By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
Even though his state is yet to deport any street urchins, (almajiri children) out of the state to their states of origin as his administration continues to foot drag and procrastinate, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State at the weekend condemned the Almajiri system and advocated a stoppage to the century old traditional.
He spoke at Tudun Fulani area of Bosso council area of the state during his visit to the settler camp for the street children and kids which has been set aside to accommodate the street children who would be mopped up preparatory to their relocation to their state of origin.
The governor said the current almajiri practice, cloaked under a system of seeking Islamic knowledge far away from the homes of underaged children was dehumanising and should be abhorred.
He bore his mind on the issue when he took delivery of items donated by the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, (CACCOVID), a joint initiative of leading private sector leaders and the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) in the state capital, Minna.
He maintained that the almajiri system, though it has been in practice for over two centuries, it was a wrong practice and needs to be reevaluated.
“This system, (the almajiri) has been ongoing for over two centuries where underaged children of between three to five years are separated from their parents in a supposed quest for Islamic religious knowledge” he however noted that “I feel it is absolutely wrong to separate a child at such a age of between three, four, five years from his parents and home, send him to another town where he has no one to take care of him and he ends up in the streets where he is abused, denigrated and abandoned to the society”.
He described the almajiri system as the worst form of human abuse imaginable. He noted that a child of about three, four years was too fragile, vulnerable and innocent to be cut off from his parents adding that a child at such stage of life must have parental guidance”.
Governor Sani Bello said that time had come when every parent should be reasonable to produce children they could take of and cater for rather than bring children to the world and leave them to the whims and caprices of the world of uncertainty.
“Parents must desist from shying away from their responsibilities to their offsprings and hide under the guise of sending their children to seek Islamic knowledge in places far flung from their immediate communities” he said.
He noted that, with Islamic clerics in virtually all wards in the country, children could be made to seek any form of Islamic knowledge within their immediate environments while under their parental care rather than sending them to other communities to take of them.
“So parents should own up to their responsibility of taking care of their children”, he said.
The governor noted that with the support of the Northern Governors’ Forum, the age long practice of almajiri system would soon be a thing of the past.
He disclosed that Niger state government was working on a policy in conjunction with the Universal Basic Education Commission, (UBEC) to streamline a system where Muslim children would acquire both western and Islamic religious knowledge in their localities, so as to eliminate the possibility and grounds where their parents could larch on or explore to send their wards away from them.
He said in line with the new system being worked out by the state, the present tsangaya system of almajiri school system l would be remodelled and regulated soon.
He said before repatriating the almajiris to their states of origin, such states would be properly informed so that they would receive their citizens, give them proper care before reuniting them with their parents.
The items donated to the state by CACOVID were part of the group’s support to the fight against the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The items include 100 hospital beds, 100 hospital overhead tables, one mobile X-ray machines, one ultrasound machine, two Intensive Care Units beds, 20,700 pieces of medical equipment which include, 250 face shield, 1,000 protective goggles, 3,000 KN95 Face Mask, 10,000 disposable latex gloves, 500 elbow rubber loves and 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (Overall suits).
Governor Sani Bello said the items which have been installed at a public school converted into an isolation centre, would be used to isolate the almajiris and assured that the equipment will be properly handled by the team of medical personnel in the state to add value to the state’s health sector.
Our correspondents report that litany of street urchins are near every community in the state capital begging for alms and food at dusk to dawn.
Clusters of of makeshift almajiri schools still operates in communities despite government’s claims that such places have been closed and the Almajiris mopped up to the isolation centre at Tudun Fulani.
Street urchins and kids are still common sights on streets, major highways, particularly at road divides and junctions with automated traffic lights systems where they beg for alms.