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Almajiri: Experts caution against hasty action

Related

• Want Support Structures In Place
• Proscribing Almajiri May Remain Elusive- CDD
• CISLAC Urges Immediate Ban
• It’s In Nigeria’s Interest To Abolish – Okoh
• Proscription Will Address Poverty, Insecurity – Daniel

As the Federal Government ponders the proscription of the almajiri system of education in its desperate bid to curb pervasive insecurity and poverty, especially in the North, experts and interest groups are cautioning against swift actions without a well-thought-out plan that would ensure sustainability.

While the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) is of the view that the move could be a ruse, or at best a political statement as there were no workable structures to support the plan, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) wants the “wicked system” eliminated with military alacrity.

Almajiri, a system of Islamic education practiced in northern Nigeria, permits a person to leave his home in search of knowledge.

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The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, who spoke at the end of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, last week, said the planned ban is to ensure that no child is deprived of basic education.

But the Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice, (CenSoj), Mr. Eze Onyekpere, told The Guardian that doing away with the system without a proper blueprint remains a recipe for greater disaster, since the affected kids are already a veritable supply source for Boko Haram terrorists.

According to Onyekpere, banning almajiri “without a well formulated plan as to what to do with them will be another attestation that the current administration has no capacity to govern the country. Such a knotty and very sensitive issue cannot be done by a proclamation. For it is only God that can say ‘let there be’ and it was. In this almajiri’s case, you cannot wake up one day and decree that you are scrapping the system and think that you are not creating more problems than you are attempting to correct.

“So, the government should come up with a well formulated plan and timelines for their implementation, beginning with forcing those shirking their responsibility of taking care of their children to do so. All the abandoned almajiri schools built by President Goodluck Jonathan should be turned into ranches with the children cleared from the streets populating them for the purposes of food production in the country. Niger State alone has a massive land space much biggher than that occupied by all the five Ibo speaking states put together, complete with two large dams- the Kainji Dam and the Shiroro Dam. With proper planning, these features could automatically become catalyst for economic growth if the almajiris are deployed to ranches in the area, instead of just forcing them out of the streets without engaging them well,” Onyekpere stated.

For development economist, Mr. Odilim Enwegbara, it is only a legislation that will control the growing almajiri phenomenon, just the way that China succeeded in controlling her population through birth policy law.

“There should be a law against people having more than four children, and against people without any reasonable income marrying more than one wife. Why should we just be producing children as if we are breeding cattle?” he asked.

He added that for the plan to become a success, and remain sustainable, there was the need for the overhaul of the entire education system, as well as putting in place a social security plan that can guarantee tranquillity in the society.

The CDD’s position that the planned proscription could remain a mirage, according to its director, Idayat Hassan is because there are no workable structures to support the plan.

To her, addressing the challenge requires a holistic approach that would factor in job creation, education, relocation plans and funding, among other critical components that would guarantee success.

While decrying that attempts made by the previous administrations on the issue ended in delusion, Hassan challenged the President Buhari-led administration to show any workable plan it has designed on the issue.

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She, however, insisted that addressing the almajiri issue remained critical, especially in the face of growing insecurity and poverty in the country.

“There is need for a holistic approach to eradicating this system. We need a long-term plan and not our fire brigade approach to doing things,” Hassan said.

She advised the government to study countries that have successfully tackled similar problems in order to design a realistic plan on the menace.

The Primate of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh has said that Nigerians are itching to see the Federal Government improve the lives of the destitute children, send them to school and integrate them back into regular family life.

According to the cleric, almajiri children in their present state are unhelpful to the society, adding that government can begin the process of turning their lives around by sending them to public schools to enable them mix up and interact with children from regular homes from other parts of the country.

Oko said: “I don’t know what the government means by saying that it would proscribe the almajiri system, but what people are asking for is for the government to improve the lives of these boys, send them to school, and integrate them into the society. As they are now, they are not helpful to society, so the government should help them get out of their present condition; they should go to public schools where they will know that there are Igbo people, Yoruba people and others, whom they can interact with, instead of sending them to schools that are meant for them alone.”

Chairman of Pentecostal Bishops Forum of the 19 Northern States, and the Presiding Metropolitan Archbishop of Dominion Chapel International Churches, Archbishop John Praise Daniel on his part said the Federal Government should be commended for making the moves, which will go a long way in addressing the problems of ignorance, poverty and insecurity in the North.

Daniel said: ”It would be a wonderful development if the almajiri system is proscribed. This practice has contributed to poverty, ignorance and insecurity. It will help in population control because people give birth to so many children that they cannot cater for, and thereafter push them into the streets to beg, only for them to become easy recruits for banditry.”

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He tasked the Federal Government to put in order all the almajiri schools built by former President Goodluck Jonathan saying that would be a good takeoff point.

CISLAC is urging the Federal Government to waste no further time in bringing to an end, the system, which it said is debasing and degrading.

Its director and Head, Transparency International Nigeria, Auwal Musa said proscribing the almajiri system is a policy that government must implement immediately in order to protect children’s rights as it exposes them to all manner of vices and turns them into criminals and insurgents.

He said, ”We need to eliminate this wicked system that throws children out of their homes and makes them become criminals, and insurgents because they have no parental care. So many children are being violated and abused as a result of this outdated almajiri system. If we have a system that cares about the protection of children, there should be immediate ban on the almajiri system. It has proven to be a system that does not care about the protection of the child as children are exposed to all manner of vices, and made to become criminals.

Government should be more proactive and committed to eliminating this system.”

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