How Almajiri System Almost Ruined my Ambition ……..Story of Ibrahim Rabiu 16 who recently Reunites With Family

By Uangbaoje Alex, Kaduna

WAYBILLED LIKE AN ORDINARY ITEM

He had just finished his primary five, looking forward to move to primary six and sit for his leaving certificate examination, when his father woke him up one morning with his baggage arranged in a black polythene bag and was told he is going to Kano to continue his studies.

A decision he has no powers to question, instead he followed his father to the motor park and was handed to a taxi driver with the mandate to deliver him like goods to an Islamic teacher, otherwise know as “Mallam”.

That was the beginning of a life of street begging for Ibrahim Rabiu, a 16 years old Almajiri, from Doka community of Kudan Local Government area in Kaduna state, who was recently returned to unite with his parents by the Kaduna State Government, following repatriation of Almajirai, from different parts of the country as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria.

Ibrahim’s ambition was to become a medical Doctor in future so he can one day return to his community and be providing medical services to his people, especially to those who can not afford to pay for themselves.

But those dreams almost died and he forgot his past the moment he steps into an Almajiri school in Kano, where the only picture in his mind was where to get the next meal.

For six months he was on the streets of Kano begging for food and money to feed himself and his “Mallam”.

Ibrahim could not recall ever being taught any Qur’anic knowledge throughout his stay in Kano. According to him, at some point he remembered his father’s words that he was going to Kano to further his studies and went to the “Mallam” to find out when he was going to start, an answer he never got till date.

KADUNA STATE GOVERNMENT’S INTERVENTION

God’s intervention came for him when some governors decide to repatriate all the Almajirai back to their various states of origin to prevent them from being infected by the deadly Cornavirus. And he found himself with the Kaduna state government.

Recounting his ordeal, Ibrahim said “I never enjoyed my stay in Kano, because most times, I had no food to eat and I and other children were always sent out to beg. I spent all my 6 months in Kano begging.

“I was happy when I was told that am returning to Kaduna and right from the time we were with “mama” (referring to Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba), I have been enjoying myself.

“Almajiri life is not good for any child and my appeal to every parents is to allow their children go to school. I thank the Kaduna State Governor for bringing us back home.

“Now that I am back home and register to go back to school, I hope to study very hard to actualize my dream of becoming a Doctor.”

ACTION OF A HELPLESS MOTHER

Ibrahim’s mother, Maryam Sarki, 50 years old mother of 9, who regretted allowing his son sent out as beggar, said though she was not happy about her husband’s decision but she could not do anything about it because of the situation they found themselves.

“I left everything to God because there was nothing I could do about it because of the way things were hard. But am happy he is back home and I want to see him become someone great in life.” She said.

PARENTS MUST BE RESPONSIBLE

In her reaction to some of the reasons being given as an excuse by some parents why they do send their children out as Almajirai, like economic hardship, Human Services and Social Development, Commissioner, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, noted “let me also say that parents honestly need to be up and doing, because it is their responsibility to take care of their children.

“Holistically, this almajiri issue is only in one tribe and one area. But there’s poverty everywhere! What of others? How do they survive?

“Like my governor said “You cannot have a ten thousand naira job and give birth to 20 children, getting married to three or four wives.” That is why we are working hand-in-hand with the ministry of health because it is another area of concern for us.”

The Commissioner, however said the state is putting measures in place to support their parents, saying “talking about the parents, I am sure majority of these parents are farmers, and some of them will talk about insecurity. We are trying our best to ensure that Kaduna state is secured and people can go to their farms, as well as make fertilizers available for them.

“At the same time, we have other initiatives that will at least engage them. Like the one thousand jobs being created by the office of the Honourable Minister Festus Keyamo (SAN), and we are looking at people at the local government level.

“So, such parents will also be beneficiary to this type of intervention, because it doesn’t need skills and we are looking at people that actually have the strength to carry out those engagements.

“Apart from the federal government, I am sure Kaduna state has its own initiatives as well. And, as much as we want these children to go to school, we are also considering those that have come of age and do not fit into the primary or secondary schools. That is why we have the Business Apprentice Training Centres (BITC), in all the 23 LGAs, so that they can be able to help themselves and their parents.”

UNICEF PERSPECTIVE ON WAY FORWARD

Dr. Zakari Adam, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Kaduna, believes that the State is lucky to have a government with a note of commitment at a very high level to ensure that almajiri issue is appropriately dealt with.

“I am in favor of all measures to strengthen the economic capacity of our people, in favor of all types of support coming from everywhere. But at the end of the day, that dimension of accountability; to take care of the child lies on the shoulders of the parents. And, we need to be clear with that when talking to our communities.

“Again, we are lucky that the commitment of the government is very strong enough to make this clear for the communities and population. But, we also have to understand the issue going on in terms of response as a long term strategy. It is not something that can be ended overnight because it has been going on for a long time.

“If you go underground, you can see that some people are still having the wrong believe that it is simply the responsibility of the whole community to take care of children. But when the child becomes well to do in the future, they will not call the community or government to come and share in the goodies. Rather, they will recognize themselves as parents, to harvest these goodies. Everyone of us as citizens should be responsible for our children.

“That being said, we are all aware of the challenges going on there in terms of sustainability, our services and what can be provided by parents. This is why another level of understanding to face the problem of almajiri is that it is not going to be a one source response.

“A single state cannot do it. One institution, UNICEF or whatever cannot provide full and comprehensive package of response to this phenomenon.
We just need to identify all stakeholders and come together to ensure that we increase the chance for sustainability of reinsertion of these children within their communities, and within their families.

“So, we all need to identify the opportunities and the capacities, and various institutions that can come around the table to support. There is a saying in my place that a man can see a snake and a woman kills it. It is not a problem who killed it since the snake is killed. The most important thing is done.

“Of course, the state has decided that the situation of almajiri cannot keep going on. We all call them “street children” but we know that the street doesn’t birth children. Street children are someone’s children. We need to find out who is hiding behind the street and delegating his responsibilities to the street. That cannot just continue.” Dr. Zakari, added.

WHY GOVERNMENT SHOULD LISTEN TO PARENTS

Also an NGO who has been monitoring the situation in the state, Center for Media Advocacy for Mother and Child (CAMAC), urged government to give attention to some salient issue raised by the parents so as to have lasting solutions to the problem of Almajiri system.

According to Miss. Christiana Alex, CAMAC Program Officer, the swift response by the state government with support from UNICEF, really saved the day and restored hope to children that were already sold into slavery in the name of education.

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