By Nusaiba Ibrahim
When all this brouhaha on the Almajiri system of education is over just before we hop on another discussion likely to be initiated by random persons online, we will then realise we have failed to acknowledge the failed infrastructure that has created and will continue to fuel the unrefined Almajiranci system of education by the day.
The earlier we realise how enormous challenges have, over the years, consumed our societies in the North, courtesy of broken marriages or homes, the better for us to understand the enormous task ahead of us in empowering our communities with the correct information and strategies to face greater challenges now and in the future, especially with regards to marriage as an important social institution. No matter how hard you try, as an optimistic Northerner, to overlook the series of ongoing debates in the past week online, it is practically difficult and impossible to ignore them, given the current reality that we have found ourselves in.
There is a reason why I choose to deliberately sideline discussing the Almajiri system from the premise of system reformation, the aspect of its essence or in contrast to modern primary education that has continuously screamed for aid. Unless we address the myriads of problems faced by the major social institution that is essential for development – family/marriage, we are hence, collectively wasting our efforts and brains to come up with solutions to transforming the system. At the same time, many under-aged will continue to be pumped out into these traditional Islamic schools, which are, of course, overwhelmed in the name of Qur’anic education.
It’s impossible to continue thinking that only strategic transformation, erasing the system or replacing it with a standard Islamiyya system, will bring a lasting solution to this misery. Agreed, they are essential to improving the system and even sustaining it. But as time flies, if they ever get a chance to be thoroughly revamped, they too will be overwhelmed to take care of these children sent to them in multitudes.
Now, let us take a quick recap of why our primary education has continued to suffer greatly. If you choose to think critically, you will understand that it’s the same reason in the context of the Almajiri system of education that has continued to promote this unending menace. It continues to act as a shield to a lack of good parenting, thanks to unsuccessful marriages. It’s nothing other than overpopulation alongside a dwindling economy. Hence, a multi-faceted menace like this requires a robust approach from virtually all aspects of social life.
My thoughts on why broken homes have the lion’s share of Almajiri menace are based on the facts highlighted in many of the reports that have been consistently aired on our local radio stations in Kano State and a recent publication by The Daily Reality on the 28th of March 2022. Several instances of why these unkempt children are sent to these schools all boil down to the separation of parents either directly or indirectly, which necessitates living with grandparents and stepmothers, who are eventually left without no quicker choice but to use the Almajiri system as an escape route from discharging their parental duties.
In a bid to understand the in-depth social ills of our dearest Northern Nigeria, particularly on the marriage institution, The Daily Reality published a report highlighting the rate of divorce in Kano State to be at about 32%, with an average age of divorcees ranging from 20-25. Presenting these figures shows a red flag and a slap on our faces as we boast of some of the best religious scholars, undisputed morals and values compared to our neighbouring counterparts.
But unfortunately, some low-IQ dimwits denied the facts with fierce rebuttals. While some challenged the veracity of the facts, another portion challenged the authenticity of the reportage/research findings by reducing it to mere propaganda than research. And for others, it doesn’t even reflect the reality on the ground. And the consequences aren’t confined to their families alone, which we are well aware of. Unfortunately, with developments in several aspects of social life around the world, we are still in the age of denying facts that are under our noses.
Let’s assume the facts aren’t authentic enough. Still, mere observations and intuitions have made us all realise that there exists a particular season of the year when agricultural products are everywhere in the markets. The number of these children quadruple on our streets. These periods always signal the season of new marriages in villages with the bit of fortune made from the sales of agricultural produce, thereby forcing these children out of the homes to accommodate new wives. You may choose to argue with whatever is next to you – these are undeniable facts. Interviews during the height of the ban against street begging unveiled many children narrating experiences of their grandparents, fathers and step-mothers taking them to traditional Qur’anic education alias Almajirci before harmattan season kicks off. Radio stations in Kano State primarily documented these.
Delving deep into the report, what struck me hard was, who will then take responsibility for the children out of these marriages? In whose custody will they survive if their mothers remarry? Will their new stepmothers be willing to accommodate them? What about their step-fathers? Indeed not the government, and it cannot be the community either. So, they’ll add another layer of complexity to our complex problems. In my thoughts, I silently hoped that people might look at this dimension which happens to be the root cause. If you think broken marriages aren’t the problem, try surveying many Almajirai in your community.
In all sense of honesty, I must recognise that the essence of the Qur’anic education in the North has not only proven to be undisputedly essential for authentic Islamic education but is also the pillar that sets the pace for all modern Islamiyya education in Northern Nigeria. Contemporary Islamic education has only gone further to modern teaching and learning methods in line with global Islamic development based on the strategies of traditional Quranic education. Many of our reputable religious scholars, professors and other professionals in different fields of endeavour are beneficiaries of the conventional Qur’anic systems.
Apparently, we have seen examples of why transforming the Almajiri system of education is almost impossible, especially because of government inconsistencies, discontinuity of government policies and lack of political will to tackle the menace. Besides, there are even mightier problems that are yet to be addressed. However, I firmly believe that strengthening marriages via introducing policies to safeguard and sustain good parenting can be a strategic move to tackle the menace of Almajirai. It will undoubtedly produce a desirable result by solving multiple challenges simultaneously.
Nusaiba Ibrahim Na’abba is a master’s student from the Department of Mass Communication, BUK. She is a freelance writer and researcher. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.