About 20,000 almajiris recently quit begging in Katsina, the state government said.
Sight of plate-carrying children, begging for alms and food is common in most states of northern Nigeria.
Statistics from the Federal Ministry of Education, put the number of these children popularly called almajiris at nine million.
The Federal Government, worried by this development, introduced the Almajiri Education programme in collaboration with the state governments and development partners.
Almost all states in the north had introduced measures that would help to keep the children off the streets.
Just recently, about 20,000 pupils of Quranic schools, spread across Katsina State renounced street begging, following the introduction of free school feeding and vocational programme by the state government.
The Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Ibrahim Shema on Almajirai Affairs, Lawal Gambarawa, said the scheme had recorded appreciable success within seven months.
According to him, the 20,000 pupils are from the 100 Quranic schools selected for the pilot scheme across the 34 local government areas of the state.
Mr. Gambarawa explained that 38 schools were selected from Katsina Senatorial Zone, while Funtua and Daura senatorial zones had 30 and 33 schools respectively.
He said that the programme was aimed at improving the living condition of the pupils, curtail street begging, and training the affected youth on vocational skills to make them self-reliant.
Mr. Gambarawa said that government was planning to expand the number of benefiting schools to 130 to enable other schools benefit.
“In the first instance, the Katsina State Government started with 70 Quranic schools with about 15,000 Almajirai, and later increased the schools to 100 with 20,000 Almajirai benefiting.
“The Katsina State Government is considering including more Quranic schools into the programme, which will bring down the number of Almajirai begging population.’’
The senior special assistant said that the state government has constructed schools in some local government areas to train the Almajiris to secondary and tertiary levels. He added that the menace of Almajiri and street begging would become a thing of the past in no distant time if all northern states adopt the Katsina approach.
In order to attract the children to the Almajiri schools, government feeds them every day.
According to Governor Ibrahim Shema, government spends N32 million every month for the feeding of the pupils. He also said that government introduced mobile ambulance services to carter for the health care needs of the Almajiri schools across the state.
Bauchi State, like Katsina State, is unrelenting in its effort to provide qualitative education to the Almajiris.
Governor Isa Yuguda said that the government had built 620 Almajiri schools in the state between 2007 and 2009, and integrated same into the Universal Basic Education system.
The governor stated this at the inauguration of the Tsangaya Islamiya Model School (a Quranic school), in Buzaye in Bauchi Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
He said the state government started integrating the Quranic schools into basic education with only three schools, adding that “now we have 620, with an enrolment of 35,531 pupils.
“All the schools have classrooms with quality facilities such as furniture, instructional materials, as well as qualified teachers,” he said.
Mr. Yuguda said that three Tsangaya Islamiya Model Schools were built in the state by the Federal Government at N350 million.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo, who inaugurated the schools, said that the Federal Government had so far constructed 128 Almajiri schools in 28 states of the federation.
He said that out of the 128 schools, 89 were constructed by Universal Basic Education Commission, while 39 were constructed by the defunct Education Trust Fund, now Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
“So far, 109 of the schools have been completed, while the remaining ones are at various stages of completion,” he said.
The vice-president said available records indicated that the number of Almajiris in the country was more than nine million.
“This staggering figure does not only pose a great challenge in the achievement of education for all, it also poses serious challenge to the attainment of the development agenda of our great country.
“Any development plan that does not focus on comprehensive and all inclusive education programme will not lead Nigeria to the attainment of our desired social and economic development.
“This is what informed Federal Government’s decision to include all Nigerian children in the transformation agenda of the education sector,” the vice-president said.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State, on his part, said that the percentage of out-of-school children in the state dropped from 78 per cent in 2011 to less than 42 per cent in 2013.
Mr. Dankwambo stated this recently in Gombe when the Minister of State and Supervising Minister for Education, Mr. Nyeson Wike, visited him.
He recalled that the statistics of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2011 showed that 78 per cent of children in the state were out-of-school
“But between 2012 and 2013, the number has dropped to less than 42 per cent.
“A state of emergency was declared in the education sector, as the government built and renovated schools to decongest the existing ones, while recruiting qualified teachers.
“This has contributed effectively to the development of education in the state.
“We will not relent in our efforts; we will continue to invest in education because it is our number one, two and three priorities.
“If a society is well-educated, other things will follow,” he said.
Indeed, government at all levels should continue to give priority to education, as empowerment is the greatest gift to a child.
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