A recent Daily Trust newspaper report showed that Almajiri schools, otherwise called Tsangaya model schools, built by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration have all fallen into a state of disrepair. The schools which were founded on a modernised curriculum that blends Western and the traditional model of Islamic education were built to tackle the high rate of illiteracy and also reduce the number of out-of-school children in the North.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Tsangaya model school programme at Gagi in Sokoto State on April 10, 2012, where he registered 25 pupils in the new Tsangaya model boarding school. The Gagi school, which was the first of such schools, had modern facilities including recitation halls, classrooms, language laboratories, vocational workshops, dormitories, dining halls, school clinic and staff quarters. N15 billion was earmarked for the project by former administration.
Five years after their establishment, many of these Tsangaya model schools have been converted into conventional schools while others are in severe decay. For example, the Tsangaya model school built in Talata Mafara local government of Zamfara State has been converted into Command Science Secondary School while the one at Damba is now Government Girls Secondary School. Zamfara State Commissioner for Education Mukhtar Lugga said the Tsangaya model schools were converted into conventional schools because the physical structures were deteriorating.
In Sokoto State, the first Tsangaya School which was commissioned five years ago had 260 pupils at inception but only few pupils now attend classes. Seven out of its ten classrooms are now unoccupied. In Kaduna State, the Tsangaya model schools have dearth of teachers and facilities with poor pupil hygiene and poor sanitary conditions. At the four Tsangaya model schools established in Bauchi State, the language laboratories, vocational workshops and clinic are not functional and were never equipped. In Kano State, the Tsangaya schools operate as if they are private schools because their PTAs provide learning facilities and pay for all services enjoyed by pupils including medication for the sick. In Kebbi State, pupils of the Tsangaya school in Tudun Wada area of Birnin Kebbi are forced to leave school premises in order to beg for alms on the streets.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua first mooted the idea of Tsangaya model schools when he set up a ministerial committee to visit Indonesia to understudy that country’s Madrasah structure. When Barrister Nyesom Wike succeeded Prof Rukayyatu Rufa’i as Minister of Education, he hijacked and politicised implementation of the Tsangaya education programme by building a Tsangaya schools in Rivers state and taking the one rejected by Ebonyi to Niger State. Both should have been located in states where Almajiri phenomenon is most pronounced. Funds meant for Tsangaya education were also utilized for other purposes.
Northern state governments, more than the federal government, are to blame for the setbacks suffered by the Tsangaya programme. One, the Tsangaya system of learning is a phenomenon that is peculiar to the North. Two, the training provided by Tsangaya model schools falls under basic education which is the state and local governments’ constitution responsibility. These reasons make northern state governments more culpable for the schools’ deplorable state. Most northern state governors were not committed to the programme. Some of them, for political reasons, sited the schools in wrong locations. Others completely ignored the programme as they found little political utility in Tsangaya for their partisan interests.
Governors should know that Almajiri children deserve government support because, like other Nigerian children, education is their basic right. They have the right to be trained in Tsangaya model schools by state resources to become useful members of the society by acquiring vocational skills in addition to their choice for this system of learning. We urge federal government to resume its intervention in the Tsangaya education programme through a National Implementation Committee domiciled at the Universal Basic Education Commission. We also urge state governors to de-politicise its role and make adequate budgetary provisions that will supplement the interventions received from federal government.