By Khairat Suleiman Jaruma
It took too long for us to realize that one of our biggest problems in northern Nigeria is the Almajiri system, even though we still have a few slowpokes that believe there isn’t anything wrong with the archaic and inhumane system.
We have criticized and blamed the system enough. It’s high time we started doing more action and less talking. But how do we go about it? Can we stop the influx of children into the system? Completely? No, but to a very reasonable extent, yes. But, how do we deal with those in the system already? You might say they should be taken back to their parents, and you are not wrong, but some can’t even remember their parents or where they come from. We also have those who have lost their families and villages due to banditry and terrorism. So, how do you go about it?
Baffah (2022) explained, “The best way to check the Almajiri system is to empower local governments. When you create wealth at the local level, rural to urban migration becomes unattractive, economic equality is everything”. But there is more to do than just this.
It is almost impossible to abolish the Almajiri system, and previous – and even ongoing – efforts to ban it failed woefully. What the Almajiri system needs are sustainable reforms, as opposed to the white elephant reforms that have been made in the past.
NexTier SPD suggests government must adopt the Child Right Act, which is an effort by UNICEF to protect children and ease the prosecution of violators of child rights. It is equally vital that the government criminalizes the movement of Almajiris from one place to another. In addition, begging and child labour should be banned entirely.
Also, the government must work with informal structures such as religious and traditional institutions to support and promote reforms by emphasizing the gain of a reformed Almajiri system to individuals, parents, and the society at large while discouraging incessant childbirths and implementing childbirth control policies.
The importance of religious leaders and traditional stakeholders in sustainable Almajiri reforms can’t be overemphasized. But, it’s also essential that, as individuals, we stop using Almajiris as henchmen for committing heinous crimes or as a source of cheap labour.
Khairat Suleiman Jaruma wrote from Kaduna via firstname.lastname@example.org.