Underaged Almajiri

By Dahiru Maishanu

This is not the first time the issue of the Almajiri System in Nigeria has caught the attention of my pen. I wrote ‘The Almajiri Syndrome’ at the early turn of the millennium while ‘sweating it out’ at the Hague University School of Graduate Studies.

At the risk of vituperations,  vexatious reactions and clergy condemnations from religious and traditional jingoists both from and outside of the box, I smarted up, wrote and damned the expected reactionary consequences.

After a little over two decades on, the report is sadly worse than it was then,  in multiples. The Almajiri has remained the most abused personae in Nigeria’s North and beyond. Abused and abandoned, he has been forced to turn into monsters separately called Boko Haram, Bandit, Shekau, Turji and many more to come. The Almajiri would rather be deleted than exist.

The Almajiri system, we were told had a genuine intention of educating the young as the intent, ab initio, through a collegiate system of sending young children as early as 4 years to strange environments to be taught religious and Arabic education through equally, a strange tutelage of a Teacher,  hundreds of miles a far. Whether the intention and concept were right at inception are not the subject of debate here, but what has become of them today.

The Almajiri is the most visible tragedy seen on the streets of all northern Nigerian cities and beyond. They litter at garages, ATM centers, Hotels, brothels, motor parks, Go-slow gridlocks  and even Church and Mosque gates.

They often end up as street urchins (area boys), male prostitutes, petty and hard criminals, garage boys and most recently, Boko Haram, Iswap and Bandits as well as dangerous tools for desperate politicians to get at one another’s’ throats.

From the traditional/ religious leaders to the elites within government, corporate businesses and the academia, we are all guilty in this.

We are not naïve, but afraid to say the truth. We pretend in identifying with the sufferings of the Almajiri, while in reality we enjoy seeing him continue to suffer so that he becomes different with our children. We align the system to religion dogmatically, while ignoring the fault lines. We have been lying to ourselves, consciously.

I stand to be corrected, but have you seen any Almajiri born of parents from of urban and or semi urban dwellings? Why is it only parents from remote villages send their children to this channel of no return?

The system, as it is, has continued to cause embarrassment and mockery to us and our faith, if the truth must be told. The fate of these vulnerable creatures lay on the crests of our shoulders and heads. The system most be reviewed, modified and remodeled to conform with present realities and challenges.

*Maishanu, BBA,(IBMS),MBA (The Hague) is a former Commissioner for Information, Commissioner for Solid Minerals and Natural Resources in Sokoto State.

He writes from Abuja Moyijoh62@yahoo.com