…by Tijjani Muhammad Musa
Almajiri is not a beggar. Begging is forbidden in Islam. Whoever begs tarnish himself and his people. Almajiri is a Hausa language adoption of the word “Al-Muhajir”, which is an Arabic word that means “Someone who leaves home in search of knowledge.” The problem is real and glaring, but actually very simple to solve.
First, let’s trace the source of these kids roaming the street in the guise of “al-Muhajir”s, which is the excuse used by their parents like someone rightly pointed out, to send them away in order to be free from being responsible for them. Also known is another score that except but a few, these parents do not bother to visit or track the progress of their children once they send them off in the guise of seeking for Quranic knowledge.
And often the parents insist or pressurize these poor street urchins into bringing them money, presents, gifts and certain things of vanity from the places, towns, cities etc they are based, which often forces the children to indulge in monetary pursuits of all kinds, including involvement in vices such as thefts, pick-pocket, mischief making, pimping, child prostitution and much more. Yes, one can tell much more, especially if that person is in direct contact with these children on a daily basis, some as young as 3-4 years old.
Now, who allows all these to happen? The government of course! Because of the fear of losing out on such parents’ votes, many politicians and their governments prefer to turn a blind eye or their faces away from doing what needs to be done to curb the almajiri menace bedeviling our image as a people, thus retarding our progress as a people and ummah.
If the government should enact a law that says all children from the age of 3-18 must compulsorily be in school from the hours of 8am-2pm and enforce that law, with stiff penalties to defaulting parents, I assure you this problem will be history. But like I said, this is a democracy and the votes of the almajiris that are 18 and above and that of their parents was part of what ushered in the change Nigerians clamored for in 2015.
And where the children are discovered to be orphans, there should be state institutions to accommodate them where their extended families refuse to cater for their education. But is that obtainable or are we lacking financially as a government to be able to do that? Rather, it is the will to do it that is clearly difficult to find among us.
One of the most important things to do is to enlightening these parents on the issue of marriage. It is of course legitimate to marry more than one wife. But their way of doing it, is totally different and wrong! Yes it is one must agree. But come to think of it, what if we, the system (the government and society) insist on a person fulfilling certain criteria before taking on a 2nd, 3rd or 4th wife?
I mean, just like the Hisbah in Kano are doing in their 1000 Widows marriage project. None of the groom can divorce his wife without first taking the matter to the Board for advices and rectification. If he should do that, divorce his wife I mean, there is a penalty that must be extracted from him. This has gone a long way in deterring prompt divorce among the marriages contracted. And the same should be legislated for any who may wish to take on a new wife. He must be confirmed to be financially capable of handling the additional responsibilities that comes with it.
Same could be applied in the case of these irresponsible parents, for I can assure you it is not lack of information or enlightenment that’s the problem, but that nothing is done as a punishment for sending these kids out of their family’s reach, in the dubious guise of sending them to seek for education.
Besides, nobody said such children cannot acquire Quranic, Islamic or western education right in front of their parents. Many of our kids are doing just that, though we are paying through the nose for what should have been an obligation upon any responsible government. But, because in Nigeria many can “get away with murder” as the cliché goes, nobody cares to give to the populace their rightful dues.
If not, public schools should be so good as to compete with the best of the private schools at no extra cost at all. So much so that everybody would want his or her child attending one as is happening in France, when elites prefer their kids attending public educational institutions rather than the private ones. In fact, those in private schools are removed and placed in government owned school by their parents.
Educating these almajiris would in no small way develop the potential of Nigeria’s intellectual and technical manpower, not just for serving our local, state, northern and national economy, but the rest of the world as well. Nigeria is reputed to have some of the best brains in the world.
We can start from our very own family members. Someone I developed from scratch is a lecturer in one of the nation’s universities and currently pursuing his PhD outside the shore of Nigeria. My wife has also taken out another distant nephew of hers and is preparing to develop him into a viable asset.
Anyway, while we wait for the government to do something about it, how about each of us educated persons take one or two almajiri serving under our households and enroll him in school. Like many others I know, I have also done that to a child who was an almajiri serving in my household and currently the guy has finished JS3 and will be in SS1 in the next academic season and doing fantastically well.
Now, if I and you and you can all try this little initiative instead of just talking and lamenting about it, gradually we can reduce, if not totally eliminate this degrading almajiri phenomenon. As for their irresponsible parents, soon they will not have a child to push out as those children, educated and enlighten would soon replace them as parents themselves and I assure us all, none of them would do the same to his or her child.
But first, we must act out our talks if we are truly worried and concerned about it.
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