The ongoing repatriation of almajirai to their states of origin by some Northern governors has not gone down well with several stakeholders who believe the governors are getting the concept of almajiri wrong.
The governors blame much of the street begging in their states on the almajiri system.
Many of the repatriated almajirai, especially those from Kano State, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 on arriving their states of origin.
But reacting to the actions of the governors, stakeholders, who are mainly proprietors of Quranic schools, said the actions of the governors were doing more harm to the North and its children than the good the governments thought they were doing.
Malam Sanusi Umar, an Almajiri teacher in Kaduna, described the repatriation of the almajirai as a massive damage to the age-long tradition of seeking Islamic knowledge.
Many of his students were evacuated by the state government.
Umar said: “This thing they (governors) are doing is not good at all. They are destroying the over one century old tradition of pursuing Islamic knowledge.
“In fact, some of the governors passed through the same system.
“There is foundation for this system in the Sunnah (sayings) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Prophet commanded every Muslim to go and seek knowledge, even as far as China.
“So, the children you see do come from far away in other states to learn about Islam here. Others used to go from here to other places too.
“I feel bad because the government that is evacuating these boys and repatriating them has not provided alternative on how they are going to be given Islamic knowledge desired for them by their parents.
“For me, I would not have had any problem with the development if the government was ready to integrate the almajiri schools into the basic education system.
“The previous government under President Goodluck Jonathan made a move by establishing pilot almajiri boarding schools, but the governors at the state level did not complement that effort.
“Even the ones established by the Federal Government have since collapsed.”
Umar said the evacuation of his students has not affected him in any way except that he is concerned about the future of the children, some of whom he said have potentials to become Islamic scholars.
He added: “My appeal to the governors, if they are as concerned as I am about the future of these children, is that they should have at least 10 specialised schools for almajirai in each state.
“They should start with the ones repatriated to their states, enroll them, then employ Islamic teachers to give them the knowledge they were getting from Almajiri schools and employ teachers to give them conventional education.”
Another almajiri school proprietor, Malam Mukhtari Abdullahi, wondered why the governors did not engage the almajiri school proprietors in dialogue before clamping down on their students.
He said the evacuation and repatriation of the Almajiri children is not the solution to street begging, as it is not only the almajirai that beg on the streets.
He said: “To me, Islamic education is very important, especially in Northern Nigeria, and the government would have realised now with the number of almajirai repatriated across the states. So, the earlier the government takes action on this, the better for all.
“The reason the Almajiri children go out to beg for alms is because we, as teachers, and the parents cannot afford to cater for them.
“Therefore, the government should come in and support the almajiri system, rebuild our facilities and, if need be, upgrade them by bringing in teachers to teach the children conventional education.”
Yola-based Quranic school teacher, Malam Ismail Abu, said teaching almajirai is more than impacting knowledge.
“I get used to these children so much that I feel sad each time they have to go upon finishing what brought them here,” he said, explaining that getting many of them to leave at a time always deals a huge psychological blow on him.
“It’s difficult already. It’s going to be really bad when all of them are gone if the government continues with its plan to send all of them to their home states,” he said.
Almajiria did not import Covid-19 to Nigeria, says Bauchi proprietor
The proprietor of an almajiri school in Bauchi State, Dr. Mohammed Mujtaba, also faulted the repatriation of almajirai following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
“This is not the right time to deport almajiria,” he told reporters in Bauchi.
“Relocating them to their home states has contributed to the spread of the coronavirus. It was a right decision taking at a wrong time. They should stop deporting them.
‘’The deportation will surely affect their livelihood. Some of these almajirai are not beggars; they have menial jobs they engage themselves in.
‘’We the proprietors of sangayya schools wrote a letter to the National Assembly for public hearing but we were waiting to get a response when the northern governors took this hasty decision without consulting stakeholders.
“Come to think of it, it was not the almajirai that brought the coronavirus into the country but our leaders. So why should they be deported? Is there any provision for them by the government?
“We at sangiyya schools are not putting out almajirai to be beggars on the streets. We make provisions for them without collecting a dime in terms of tuition fees.”
In a separate interview, the proprietor of another sangayya school in the state, Dr. Muhammad Safiyyu, said: “This traditional Qur’anic system is an ancient one which has been in northern Nigeria for more than eight centuries.
“The teachers in these schools have always been the financiers of the system. They give their students education free of charge and spend money on feeding them, provide them with free accommodation as well as using their rooms for free education and providing them with the necessary medical treatment.
‘’The almajirai have chosen for themselves their means livelihood under the Qur’anic learning system.
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“Their desire deserves the appreciation of the government as well as the students of the western education system, and if the government takes care of the western education system, it must also appreciate and respect the traditional Qur’anic system.”
But the Yobe State Government is handling the almajiri system differently. It is not repatriating anyone.
For this, the founder of Goni Yusuf Mai Bututu Tsangaya in Damaturu, Yobe State, Malam Goni Yusuf, is.
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