A SUMMARY OF FINDINGS BY MEMBERS OF THE ALMAJIRI TSANGAYA FOUNDATION BY HABU KALE YAJIWA, SANI MUHAMMAD GUSAU, AHMED DE DON, MIKAIL IBN JUMMA ATOLAGBE AND FIRYAL BASHIR. …
Over the years, much has been said and proposed on how to tackle the social ills that crept into the almajiri system practiced in the Muslim dominated parts of northern Nigeria. An assignment was thus carries out by some member of ATF to seek out the reasons why the system has continued defy all proposed and implemented measures despite coercive, persuasive and financial inducement. The findings showed that the almajiri has been held hostage by the circumstances of poverty, cultural and socio economic environment and the insurmountable difficulty in salvaging him lies in the fact that these factors have not been tackled from the root. Below is a summary of this findings.
FIRST ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM: SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS, CULTURAL AND TRADIO RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.
The prevalence of begging in Northern Nigeria in whatever form is indisputably prompted by chronic and excruciating poverty which is worsened by population explosion that is in a stiff competition for limited and dwindling economic resources. Regrettably enough, northern Nigeria has the highest poverty rate in the country which is almost endemic in the rural areas. This predicament pushes both children and adults into the cities in search for survival and the almajiri got carried along. He thus voluntarily or involuntarily transforms from a noble student of learning into a vagabond street beggar.
ABUSE OF POLYGAMY
The pervasive abuse of polygamy that abound in the north, were women are married and remarried as often as they were divorced and re-divorced due to lackadaisical attitude towards the religion has warranted many to bear children more than they can cater for . These parents see the system as an outlet or drainage of excess or troublesome children at home. They delegate the responsibility to a third party at no cost at all under the pretext of memorizing the Quran. One allaramma told habu kale “Some of the children are brought as a result of being out of control or being a burden”. This also brings a sense of economic relief to the parents as they turn a blind eye on the right of the child regarding food, clothing, shelter, guidance and proper upbringing. This make the children ill equipped towards facing the economic and moral challenges of the future.
Like some forbidden things in Islam, begging is reluctantly allowed in some few, extreme and exceptional cases. But lackadaisical attitude towards the religion made many to legitimize such exceptional allowances in order to justify unnecessary/professional begging and self-imposed destitution for their conveniences. Begging also became sustained by the belief of the downtrodden poor that it is the only source of survival despite the debasement that accompanies the sordid practice. Therefore the almajiri and non almajiri, Young and old, able and disabled took to the streets, on a permanent basis, legitimizing begging on socio-economic and religious basis via the cult of Almajiranci in Northern Nigeria.
Despite the fact that the knowledge is right at our doorstep and scholars now abound everywhere so that no one had to send his/her child far to learn, some continue to send this children out of the belief that Almajiranci is not only Islamic but a religious obligation that had to be endured maintained and propagated by every male member of the family. Mohammad sdq pointed out that, there is a wrong notion that dedication to memorize the Qur’an necessarily entails going through severe hardships, destitution, prolonged and exhaustive stress, Such notion is what motivates even some affluent parents to voluntarily expose their kids to such “hell” on assumption that only going through it can lead to the sound memorization of the Qur’anic. It is therefore not uncommon to see an Almajiri from well off homes whose fathers are wealthy traders or commercial truck drivers, yet abandon at a barely weaned age to the streets. Those who conform to such belief continue to resist and undermine every effort to reform the system. Mallam Sule Bala, who was once an almajiri from Kano State, but now settled in Kaduna with his family, said in pidgin English: “walahi” no government in north go stop almajiri because the people no go agree as the thing done be part of their culture. Even if any government try it, people no go let the policy work.”
OPPOSITION TO WESTERN EDUCATION
There is the age-long cultural belief that the western education is contradictory to whole essence of Islamic belief. This is ingrained in the belief that the western education called Boko is of Christian-European origin and therefore anti-Islamic. Some nurture the fear that a child with western belief will eventually lose his Islamic identity and embrace vices that negates the values and principles of Islam such as alcoholism, fornication, semi naked dressing, partying, abandoning the prayer, fasting, zakka etc. This has made it difficult to reform and integrate the system into the mainstream educational system.
SECOND ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM: OPPOSITION FROM ALLARAMAS
Another factor at the core of the almajiri syndrome is the Alarammomi also known as the Baba gonis. These are the custodian of the institution who act as surrogate parents to the wards under their care with or without upkeep allowance. Sister firyal suggest that tacking the issue will need them fully involve as she said “ I think without them we will not succeed because most of this kids are loyal to the mallams, willimg or unwilling. Mohamm q in his article “ Why tackling the almajiri is tricky” said “for some die-hard Alarammomi, such obvious government failure confirms the validity of almajirci, which they believe is being supported by Allah the Almighty against its detractors, who would always fail in their endeavors yet fail to realize the reason for their persistent failure. This notion has always been a source of pride and inspiration for such Alarammomi, which also explains how they often regard any initiative to check almajirci as an exercise in futility, for (according to them) it seeks to challenge Allah’s wish. But below are possible reasons why they have such notion.
PERCIEVED PREJUDICE FOR THE SYSTEM
Attempt by northern elite to reform the system is perceived as insincere and prompted only by incessant insults and ridicule the region’s elite are subjected to by the southern press who finds the almajiri phenomenon as a handy weapon. The language with which some chose to discredit this surviving indigenous institution is laced with contempt, disdain and even disgust which is often found offensive to the innocent alarammas and perceived as prejudice to the system. Although exceptions abound, labeling the system as a breeding ground for social miscreants, theft, thuggery and terrorism creates more alienation. Also painting a gory picture of every alaramma as the wicked man with a whip, who separate children from their parents and send them out begging simply for his economic interests creates more antagonism especially among those who deem it a religious obligation to uphold the ssytem.
PERCEIVED THREAT OF ERADICATION
The alarammas also suffers from the refusal of the society the system which they hold dear. An unconscious refusal to accept the origin of the system as a well structured and intellectual traditional system of learning that can impact greatly and positively in the society has not allowed many to realize the value and status of the system in the lives of its adherent. There has been failure to realize that Islamic knowledge remains central to the almajiri's existence from which he will not be divorced and for many, the system remains the best way of acquiring knowledge in a traditional setting. Therefore integrating the quranic school into the UBE with a bias toward western education has been perceived as a threat to eradicate the system and its original goal of religious learning. This is echoed in the grievances of one Allarama who said to one of our members Habu kale “you may be an NGO now, but at the end of the day, you will end up joining hands with the government and start introducing some new things” another one said “Just because of the monthly #3000 they give us they want to adulterate our ancient long tradition
OPPOSITION TO LAWS AND BILLS
The almajiri bill sponsored by some northern members gave a glimmer of hope but it contents which seeks to punish any proprietor of an unregistered Tsangaya school with two years jail term has been opposed by those who believe they are observing a religious injunction. Other controversy surrounding this bill is the Child`s Rights Act 2003 by the National Assembly which allow a child to seek redress in the courts against his parents should he feel his rights have been trampled upon. Other contentious sections are giving equal rights to children born in and outside wedlock and prohibition of child betrothal and teenage marriage. The argument is that the contents contradict Islamic values and is a deliberate attempt to bring western values
EXPLOITATION BY SOME ALLARAMA
Not far from the truth is the exceptional case of some unscrupulous allaramas who view reforms as a move of scrapping their means of survival. They are those who use the system as a means of living rather than a way of life itself. They exploit these pupils by instigating them to beg and imposing on them a some form of mid week tax called the kudin sati. Some also use these boys for manual labors in farms. Some use these boys to perpetrate perverted and selfish political agendas after a good pay off by politicians. Some train the boys as charlatan sorcerers who rip off gullible individual by demanding fees for saukan karatu (quranic recitaion), kariya (protection), bugun kasa (predicting the future), animal sacrifices, amulets, prayer chants, etc
THIRD ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROLEM: PROBLEM OF AUTHORITIES
CORRUPTION AND LACK OF POLITICAL WILL
The monstrous problem of corruption and paucity of political will in Northern Nigeria as in other parts of the country has worsened matters. The political leadership in Northern Nigeria is absorbed in self indulgence to the neglect of the ignorant poor populace. Effort (though feeble) made by some few governors in improving the social infrastructures and improving the status quo of the almajiri has yielded very little result because of fund embezzlement, lack of transparency and accountability and poor political willThis worsens the living standard of the populace and in turn produced all manner of societal ills inimical to stability in Nigeria including begging, communal conflicts, unemployment, armed robbery, etc
Certain state reform implemented with good intention has instead further fuel the problem. For instance the “feed the almajiri initiative” ended up attracting more almajirai, (some from neighboring states), into the city instead of convincing them to stay and learn at home. Also some say the state government was initially giving monthly allowance and food items to the mallams to feed themselves and the children, but government stopped it when it learnt that the mallams were diverting or appropriating the money. Galadanci, however, denies the claim, saying that the programme was stopped because the burden of financial commitment was much on the state government as “it was a big challenge feeding 26,000 Sangaya schools and maintaining 3,000 conventional schools.”
FOURTH ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROPBLEM: COLLECTIVE IRRESPONSIBILITY OF THE MUSLIM UMMAH
The “I am on my own” and “every man for himself” syndrome that crept into the ummah has kept the muslims disunited and abdicate the obligation of catering of every member of the society. The word umma is now a thing of the past as pointed out by ahmed aliko. “We no longer act as one ummah that we once were” he lamented in one of his post. Therefore the muslim continue to turn their backs on the collective responsibility of solving the almajiri problem as long as their children are not part of it.
RANKA YADADE SYNDROME
Because the Muslim northern society ignorantly sees nothing wrong with begging, we seldom discourage as we tend to help only those who beg us. This gives a psychological approval enjoyed by beggars which often transpires into the ‘ranka ya dade’ syndrome, which abuses and dehumanises the people by offering them stipends out of the often stolen wealth, and encourages laziness while some of us go about in arrogance.
DIUNITY AND SECTERIAN DIFFERENCES
Sectarian difference mainly among Muslim `religious leader has not allowed a unity of one voice to be used in forging a permanent solution in the light of authentic Islamic injunctions. While some sects continue to oppose and preach against the social ill that accompanies the system some continue to justify their stance on its legitimacy.
THE BLAME GAME
For the North, yes, it is true we could blame the British almost 100% for deliberately destroying our indigenous education system into this pitiful sate but we also have our collective negligence in allowing the system to continue unabated in its present form fifty after the British departure.
We as well blame the government and expect it to take sole responsibility in salvaging and rectifying the system. This has resulted in nothing but general inertia towards Almajiranchi in the North and the practice continue in a depleted form without our concerted efforts to check it.
Assalamu alaikum warahamatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuhu