Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rehabilitation Of The Almajerin's/A Letter To The President(2)

The menace of Boko Haram, the
radical Islamist sect that has
been sending innocent Nigerians
to their graves, has made it
imperative to check the growing
number of uneducated and idle
youth who spend their lives
roaming the streets like common
beggars, especially in the north.
Although they are labelled
almajiris, suggesting that they
are students studying the Quran,
hoping to cram the entire 60
verses in Arabic, they are often
no more than abandoned
Rather than study, the so called
teachers, most of them with little
or no real qualification to
educate anyone on the theory
and practice of Islam, send the
kids out to beg for their upkeep.
In nearly all cases, the children
had been sent by poor parents to
far off states, in the hope that
some Islamic scholar would take
over the responsibility of
providing - not just education
but food - for their wards. But
these teachers, lacking the
wherewithal to accomplish any
of that, promptly send the kids
into the streets, using them more
as labourers for hire than as
boarding students.
Daily, the children go about
looking for menial jobs, eating
leftovers, sleeping in streets and
abandoned buildings. A great
number of them have been lost
to ritualists and diseases, and in
violence during riots.
According to a recent World Bank
report, these almajiris, most of
them children, constitute a
sizeable number of the 10 million
children out of school in Nigeria
today. The National Board for
Technical Education, NBTE, said in
addition that, less than 3 per cent
of our youth are in tertiary
During the 2011 campaigns, Vice
President, Namadi Sambo
disclosed that the government
has discovered about 9.5 million
almajiris in the north, and
promised that new schools
would soon be built to absorb
this number. So far, there is no
sign of that happening and the
budget for education this year
was recently cut by some seven
billion naira to redress the issue
of the budgeoning deficit.
Former Vice President of the
Congress for Progressive Change,
Tunde Bakare, said over the
weekend that the nation faces
great crisis if the almajiri
syndrome in north is not taken
care of. “These are people who
are not educated, hungry and
angry. Most of them are ready to
die, as they have completely lost
hope; it will be in the interest of
the nation if President Goodluck
Jonathan quickly moved in and
adress the poverty and misery in
the land. ”
There is no doubt that the
number of almajiris swells as the
poverty index rises. To curtail it,
however, will require a holistic
approach, including not just
building schools, but providing
them with free meals, moral
training and housing because
most of them can ’t even locate
their homes anymore. The
monetary cost of such a venture,
for 10 million children, is massive
and it is not clear how a
government which had been
unable to take care of less
complicated cases of regular
children in regular schools will
accomplish this feat despite Mr
Sambo ’s assurances.
Today, the standard of education
is so low that it can hardly be
lower and many of our
graduates are unemployable. And
the government keeps passing
budgets for education that hover
around six per cent of the
national budget, nowhere near
the recommended figure of the
United Nations.
Yet we cannot afford to allow
such a valuable resource, as
much as 10 million children, to
be wasted. Already, the dangers
of such criminal neglect is
becoming obvious. They have
become cannon fodder for
extremists who teach them the
deadly art of fabricating
explosives, and politicians who
pay them to kill perceived
opponents, or just to cause
mayhem. The rise of robbery
cases and other violent crimes is
therefore the result of leaving
youth at the prime of their lives
uneducated and at the mercy of
There is a moral obligation on
the part of the government to
immediately begin to take these
children away from their so-
called teachers, for rehabilitation.
They have suffered untold
horrors at an age when they
should have been looked after by
responsible adults. No wonder
many have lost all sense of mercy
or responsibility. We are
breeding monsters and the
earlier we redress the situation,
the better for our nation ’s