The Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai recently banned the Almajirai system of education in the state.
He also warned that any Islamic cleric that enrols any child into the almajiri system would be prosecuted and jailed as well as fined N100, 000 or N200, 000 per child.
The governor said all the almajiri pupils repatriated from other states were indigenes of the state, adding that the government would give them all the opportunity they deserved to grow and develop.
He said the state has a responsibility to do whatever it can to give them hope and a better future.
“We will, therefore, continue to take delivery of every almajiri pupil indigenous to Kaduna State for rehabilitation, treatment and enrolment into formal schools nearest to where their parents live.
“We will continue to do this until we clear Kaduna State of the menace of almajiri system, which is not education but the abuse of the privileges and future of a child.
“Our ultimate goal is for them to acquire formal education without depriving them of the opportunity to acquire Quranic education”, he said.
This no doubt is a commendable move and I say, thumbs up to Governor El-Rufai for this bold decision.
The age-long almajirai system of education in the north no doubt, had remained a big challenge for the region.
Many of these children are left vulnerable on the streets begging for food under harsh weather conditions.
These children move around in tattered clothes with no access to shelter, medicare and other necessities of life.
Apart from bringing the region to ridicule, the practice has equally contributed to some of the social vices and criminality bedeviling the north today.
Perhaps, the dangers associated with the practice came to limelight with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
A number of these children tested positive for the virus, sparking concerns of widespread community transmission.
The development forced the governors to begin repatriation of almajirais to their home states to reunite with their parents.
A practice that encourages parents to give birth to children indiscriminately without assuming responsibility of fending for such offsprings is sheer wickedness and must not be allowed.
It is heartwarming that the northern governors appeared to be more determined about tackling the menace of almajirai practice in the region following the outbreak of COVID-19.
This even as the Kano State government has said it will enrol the over 1,000 repatriated “almajirai” into formal schools in line with its free and compulsory education policy.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje said during a media briefing by the State Task Force on COVID-19 in Kano that, “Every child in Kano State, including almajirai must go to school”.
According to him, the government had concluded plans to incorporate the children into conventional schools to chart a better future for them.
Ganduje warned that the government would not allow Almajirai schools to operate in any part of the state unless they meet some criteria and guidelines.
“If an Almajiri system will be allowed in Kano, there are guidelines which if followed they will allow for it to continue.
“These include, having a curriculum that tallies with a formal school system; there must be provision for the Almajiris in terms of their full shelter, food, clothing and all other necessary livelihoods.
“There must be qualified teachers who will be certified by the government through test and examinations.
“If these guidelines are strictly followed and abide by, then we will allow the system to fully operate in Kano,” he said.
In view of the foregoing, I urge all the northern governors to take a cue from El-Rufai by enacting laws that will put end to the practice after they must have rehabilitated and reunited all the almajirai already repatriated from the various states with their families.
This practice must stop.
Samaila Inuwa writes from Kaduna.