In the last of our series on “Memos to the Sultan Committee on Almajiri” we today publish some of the responses of readers, including one from the Emir of Kano who had earlier written directly to the Sultan’s initial summit meeting. There have been many reader reactions but the Column apologises that it can only accommodate so much. Any further suggestions should now be forwarded directly to Sultan Committee on Almajiri through the Chairman Shaikh Ahmad Bello (firstname.lastname@example.org), Deputy Chairman Shaikh Salihu Abubakar (email@example.com), Secretary Dr. Khalid Aliyu Abubakar (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Co-Secretary Prof. Salisu Shehu (email@example.com), as I have already done a follow-up submission from Retired Rear Admiral Suleiman Sa’idu (who was on this page three weeks ago), and another by Dr. Saidu Ahmad Dukawa, Deputy Director, Centre for Islamic Civilization and Interfaith Dialogue (CICID) of the BUK on “The Role of Traditional Institutions in Reforming Almajirci” which was presented earlier than the inauguration of the Committee as Keynote Address at the Third Quarterly Stakeholder Policy Forum of the NEEM Foundation held in Kano last August:
HIS HIGHNESS MUHAMMAD SANUSI II, SARKIN KANO: I have only one comment and every time I make it it is dismissed but one day we will all come round to it. So long as we do not implement Shari’ah guidance on the responsibility of a husband and father to maintain his family, so long as we allow people to marry multiple wives and produce many children and refuse to enforce means testing, so long as women with children are divorced and the law does not force the father to bear full responsibility for the children, we will not solve the problem of almajirai and poverty. We are wasting our time talking about almajiranci; it is a symptom of a much deeper problem – the total disregard for regulations around the family and parental responsibility. Other countries in the Muslim world recognised this long ago but we continue to live in denial and even those who should know better refuse to face the reality. If we do not return to a system where everyone who wants the privilege of having a family must take the responsibility that comes with it, we will be talking about this problem in the next fifty years. Charity alone will not solve this problem. It is caused by irresponsibility among northern men, tolerated and encouraged by the system.
DR. AISHA ABUBAKAR (firstname.lastname@example.org): I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this series on Almajiri. Of course you know, Sir, how very much interested in the Almajiri discourse I am; having written two theses on the matter. I strongly agree on the need for integration and reform of the system rather than abolition. It is a centuries’ old practise which had good intentions and has had good output in the past. As with all things left without a check and balance regulatory system though, it is bound to get out of hand. I however was left confused by one of the submissions where it was insinuated that non-Muslims may not have a role to play in the reform. I have a different view. There are some young people doing wonderful things in the lives of Almajiris. Two dentists in Kano, Dr. Amina Jaji and Dr Akinwale Akinlade (who I believe is a Christian) have given back in the best way they know how; promoting oral hygiene among this group of boys. Temitope is a young amiable Christian Yoruba lady who runs a volunteer after-school programme for some Almajiris in Yola. We were all fellows in the 2017 cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. We have also formed a small group, discussing on how we can contribute to the reform of the system and get the discourse going. Surprisingly, many non-Muslims were willing to join the group. Thank you Sir for your mentorship from afar. You were one of those who piqued my interest in the Almajiri system of education. I still have some of the mails from when I was writing my MSc and they were very valuable in helping me understand the system.
M. T. USMAN (email@example.com:) The memo from Rear Admiral Suleiman Sa’idu tops all memos the Committee is likely to receive. It lays bare the situation and what must be done to solve it. Jonathan’s Almajiri schools (a political gimmick which unfortunately even some of us applauded) and the Tsangaya system all seek retention of the practice while Admiral Sa’idu strongly recommends return of children to their homesteads to be taught by local Mallams who are also invariably community Imams – to be employed and paid by government. Run parallel schools if necessary – Boko mornings with a dose of religious instructions as before, Islamiyya afternoons. It is our priority as a society. This issue must be settled once for all, else we risk becoming like Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the hand, the memo from the Islamic Development Network (IDN) amounts to exporting our problems with the view to getting others – in this case the federal government – to solve them for us. A National Quranic Education Commission would simply not fly; it would further ridicule us in the eyes of our traducers. Hasn’t the federal government failed to cater for its 104 unity schools? Why expect it to do better with regards to the Almajiri schools?
LAWAL SHEHU (firstname.lastname@example.org): I have two questions on the IDN Memo: One, if as recently as 2015 these scholars were recommending that research be conducted on aspects of Almajiri in the Far North and with many professors of social sciences, what have they been focussing upon for their PhD dissertations all these decades? Two, did they or anyone else try to find out how the Northern Yoruba Muslims of Kwara and Kogi Muslims teach their children Qur’an and Islamic Studies?
IBRAHIM YUSUFU (email@example.com): Your Guest Columnist Adamu Tilde tried to find the cause of the problem with Almajiranci and identified two culprits – parents and government(s). Every Muslim knows that responsibility is on the shoulders of the father to cater for children, wives and other defendants. In order to discharge these duties, fathers send their wards to where there are knowledgeable people willing to teach these children, in most cases without any reward from the parents. This was the beginning of Almajiranci. The phenomenon was made worse by the fact that the parents are basically ignorant of the teachings of Islam and cannot teach their wards themselves, but they want to fulfil that religious obligation. In most cases they are so poor and could barely meet essential necessities of life. This leaves us with the second problem- the governments. Education is the responsibility of governments at all levels. The Colonialists did their worst to suppress Islamic education in Nigeria, but left almost sixty years ago. We cannot therefore continue blaming them. The problem is with our governments and in this case Northern governments. The Northern governments could solve the problem of Almajiranci if the will is there. Other Muslim countries have done it.
ABBATI DANKANTI GUMEL (firstname.lastname@example.org): This issue of Almajirci is as painful as the social ills affecting the Islamic society in Hausaland. Dereliction of family responsibility and leaders’ neglect of people’s welfare are the factors responsible in promoting Almajirci. The Maitatsine Riots of the 1980s marked a watershed. A certain department at the University of Maiduguri undertook research on the causes, problems and remedies of Almajirci, but the report was neglected because some important personalities were implicated in the mess, and they were ‘untouchable’! If the report had been implemented, the story of insurgency would not have arisen today! A Hausa proverb says, “Wanda ya ki sharar masallaci ya yi ta kasuwa!”