By Aisha Abdullahi Bello
The word “Almajiri” is derived from the Arabic word “Almuhajir”, which means an immigrant or someone who migrates from one place to another. So, originally, Almajiri is an immigrant who leaves his place of birth at a very tender age to acquire Islamic education.
It was believed by the people then that if a child received Islamic education at a very young age, he was likely to retain it throughout his lifetime. This had made many parents enrol their male children in the system.
In the ancient days, the system was so organised, and the parents were much responsible that they didn’t just dump their children at the “allo [slate]” schools the way today’s parents do. They also made it mandatory upon themselves to provide necessary food items and other provisions for the children, which would be enough for them throughout their stay with the “malams [teachers]”.
At each interval, maybe a period of three to four months, the children were readied for a return to their various homes. So, you’ll find out that each Almajiri would at least visit his parents thrice or even four times a year.
Now, the system is no longer what it used to be. Everything seems to have changed completely; the system, the parents and the children have all turned into something else. If you call the name ‘almajiri’, instead of the title to ring the bell of a child who came from a distant land to acquire knowledge, a different bell will ring. The name suggests an unlucky child whose parents gave birth to and later abandoned on the streets to fend for himself by whatever means.
I am used to asking myself, what could be the cause of this disguised child abuse in the name of “almajirci”? What is the essence of bringing a child to this world if you cannot cater to his basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and quality education? Could this problem (almajirci) be attributed to poverty, lack of parental care, or is it a lack of adequate measures to tackle the menace by the government? These are the series of questions that are yet to be answered.
The rate at which the syndrome is growing could be checked if the parents control their birth rate through family planning measures. The government should try to enlighten parents on the benefits of family planning and its impact on society as much as possible.
To sanitise the system, the government should create a committee that will focus on the issues by standardising it to suit the present time. This could be achieved by taking the statistics of all almajirai, providing them with uniforms and building classrooms for them to have a conducive learning atmosphere. This will go a long way in curbing the extent to which they wander over the city.
The government and well-to-do individuals in the society should join hands together to create skill acquisition programmes and sponsor programs on TV and radio to educate the almajirai on how to acquire skills and make use of them for survival. These skills could be tailoring, dyeing, soap making, blacksmithing, shoemaking, etc.
With this, I believe the rate at which the almajirci syndrome grows will hopefully reduce to some considerable level and, if carefully sustained, will someday become history.
Aisha Abdullahi Bello sent this article via firstname.lastname@example.org.