By Rukayyah Aliyu
Almajiranchi is a system of education practised in Northern Nigeria. It involves acquiring Islamic knowledge where young children are absorbed into the system and are refered to as “almajiris” for the males while the females are called “almajiras” while the plural is” almajirai” for both genders.
Furthermore, the Hausa word” almajiri” is derived from the arabic word “al-Mujahirun” which refers to a person who migrated from his home in search of islamic knowledge.
In Northern Nigeria, “almajirai” are usually children from poor rural backgrounds who leave their hometowns to acquire islamic knowledge from scholars called “mallams”. Colloquially the term has expanded to refer to any young person who begs on the street and does not attend secular school.
This connotation [begging] is ascribed to it because the system has and is still exposing alot of young children to hardship and deprivation of their basic neccessities.The teachers who are responsible for their students do not receive salaries or incentives and so they depend financially on the alms from the community and the proceeds from the work of the almajirai which involves begging and other menial jobs not meant for young children.
This has become a challenge in the north because despite the fact that these young children have a home with parents or guardians, they are forced to struggle for survival outside their homes thereby roaming around aimlessly with little or no provision of basic neccessities from their parents who sent them into the system.
They lack basic secular education, and are not equipped with relevant skills to survive, build a future, and compete in the global economy. They become a burden to themselves and the society at large.
“Almajiranchi’ in the north is indeed a ticking a time bomb, a statement I borrowed from the above topic.
In this regard, it is a ticking time bomb because a society with such menace risk jeopardising its peace and sanctity.
The “almajirai” tend to get involved in juvenile delinquent acts since they have been left to cater for themselves at a young age hence they tend to do what they feel is right due to little or no guidance, as well as being ignorant of the effect of such behaviours.
In the north, the menace of drug abuse is mostly found amongst these neglected children, some result to stealing just to survive and others find themselves as accomplices in crimes and victims of various criminal acts due to ignorance.
“Almajirai” are also exposed to communicable diseases and other health challenges due to poor hygiene and poor living conditions with no guaranteed health care system to cater for them.
The living conditions they are exposed to is not only detrimental to their growth and development as individuals, but also detrimental to their parents/
guardians, teachers, and the society at large.
It wont be out of place if i say that the challenge of insecurity in northern Nigeria has a link with almajiranchi. Bitterness, hatred and anger are determinant factors of violence and crisis.
A society where the children/ youngsters are not adequately catered for risk its peace, sanctity, security and a bright future. It becomes a dysfunctional society characterised by hatred, anger and violence from thesame youngsters.
Some of the almajirai children grow to become bitter youths with a grudge against their roots and the society.
They are used as weapons to disorganise the peace and sanctity of the society out of ignorance and a sense of belonging.
It wont be out of place if i also say that the security unrest in the north which involves “the boko haram menace, banditry, and all other security threat has a link to bitter, and caged minds who see the society as a threat to their own wellbeing.During elections the almajiris are absorbed into political thuggery by selfish politicians who want to propagate their interest by all means with no concern for their wellbeing.
They [almajiris} are considered easy target because they lack the understanding that they are being used to disorganise the society, even if they do, their conscience is bought with stipends since all they seek is a means to survive.
It is an undeniable fact that there is a need to reform and rehabilitate the almajiris because they also have a right to basic neccessities, secular education and better living conditions inorder to adequately and conducively acquire the islamic knowledge intended and also be of use to themselves and the society as a whole.
It is quite unfortunate that the system still exist in the worst forms possible despite efforts to salvage the situation.
I have come accross a few who struggled with menial jobs to see themselves through secondary school, go further when they have the means and still balance up with their islamic education, some also manage to raise little capital through these menial jobs to start small businesses or learn a trade just to liberate themselves from the undeserved hardships their parents/guardians exposed them to at a stage where they needed their support the most, but how many have been this lucky?
The truth still remains that most of them are left with bleak futures and the tendency to pose serious security threats to the society through crimes.
With reformation and rehabilitation through awareness, campaigns, and relevant programmes the “almajiris” can look forward to a better future and better living conditions.
It will also ensure that they are rid of certain addictions and anti social behaviours which they acquired on the streets especially if they are willing.It is also a means to protect the society from imminent security challenges if they “almajiris” are left to wander aimlessly thereby constituting nuisance and turning out as machineries for crisis and terrorism. With adequate rehabilitation as well as the right initiative from the relevant authourites, they will become positive contributors to the society and be useful to themselves.
Access to free and affordable education as well as a good avenue to acquire relevant skills will go a long way in ensuring their rehabilitation.
Other relevant solutions inorder to tackle “almajiranchi” and possibly eradicate it from the society are highlighted below.
It is pertinent to know that inorder to profer solutions to any problem, the root cause must be identified and tackled before any meaningful progress.
To this effect, people in the north need to be properly enlightened about the need and importance of family planning so that they do not keep giving birth to children they unfortunately can not cater for.
Through relevant campaigns and awareness programmes, they should be made to realise that before the society, they as parents and guardians have the first responsibility towards their children and so they should not shy away from it but rather embrace it and strive to survive with their children irrespective of their condition because it was their decision to birth them.
Strict rules should be put in place to ensure that no child is sent far from their home towns to acquire islamic knowledge through “almajiranchi”.
Their parents/guardians should make the necessary provisions for them to acquire the knowledge from their homes.
They should leave from home and return afterwards to the care and love of their parents and guardians, they should enroll them in affordable” madrasa” [islamic schools] according to their income or teach them out of the knowledge they have acquired themselves, its more ideal and humane rather than subject them to undeserved hardship.
They should also be aware that strict penalties and purnishment are available if they go contrary to the rules, thats if such rules are formulated and implemented, which is essential to ensure compliance.
The government whose primary responsibilty is to ensure the common good should not lack in their responsibilities which is unfortunately the case in the north and Nigeria at large due to the evidence of continues increase in the rate of poverty.
Corruption is also a challenge that should be curtailed to an extent so that there will be equal oppurtunity for all, as well as better living conditions for especially those in rural areas who are ravaged by poverty.
Poverty has to be reduced drastically for this to work out and that is why those at the helm of affars mostly in the northern region need to step up and do more for the people.
It is also a collective respomsibility of individuals in the society to spread the awareness to friends, neighbours or acquintances they know with such mentality to understand that it does more harm than good to their children, to them as the parents/guardians, to the teachers and to the society at large. This will fasten the process.
I can authouritatively say that seeking islamic knowledge is noble and it is not wrong either as well as any other relevant knowledge that people of different religion, culture, or background seek to acquire.
To the best of my knowledge, Islam promotes peace, love and humanity and so has no place for irresponsibility, cruelty and such barbaric system that expose children/ youngsters to such cruel conditions.
Knowledge should not be acquired through the wrong means with unfavourable living conditions and environment just like the one the” almajiris” find themselves and are subjected to.
Knowledge without relevant manners, ethics, skills and morals is mis interpreted and mis understood and hence becomes a mirage to the carriers and to the society with an impending threat.