Almajiranci System is an Islamic education system practiced in Northern Nigeria,
Growing up In the North, words like ‘sadaka’ and kids moving around with a plastic bowl singing in groups was not strange to us, with time we got to understand that these sets of kids are known to the outside world as “ALMAJIRAI” and the alms which they receive from people is known as ‘sadaka’.
As years go by I got to interact with some of the almajirai in my neighborhood and it further exposed me to their world of sleeping in a condensed and unhygienic environment, at times wearing the same clothes
even if they are dirty for days waking up early and rushing to the roadside in order to collect early morning ‘sadaka’ from people, singing Hausa songs and dancing with their bowls happily even though they are not enjoying the basic amenities they are entitled to.
A further quest into the life of an Almajirai opened my eyes to researches carried out by authorities and notable scholars on ALMAJIRAI exposed me to a vast knowledge about them.
These set of kids belong to the ‘ALMAJIRANCI SYSTEM’ this is a system of Islamic education practiced in Northern Nigeria, the male gender seeking education is known as ALMAJIRI while the female gender is known as ALMAJIRA and a plural is ALMAJIRAI the word is derived ALMAJIRI is derived from the Arabic word al-muhajirun which means an emigrant.
The system allows parents to forgo parental responsibilities to the Islamic school their ward is attached to. These children are handed over to their Islamic teachers who are known as mallam between the ages of 3 and 12 and they learn about the Quran in schools called Tsangayu and they graduate from these schools in their early twenties.
In recent times the term has expanded to refer to any young person who begs on the streets and does not attend secular school. Many people in Hausa land give ‘Sadaka’ to ALMAJIRAI on daily basis in a bid to seek divine reward and protection.
The ALMAJIRAI system has shifted from its original purpose of Islamic education as these kids have resorted to alms begging out of necessity to eat.
Alms begging was not originally part of the system but it is now a daily routine as a study has shown that 88% of the ALMAJIRAI said that they spend most of their time begging for alms daily.
These sets of kids are seen as one of the most vulnerable in society. Just as the saying goes” an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” the ALMAJIRAI are unskilled children who roam on the streets begging for alms are more susceptible to be used as a tool for crimes, some of the arrested book haram recruits over the years have confessed that they were once ALMAJIRAI who looked for their daily bread on the streets.
In 2012, Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan referred to Almajiranci System as dangerous to national development and he also said that they should receive traditional, secular education in order for their mind to be equipped.
Although little steps have been taken by the government as the ALMAJIRAI schools built-in the North by Goodluck Jonathan led administration, has been left to deteriorate thereby throwing the Almajirai who once beamed with the hope of a brighter future into the streets again to continue begging for their daily bread irrespective to the stigmatization that they face from people who see them as poverty-stricken, malnourished, homeless and illiterates.
It is expected for any stigmatized individual to find comfort amidst where he believes that comfort lies, this is why it is so easy to lure these children into the works of crime just with the promise of a little luxury that they have never known all their life.
Also, it has become a prerequisite for the government not to turn a blind eye to the ALMAJIRAI across the country, the recent turn of event in the Country especially the advent of COVID-19 have shown that the poor and vulnerable in the society can easily contact it even though it is unclear how they got infected.
Kaduna state government recently bemoaned the influx of ALMAJIRAI already infected with COVID-19 coming into the state. On Monday, May 27, Governor Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa state disclosed to newsmen that 122 ALMAJIRAI repatriated from other states tested positive to coronavirus.
In Gombe, eight of the 48 ALMAJIRAI children tested had COVID-19, this shows that Nigeria is gradually entering a phase of communal transmission of the virus. The government should begin to focus on how to rehabilitate these vulnerable children and take them off the streets in their large numbers.
Kano state has over 300,000 ALMAJIRAI and if the ALMAJIRAI are already getting infected without being treated, it will definitely take little mathematics to calculate the upsurge in infection cases within few months due to the everyday living conditions of the ALMAJIRAI; which includes moving around in groups, unhygienic living conditions and overcrowded shelters where they lay their head every night to retire for the day, all of these defies the preventive measures of COVID-19 that the Federal Government is trying to propagate in order to stop the spread to the disease, how can a beggar stop begging for alms when he is unsure of where his next meal will come from.
Although Northern state Governors are clamoring for the abolition of the ALMAJIRANCI system especially now that the country is noticing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases with regards to the North, it will be in the best interest of the future of the kids for the Government to put on their thinking cap on how best to rehabilitate and reintegrate these children into the society if eventually the
ALMAJIRANCI system is scrapped, scrapping the system without proper planning of the children’s future such as provision for their education, accommodation, and even feeding is like ignoring a ticking timebomb. These children will only emigrate from being beggars on the street to become criminals and thugs for politicians.
They can also evolve into being carriers of the virus and fast spreader of the virus due to the high number of people that they have contact with daily.
This is why an action should be rapidly taken by the relevant government agencies in order to avert this impending disaster.