Putting an end to almajiri abuses, exploitation
In a bid to ensure youth empowerment and sustainable peace and development in the polity, a bill aimed at prohibiting the exploitation of almajirai (itinerant Islamic scholars) in Kano State is underway. The initiative which is in line with the advocacy to combat labour exploitation of almajiri and de-escalate insecurity in Kano State, the North West and Nigeria was sponsored by Justice Development and Peace/Caritas Advocates (JDPCA) and the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED).
The bill aims to reduce the exposure of almajirai to violence, anti-social behaviours and to promote child’s rights thereby complementing on-going efforts by Kano State government to ensure sustainable peace in the state. Sponsorship of the bill before Kano State House of Assembly is based on the findings of a study conducted by a team of researchers drawn from the academia, civil society organisations and research assistants from among Muslim clerics and Kano Sharia implementing outfit, Hisba board.
At a stakeholders conference on the issue held recently in Kano, the resolve was pre-empted by findings of an intensive research work supported by a grant from the Embassy of the United States of America which not only identified salient reasons why the problem associated with the abuse of the almajirai persists in Kano and other parts of the northern part of the country, but proffered measures needed to end the menace.
At the parley in which Hakimi Doguwa, Alhaji Ali Harazimi represented the Emir of Kano, Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the study recommended that a bill on the rights of the child needs to be initiated in the Assembly. Concerted efforts by other governments in Northern Nigeria were also advocated to tackle poverty in order to prevent parents from abdicating their responsibility of ensuring the upkeep of their children. Besides calls for skill acquisition centres in almajiri schools, the findings of the study jointly presented by Dr. Pius Abang of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Dr. Moses Aluaigba of Bayero University Kano canvassed the enforcement of existing laws banning street begging to halt the scourge of begging particularly among school-age children.
The study called for catchment areas to facilitate the registration of almajirai for the easy detection and identification of the immigrant ones in their midst, as well as the establishment of the child’s rights monitoring committee to supervise the schools, mallams and parents to forestall the perpetration of the abuse of the rights of children within the boundaries permitted by Islam.
The committee was empowered to track and arrest parents, mallams and fake almajirai. The study’s findings stressed the need for enhanced mass awareness of the people on Child’s rights Act within the boundaries of Islam and urged the government to increase its support to the almajiranchi system by allocating specific funds for such schools. It enjoined Kano State Government to establish a Kano State Almajiri Special Trust Fund to cater for the funding needs of the system.
Besides, it was recommended that all the makaranta allo (Koranic schools) in Kano State should be registered including the mallams and that the pupils (almajirai) should have identity cards required to generate a data bank on the number of such schools, their teachers, pupils and other related information. Expectedly, the findings elicited robust discussions from participants, including the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Dr. Hafiz Abubakar, who was represented by Dr. Bakari Ado, Director General, Special Services, Col Umar Malami Mohammed, Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Dahiru Yakassai, Director General, Research and Documentation, Dr. Ibrahim Baraje, Special Adviser, Special Services to Kano State Government, Sheik Ibrahim Khaleel, Zonal Coordinator, NAPTIC, Hajia Khadija Bello, Head, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Comrade Zikirullahi Ibrahim and JDPC’s Project Manager, Mr. Mark Asu-Obi.
A major issue of discourse was attributing the almajiri problem on parents’ inability to take care of their children and that addressing the problem of almajirai requires not only the intervention of the state government but that of the entire northern states’ governments. It was resolved that governments of the north were to be persuaded to develop policies that would address the problem of almajiri in their respective states.
Also, participants agreed that the most workable approach to adopt in tackling the problem of almajiri was a gradual transformation of the almajiranchi system till it goes extinct. They reckoned with the fact that the parents and guardians of almajirai should be made to understand the need to oust the almajiranchi system since Islamic education is enshrined in Islamic studies. In unequivocal terms, they asserted that Islam does not in any way encourage begging, poverty or illiteracy, as was being bandied about by those perpetrating the act. Rather, efforts should be geared towards encouraging conventional education of almajiri pupils. The participants requested that advocacy should be extended to other neighbouring states in order to deter parents in those states from sending their children to attend almajiri schools in Kano. They also contended that there was need to adopt community engagement in the effort to address the problem of almajiri.
It was resolved that the authorities and security agencies should closely monitor the almajiri schools to ensure that the teachings and other practices conform to stipulated laws and the tenets of Islam, and that a mechanism be put in place to compel parents and guardians to periodically visit their children undergoing almajiri education the same way parents do to their children in conventional schools.
In his remarks, the Emir of Kano said Kano Emirate Council has always lived up to its responsibility to the almajirai and the downtrodden, adding that no fewer than 200 of them are fed on a daily basis in the palace. He recalled how Kano Emirate Council had an entrenched system of zakat collection and redistribution to the poor, adding that contrary to widely held views, the act of street begging was against the tenets of the Islamic religion.
Mohammed, who chaired the occasion, underlined the need for the initiative, saying it was geared towards giving hope to the hopeless. Kano State Deputy Governor, Dr. Hafiz Abubakar who expressed concern over the plight of almajirai said it was disheartening to see a child of between 3 and 4 years on the street without parental care. He stated that Kano was forced by circumstances to bear the brunt of the almajirai scourge due to the fact it is the commercial hub of the north. He reiterated the state government’s desire to avail children of school age free and compulsory primary education.
According to him, Kano was presently contending with about three million almajiri and stressed it entails the state government requiring an extra 6,000 in addition to the current deficit of 2,000 primary school classrooms to be able to accommodate them. He, however, expressed the willingness of the state government to partner with development partners and donor agencies to ensure the establishment of a workable system that would absorb the deluge of almajiri into the school system.
Alhaji Abdullahi Ahmed who represented Kano State House of Assembly expressed profound interest of the entire Assembly in the initiative, adding that the House would ensure expeditious passage of the bill when presented to it. He offered to lead the project team in all advocacies to the House regarding the bill, and to lobby in-house support/sponsorship of the bill.
While lending his voice to the issue, Zikirullahi said it was unfortunate that the highly placed and wealthy ones in society employ the services of almajirai without adequately catering for their basic needs like food, clothing and education.
According to him, “We need to treat the almajirai as human beings and I think the society will be better for it. The wealth in the hands of a few would continue to be threatened by the poverty of the majority as long as we fail to come to their aid”.