The governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has said the Northern States Governors’ Forum is determined to end the Almajiris’ system of education in the north, amidst the spread of COVID-19 among the children.
Many of the street kids searching for Islamic knowledge across the north have been infected by the deadly virus in recent days as state governments scramble frantically to send them back to their respective states.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how about 16 of those recently sent back from Kano to Jigawa tested positive to the virus. The state is still expecting the test results for over 500 others.
Mr El-Rufai, who spoke Wednesday on Channels TV Politics Today’s show, said the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to determine the state of almajiri education.
Almajiri is ideally a system of Islamic education practiced in northern Nigeria, where young children leave their homes to live with Islamic scholars and learn about the religion. Almajiri derives from an Arabic word, “al-Muhajirun” meaning a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.
However, the system has over the years been corrupted with thousands of such children roaming the streets of Northern Nigeria as beggars and without any form of education.
The system has been blamed for significantly contributing to the over 10 million out of school children in Nigeria.
Mr El—Rufai said the decision has been a subject of deep deliberations in the Northern States Governors’ Forum under the chairmanship of the Plateau governor, Simon Lalong, for the past 12 months.
“We’ve been looking for the ways and means to end this system because it has not worked for the children, it has not worked for Northern Nigeria and it has not worked for Nigeria. So, it has to end and this is the time,” he said.
He said his state has been expanding the capacities of schools in Kaduna with the hope of accommodating the subsequent integration of these children as the best alternative for them.
The governor, who expressed deep worry about the academic situation of the children said “ You know, it is better to count 200 children in a primary school classroom and give them some kind of modern education than to allow them to waste their lives away, roaming about the streets begging for what to eat under this system.
“Anything is better than this system and we’re determined as Northern governors to end it,” he said.
Mr El-Rufai also said, “if other Northern governors are treating the issues with levity, that is their own business. But I can assure you that in Kaduna State, the almajiri’s sytem is dead.”
The governor said he has reviewed a law that will formally prohibit such a system in his state, noting that all parents of the children “have been tracked and would be properly trained on parental responsibilities, in order to efficiently and effectively enforce the proposed model for the children.”
“We are not just abolishing the system, we’re not just telling the parents of the children, but we’ve let them know that the children must go to school once school is open and we’ve tracked each and everyone of their parents and we’re going to counsel them on parental responsibilities. It is a long process, but the children must go to school,” he said.
Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Nigeria, many state governors have taken strict measures to curb its spread including closing their boundaries and restricting movement.
In the north, one of the measures adopted by northern state governors was the transfer of these street kids to their states of origin.
Many northern states have since transferred hundreds of almajiri children to their states of origin.
The move has drawn mixed reactions from Nigerians. While some condemned the move as a violation of the rights of the children to freedom to live anywhere across Nigeria, others described it as a necessary step to end the unhealthy practice.
The Taraba State Government on Monday rejected several ‘almajiri’ children transferred from Nasarawa State. The state’s commissioner of information,Danjuma Adamu, said the kids were rejected because Nasarawa officials did not observe ‘due protocol’.
PREMIUM TIMES also reported how the federal government, through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 denounced the transfer of the kids across states during the coronavirus pandemic saying it violates the ban on interstate travel.