Almajiri expulsion amid COVID-19
Nigeria’s social system exposed its defects and breakdowns when northern states began to muster efforts towards combating the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
As infections and deaths from the virus mounts, the artificial linings around the long-held tradition of the Almajiri system in northern Nigeria came down with brutal realities and gave way to historical deportations.
Without empathy and consideration for inter-state safety, some state governors brazenly ordered the immediate repatriation of Almajiris from potentially infectious areas such as Kano, Jigawa and Kaduna states.
By April 30, over 30,000 Almajiris were already deported from Kano state to several states of the north with at least 524 to Jigawa state.
Several hundreds of the deportees reportedly tested positive to the coronavirus, thus increasing the risk of escalating infections in their receiving states.
Before embarking on their expulsions, governors of the 19 states of the north emerged from a meeting with a resolution, unleashing a ban on the system, while acknowledging the role of the system in perpetuating poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder in the region.
While the resolution reached by the 19 state governors to ban the system remains a laudable step towards ending what has become a national nightmare, the timing of these deportations is a source of worry especially to states at the receiving end.
The Kano State Commissioner for Education, Muhammad Sanusi-Kiru, however defended the deportations, stating that “Where these children were living before the evacuation was worrisome, because there were no adequate conveniences, shelter and other hygienic facilities. At some of the Tsangaya schools, you will find that over 3,000 Almajiri children live in a small apartment without proper care, hygiene and other necessary needs.”
For some, however germane the state governors view these arbitrary expulsions, they remain a tool of dispersal, further spreading the virus.
Furthermore, the deportations raise the citizenship question: to what extent are the state governments committed to the country's nationality if states of origin are made to bear the brunt of their weak indigenes?
For our collective humanity, the governors must see the enormity of the Almajiri challenge and address it with a human face. It is not enough to proscribe the system and announce its ban. Efforts must be tailored towards giving them hope through the provision of better living conditions and education to reintegrate them with the rest of society.
Almajiris constitute over 9 million out of the estimated 10.1 million Nigerian children who are out of school. They are less privileged children in many states in the North, unleashed on the streets by their parents and guardians, clad in rags with begging bowls. These are pupils of Koranic schools, minors released by their families.
It is therefore our position that while the deportations were well-intended, they lacked the human face for the absence of adequate preparation for both the education and wellbeing of the deportees.
State governors must realise that if the Almajiris are continually left out of the educational and social system, the national development will remain stunted as a large chunk of the population will be socially excluded, with this population serving as a threat to other citizens.
Already, Nigerians are witnessing the disadvantage of the population being left out of school with increasing insecurity and high level of poverty across the country.
© 2015 The Abuja Inquirer | Newspaper. Designed by G E Springfield