President Muhammadu Buhari recently hinted that the federal government should not be blamed for the menace of the Almajiri system of education. Rather, state governments, which are in charge of basic and secondary education, should be held responsible.
The president made this remark when he received members of Progressives in Academics at the State House, Abuja recently. Buhari advised them thus: “I hope when you are going to produce your paper, you will be referring to the constitution; what the centre (federal government) is supposed to do; what states are supposed to do, and what local governments are supposed to do.”
He urged the delegation to study the monthly disbursement of the country’s earnings by the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), especially the sums earned and how it is shared among the three tiers of government.
Pressing his argument further, Buhari said “People are deliberately criticising [federal] government for the Almajiri [problem]. But that is the responsibility of state governments, which means state governments are not doing their job.” Saying education was a top priority of his administration, Buhari disclosed that government had injected over one trillion naira into the nation’s education sector in the past four years through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Tertiary Education Trust Fund as well as Needs Assessment interventions.
Buhari maintained that his administration’s focus and agenda could only be sustained “if we have educated and secured society,” adding that government had no option but to produce more engineers, technicians, doctors, nurses and teachers.
Earlier in his remarks, the spokesman for the group, Dr Bolariwa Bolaji, expressed the readiness of the group to partner the administration to achieve its goals of transforming the nation to the Next Level.
It would be recalled that the Presidency on June 21, 2019, dismissed reports that the federal government had concluded arrangements to ban the Almajiri system of education. Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement in Abuja, had said that putting an end to the Almajiri system had remained an objective of the Buhari administration.
For two fundamental reasons, the President did not mince words when he blamed state governments for their inability to keep school-age children off the streets in many of the 36 states of the federation. Constitutionally, basic education is the responsibility of state governments. The Almajiri system of education naturally falls under basic education, given the level at which Alamjiri system of education is provided. Similarly, President Buhari would be vindicated if his argument is viewed from the fact that most states have, over the years, failed to access UBEC funds due to their inability to provide the necessary counterpart funds.
However, if state governments continuously fail to diligently take up their responsibility as it concerns basic education, the federal government has to confront the situation by providing thenecessary political leadership that would stimulate measures that state governments would key into. Without prejudices, Almajiri has developed into a serious and embarrassing national problem, with multi-dimensional effects that spread from religious, economic, socialto political challenges. It would be apt to learn from the distasteful consequences that attended to federal government’s mismanagement of the perennial farmers/herders crisis when it advised state governments to find individual solutions to it. A similar indifference at resolving Almajiri imbroglio would worsen the situation instead of helping it.
Rather than engage in the endless blame game, we advise President Buhari to bring together all relevant stakeholders to chart a deliberate national programme for eradicating the menace of out-of-school children. The stakeholders may include state governments, Muslim clerics, proprietors of Almajiri schools, and traditional rulers. Besides state governments proffering collective regional measures for tackling this socio-economic menace, we further advise the federal government to come up with relevant policy measures and necessary legal frameworks, a national initiative that would lead to a credible solution to the Almajiri challenge.