since outlived its purpose and has become a breeding ground for child begging and potential terrorist camps. The pupils who were meant to be trained to emerge as Islamic Scholars have now had to struggle to cater for themselves through begging rather than learning under the watch and supervision of the semi-illiterate Quranic teachers or Mallams who themselves lacked the requisite financial and moral support and use the system as a means of living rather than a way of life.
Deprived of a normal descent upbringing, Almajiri children who are usually little boys, are the direct product and consequence of polygamy, broken homes and lack of adequate family planning by a large chunk of Northerners who sees family planning as against their religion and culture, the child or children are sent out to the streets under the guise of Almajiri, as soon as the family's income and resources are no longer enough to go round. The Almajiri children grow up in the streets without the love, care and guidance of his parents; His struggle for survival exposes him to rape (homosexuality and pedophilia), used as a slave, brainwashed and recruited into boko haram and being used for destructive and violent activities. These aptly captures and describes the pitiful plight of an Almajiri child in Northern Nigeria.
Almajiri system epitomizes child abuse, social exclusion and chronic poverty in all ramifications. Because the Almajiri system is believed to be rooted and founded in Islamic religion and Hausa Fulani cultural practices, many attempts to reverse the trend or put an end to the abuse to humanity had always hit a “brick wall”. The fact that Islamic teachings strongly forbids begging, except in very special circumstances which includes; a man’s loss of properties in a disaster, or when a man has loaned much of his money for the common good, such as bringing peace between two warring parties, already proves that Almajiri system as it is being practiced today is completely unislamic. The Almajiri child is totally neglected by his parents, highly vulnerable to diseases and social crimes. In order to survive, he often have to beg from dusk to dawn everyday after which they return to their makaranta (school) or are left on the streets.
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The Almajiri system has created a cover for criminally minded people to abuse the Nigerian child, Traffic innocent minors and expose them to terrorism, thuggery and other menace, to be used as social destructers, and to some extent also be used as sex hawkers or homosexuals in particular. To conclude that the Almajiri system of education has deviated from its original motive and is giving this country a bad image in the eyes of the international community is to simply admit the obvious. Eventhough the immediate past administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan designed a program under which a few Almajiri Model Boarding Schools were commissioned in , the federal government’s intervention which is aimed at integrating conventional western education with Islamic education only turned out to be merely "taking out a spoonfull of water from a tank filled with water" as it wasn’t enough to properly address the problem of the destitutes. Only less than 2% of the children were captured by the federal government's intervention programm which was meant to remove the Almajiri child off the streets.
Earlier this year, I was in Kano, to attend an public awareness symposium on the need for a violent free general elections in Nigeria. I decide to stop-by at Bayero University teaching Hospital to check on my cousin who is a medical doctor in the tertiary Health institution the day after before traveling back to Ilorin. He looked feasibly angry and I couldn’t help but ask what the problem was, then he said he had just finished tending to a little boy of not more than 11 years, minutes before I worked into his office. According to him, the boy was brought to the hospital by a good Samaritan who noticed his severe pains. The minor had endured pains whenever he tries to sit down, and the cross examination conducted on him by the doctor revealed that his rectal area was forcefully penetrated, Hence, his pain. Obviously, some disgruntled elements had taken advantage of a destitute and homeless Almajiri little boy and engage in Homosexuality and pedophilia at the same time. My cousing said “this is how little boys of between the ages of 5 and 12 are being brought to the hospital almost on a daily basis, for tampered rectum which results in and difficulty sitting down due to severe pains. One wonders when our government would put-on their thinking cap and banish this Almajiri system once and for all and save these innocent little ones from perpetual abuse”
Unless the Almajiri system of education is banned or adequately reformed to meet the present economic challenges and realities, the problems of underdevelopment, educational backwardness and mass poverty in the Northern part of Nigeria would continue to go from bad to worse. People continue to bear children they do not have the resources to cater for, just because they knew they could easily push such children out on Almajiri. Until these barbaric and inhumane system of modern slavery, branded Almajiri is outlawed and banned, families wouldn’t stop to produce children outside their income and meager resources. The level of child abuse is worrisome, the deliberate breach of the fundamental human right of these young ones calls for urgent concern and the neglect and levity and lack of commitment to the pitiful plight of these minors is unfortunate. As it is presently, Almajiri represents everything that is evil, it is the face of poverty and it is anti-islam. This is time for president Muhammadu Buhari to Urgently put measures in motion which will see to the banishment or reform the Almajiri system in order to save this country of this humanitarian crisis which has given north a bad image for so long.
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