FG’S PROPOSED SCRAP OF ALMAJIRI SYSTEM: A GOOD MOVE?
The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH) was reported to have said Muslims should seek knowledge even if it’s in China. China then was the farthest. The concept here was to emphasize the importance of knowledge and to encourage seeking same. It is on this notion that the north which is predominantly populated by Muslims promoted and still is promoting such credo. However, in every idea, regardless of how noble it is, is prone to abuse. And that is what has become the concept of ALMAJIRI in the north today.
WHAT IS ALMAJIRISM (SIC)?
ALMAJIRI is a system in the northern hemisphere where children at a very tender age are left to seek for Islamic knowledge away from their ancestral homes. In some instances centuries back, children went as far other African countries to seek this knowledge. Countries like Niger Republic, Mali, Senegal had children of Nigerian origin coming to seek knowledge in their territories. For instance, the erudite and iconic late Dan Masani of Kano, late Maitama Sule (who’d the popular Maitama District – a highbrow Abuja enclave named after him) did his ‘almajiri’ in far away Niger Republic.
THE GENESIS OF THE MENACE
These children are usually however left at the mercy of their hosts/teachers/mallams who end up exploiting them for financial gains. But then, do you blame the mallams? There are usually tens of hundreds of children to cater for – accommodation and feeding. Yet, such children do not usually seek this knowledge paying for such services. The mallams provide accommodation and feeding for these hapless children. And since they – the mallams themselves only survive on little or nothing, they are not salaried and neither do they often have any other means of livelihood except those of them who engage in menial farming; they therefore would send these children out begging to survive.
A WHETTED SORE
Centuries over centuries, the ALMAJIRI system became a full blown sore whetted by no parental care, leadership neglect, societal exploitation among others. These children once birthed now are left to fend for themselves. All what their parents need do is to mate and once such children are able to speak, may be at 3 or 4 years, they are left to survive all alone in the harsh society we call ours. They grow up to become pawns in the hands of political gladiators. They use them as willing tools to intimidate perceived political enemies and/or foes. They give them crumbs to sustain their living and dumb them after each political exercise without empowering them. These children therefore become ‘terrors’ to the society afterwards.
UBIQUITOUS DELETERIOUS SECURITY
For centuries, the Fulani group have lived with their host communities without much ado. I have seen Fulanis married to Yorùbás. I have seen Yorùbás married to Fulanis. But in recent years, the name Fulani has been treated with so much disdain; so much so that a Fulani man now becomes a bête noire or persona non grata in the same place he has lived for centuries. How did we get to this noxious, nocuous and dangerous narrative? Crime has no tribe but these hapless kids who are left to roam the streets with a plate in their hands grow up with outright neglect by the system and then become willing to engage in crimes. And this accounts for why some, not all of those involved in today’s kidnapping and other crimes have Fulanis among them.
A GOOD MOVE
The decision of the federal government to scrap the ALMAJIRI system is a step in the right direction. It is not an end entirely in itself but a way to address the cankerworm. The Prophet who encouraged knowledge seeking also discouraged men begging for alms. He frowned seriously at a man begging for alms even when you have a disability. It comes like a relief when the current Nigerian government recently muted the idea of scrapping the system. The federal government must therefore put mechanisms in place to address squarely the age-long practice. We must however be circumspect and exploit all variables that will not only put a permanent solution, but a lasting catholicon or cure-all remedy.
Omogbolahan Babs writes from Abuja.