By Kabiru Muhammed Gwangwazo
Last week Wednesday (July 4th) the National Assembly held a Public Hearing on Almajirai. The hearing was by the Senate Committee to tackle the problem of out-of-school children, the girl child and the itinerant child Qur’anic scholar, the almajiri. RIPPLES today has a few notes from views collated by a Kano NGO we are involved with, Kano LEADS for the Senate Hearing.
That was for a hearing on the “National Commission on Child Destitution in Nigeria Bill 2018” sponsored by Senator Aliyu Wamakko. It is worth sharing for added inputs to its handlers if the bill is done. The girl child and the Almajiri are firstly economic refugees who should have the same status as internally displaced persons (IDPs), because that is essentially what they are. They should be treated as such in terms of support by government, the community and by local and international donor support groups.
The almajiri is as much a citizen of Nigeria as any other lucky enough not to end up as almajiri. They are as much a significant part of the national census figures used to denote bases of national power and a key reason for allocation of resources. The almajiri is also a significant component of our economy, considering his inputs. Economists may confirm the contributions and the value “almajirai” add to GDP. They should consider all the economic activities almajirai engage in in our cities, from yankan farce to sugar cane hawking, tricycle adaidaita sahu, domestic chores, shopkeeping, agro-allied enterprises etc. Almajirai engage in all of these and nore even as underage “Out of School” (out of secular western school) Children.
This said, what exactly is a commission of the type proposed by the NASS for out of school children? It is to focus on total integration of these citizens of our cities who are forced to escape the poverty of their villages, the poverty of their parents. Such a commission should work hand-in-hand with UBEC/SUBEB to fully fund the almajiri form of education. It should be noted that this education was deliberately truncated and bastardised by the colonialists and further relegated by the elite spawned by colonialism who still run the nation on the colonial format they inherited.
A major plank of the job expected of the commission should be to ensure Quranic and Islamic education be fully domesticated and located in the rural areas that send forth the Almajirai to our cities. The commission should also do all it can to ensure such improvements for the rural areas that breed and export them to the urban centres.
The TETFUND approach, the UBEC approach and nomadic education commission plus the Niger Delta militants format needs be studied and fitted into this important way of life corrupted by economic and political forces of which the victims and their parents have no understanding at all. And they had no hand, really, in foisting the reckless poverty-stricken life they are born into. On the other hand the unrestrained family life we allow needs to be studied and addressed. Where necessary, government support for families should be applied and where enforcement is the answer it should also be brought to bear in a clearly defined policy agreed to by a cross section of our scholars and leading elites who set the pace.
We must be clear in our mind, I repeat, that the hapless, haggard and usually half-naked almajiri is not at fault for his woes. Our elite look down on the almajirai as an open sore, a public embarrassment even when he is a factor in the accumulation of resources that the elite enjoy. The almajirai, left untended may grow into the many millionaires we have in our cities, or the many disciples of Maitatsine and Boko Haram or even the thugs rascally politicians employ for their wicked ways.
FINALLY, the almajirai, it should be noted, is not any worse than the secular western educated child who revels in drugs, alcoholism and all kinds of nasty anti-social habits. Yet, that secular western educated child is fully supported as an integral part of our life that government budgets for. In fact from my records of the almajiri mates some of us went to Quranic school with as young lads decades ago and those who came after us and the many still at it, the products of that unsupported almajiri school system grow into comfortable or at least manageable chosen careers including artesanal blue-collar vocations unlike many of us who went to secular schools and go into the mainstream of life that they are locked out of. That is unfair. That breeds resentment. That encourages the terror that they unleash when they are pulled in by the wrong people and wrong groups.
2019 brew of coalitions and counter coalitions . . . PRP cries for alternatives
As the PDP seeks to consolidate in its uphill task to unseat the sitting APC Government it surely hasn’t forgotten that its major support base in “winning” elections since 1999 had always been control of the apparatus of government.
Today it is not in control. As such it has rallied a coalition of over 30 political parties and the returnee new PDP now renamed Reformed APC to give it the muscle it lost by loss of Government. The coalition appears shaky. Even so it has also egged on the ruling APC into seeking its own coalition. Yet, other parties are also running around to find their feet as INEC issues its proposed 2019 elections time-table.
An interesting dimension that played out on this coalition and Nigeria in 2019 is an emergency national caucus meeting of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), in Kaduna. The Balarabe Musa-led PRP was at its redemptive best in the circumstance. In tune with the season it argued for an alternative to the PDP coalition and any thoughts of a merger in a communique at the end of a one-day caucus meeting. The party caucus, made up of representatives from all over the Federation said the PRP is committed to maintaining its separate identity with what it claims are sacred “goals of reconstructing the social and economic structure of the nation along the lines of equity, justice, fairplay and even development”.
It rejected the PDP and its coalitionists, arguing that the “coalition is unworkable because it does not offer a qualitative and credible alternative to the existing political order”. In the same breath it also denied the APC for failure “to measure up to the basic expectations of Nigerians”, though leaving its doors open to “all patriotic, progressive and principled politcal parties and politcal activists genuinely interested in working together to move Nigeria forward”.