The Almajiri system of education was the creation of the colonialists due to phobia of Western educational system. Prior to the arrival of the white man, the educational system of the Northern part of what is today Nigeria was similar to the Arabian nations, including the Arabian Peninsula. The system was based on pupil-teacher relationship on daily basis akin to what is now obtainable in day primary and secondary school systems. Children go to schools in the morning and evening from their homes and back home. However, journeys in search of advance learning are only allowed when the pupil has exhausted all the scholarship available in his immediate locality, when he must have attained adulthood and can fend for himself.
b. Almajiri system:
The almajirci syndrome from what is obtainable nowadays in which the Almajrai completely live on begging in tattered dress malnutrition, and dotted all over major roads leading to major cities and towns is completely unislamic. It is totally against the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah which they say they are learning. The Islamic culture is abhorrent of begging and asking people to attend to your personal duties and responsibilities in the name of Allah or Islam.
Islam extols and rewards hard work and struggles for survival. It frowns at parasitism and effortless earnings and amassing wealth. Therefore, the present attitudes and appearance are all foreign to the true teachings of Islam. Both the structures and procedures are entirely unprecedented in the history of Islamic system of formal and informal scholarships. Islamic learning encompassed all aspects of human endeavour-the spirituals and the temporal.
The curriculum of the Islamic education was not only Qur’anic route learning as is obtained nowadays; it was an all inclusive subjects of Islamic science, poetry, history, language, philosophy, jurisprudence and geography. Unfortunately, the colonialists bastardized the entire system to only Qur’anic route learning thereby making its importance declined. The central objective of building societies through education was reduced to almost nothingness, and learning of practical Islam and the medium of understanding further or advance subject matters were completely buried.
Western system of education was introduced in place of the quality Islamic educational system through the use of foreign language by teachers who were not Muslims and whose mode of dress reflected an alien culture. The writing system was changed from right to left as is in Arabic language, to left to right! The entire episode seemed to them as changing of one’s faith; from Islam to Christianity. Prayers before the start of learning were performed with eyes closed. No, no, this is dirty trick for conversion to a white man religion. This was completely abhorrent to the communities.
Unfortunately, there were no sensitization programs for the Northerners as to accept changes. Parents were forced to flee with their wards into remote villages away from the dishonest city life. Those who desired to remain in the cities with their children refused them to be enrolled in the western elementary schools. Chorus were invented to scare other parents from sending their children to western education system. The South-West Yoruba Muslims suffered stark discrimination in the only available missionary schools; leading to many of them forced into Whitman religion. Up in the north children continued singing their songs of evasion from western education, thus:
‘’‘Yan makarantar bokoko
Ba karatu ba salla
Sai yawan zagin malam
Da baya da baya suke salla”
Meaning: Children of western schools, they do not learn how to read the Qur’an, they are passionate of abusing Islamic teachers, and they say their prayers in a backward posture.
This chorale has done a lot of havoc in refraining children from enrolling into elementary schools. Boko-phobia was instilled in the tender psyche of average Hausa-Fulani child. It was a fact that even the emirs and traditional title holders were coerced to sending their wards to western schools.
The children that were fled with to remote areas were handed over to unqualified or half baked Islamic teachers who mastered nothing in Islamic sciences; hence the roaming from one village to the other pretending to the parents that their pupils are gathering experiences and mastery in Islamic education. Thus, the Almajiris were left at mercy of the ‘teachers’ without any system of check and balances, formal system of learning measurement or graduation period and certification. They taught usually some portions of the Qur’an in an unrefined mode devoid of knowing the meanings or relevance in their day to day lives. This short coming made them vulnerable to series of vices and getting involved easily into anything sinister that can win them daily bread.
This Almajiri system is very exploitative both in nature and orientation. The system swoops and shanghais away children from their parents at a very tender and delicate age; the age in which the parental love and care have never been so needed by both, into a system that destroys the child morally, educationally and emotionally. Almajiri system robs the society of its healthy and promising potential – a future with full of hopes, egalitarianism and safe for all. It is a system in which the society sees its future being tempered in the name of religion while it si basically the opposite.
c. Way forward:
The British colonials were the only invaders who interfered with both the cultures and religions of their colonies. They meddled with Indo-Pakistan Muslims cultural and religious affairs, but the people quickly opposed the scheme by holding fast to their traditional system of learning and agreed to incorporate the colonial sciences in it. Unlike the Northerners, their Ajami system of communication and documentations were dumped for good. Not because of diminished interest, but due to the missionary infiltrations and hunting of converts in predominantly Muslims towns and cities to white man’s way of life. This tricky method made the Muslims to drop the Ajami system of writing without a generally acceptable substitute.
The Indo-Pakistani Muslims insisted on teaching all the western sciences with their Arabic Urdu inscriptions; their Ajami type of medium of communication. Arithmetic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology were taught and learned by the Urdu scripts. Now this people were able to reach nuclear technology! The Hausa-Fulanis are still roaming the streets of towns and cities in search of …nothingness in the name of learning the Qur’an. Many of them end up into cultism, armed robbery, or panderers and whore-masters in prostitution industry. Others are trafficked out of our shores as slaves and many of them end up in pepper soup pots in various p’soup sports. These children are not only vulnerable but are calamitous waiting to ravage us hard.
Another very affrighting phenomena is the training of the child soldier by the dreaded Boko Haram inn the name of ‘islamic jihad’ must be faced on head-on to quickly find ways of averting it. No amount of effort will be too much most especially by the Federal government!
d. Making literature available:
The success of this project largely depends on making learning books and teaching aids not only available, but attractive. A committee of translators to render the teaching and learning books into Ajami scripts should be set up. This is necessary because the parents of these kids are antagonistic to the Latin scripts rather than the contents of the education. Indian and Pakistani Muslims as well as Iranians have achieved this feat into nuclear technology today and are still using it to advance their course. The Chinese are in process of becoming the future super powers through the medium of their exclusive scripts. We too also can do it.
Many Hausa-Fulani Muslims despise western education because of the English scripts as the medium of communication. However, if the medium will be changed to Arabic-Ajami scripts, they will return their wards to formal system of education.
The need to establish a commission to tackle the perennial problems of almajirci particularly in northern Nigeria and to achieve the following objectives cannot be shield away. When it is set up, it will strive and:
• categorize states to work in stages where western education will be coordinated/incorporated into their system
• Identify ways to incorporate issues of basic hygiene, HIV/AIDS and other RH issues to conform to the Islamic teachings.
• Develop strategies of reducing/stopping street begging, drugs peddling, ritualists’ easy prey, trafficking and use as sex vending, etc
• Strategize ways and methods of skills acquisitions for the Almajirai and their teachers
The need for vigorous sensitization in order to achieve these objectives and more cannot be over emphasized for success to be recorded at the end of the project. Emirs and traditional title holders must be involved because the poor families of these boys still recognize their leadership. Thus, in line with the agitation of the traditional title holders to apportion them constitutional role play will come very handy here. For education to succeed, no amount of efforts or sacrifice is big. This administration has set up a whole Ministry has been set up to cater for the threat of Niger Delta insurgency in order to move Nigeria forward. In addition, amenity deal was reached with massive financial commitments involved. Also some years ago nomadic education commission was established to cater for education of the children fishermen in the south and Fulani cowboys in the north. Thus setting up another commission to curtail the social and security threats associated with the Almajiri menace in the north will definitely be a worthwhile venture in the history of modern Nigeria.
Finally, establishment of Islamic education is not only the responsibility of the educationists, curriculum or educational policymakers, given the enormity of the importance of a moral based system of education, but, also that of the government of the day. It is also the responsibility of every member of the society; the parents, teachers, learners, the politicians, with a common front to come up with schools, institutions and universities that teach education relevant to the learners in line with their faith and belief, as well as the purpose for which Allah, the Supreme has set for all mankind. Everyone therefore, needs to make a contribution towards building a purposeful society that remains relevant to the whole world.