By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Lillahi Charity Foundation and Womanhood Foundation has said the Almajiri system of education also known as Tsangaya represents a scar on the face of Arewa Muslim Elites, saying all hands must be on deck to proffer solutions to the system.
The group stated this during the inaugural meeting of the Almajiri Support Program to chart a way forward for the system in northern Nigeria held in Kaduna on Saturday, April 6, 2019.
Fielding questions from newsmen, Chief Convener of the event, Major General Sabo Rilwanu (rtd) said the purpose of the program was to mobilize citizens of like minds who are worried over the pathetic situation of Almajirai in the region, and as well form a strong advocacy group that could talk with one voice to government and individual(s) that has the capacity to effect a change in the system.
According to him, the Arewa Muslim elites are the first key people held responsible since the Tsangaya system is an Arewa and Muslim problem, hence, this group should take the lead to champion the cause to change the plights of the Almajirai.
The Chief Convener explained that the advocacy for a change will involved stakeholders like the parents, Islamic teachers, traditional rulers, elites and government among others. He said that the government should bring out legislation to guide and enforce certain laws to ensure that the aspect of begging and sufferings of these children are abolished.
“We are not saying that the Almajiri system of education is completely wrong. No! But the system needed to be modified such that parents take responsibility of their children and give them basic parental love, care and guidance, and not just send them to school like that.
“The system, as presently practiced, is counterproductive as it lacks good organization and conducive environment for learning.
“The system which had produced great Islamic scholars, has since been thrown into a pitiful state characterized by begging, which further exposes the children to unnecessary hardship, danger, violence. More worrisome is lack of parental love, care and guidance of these children.
“Parents must have sense of responsibility to give their children basic necessities of life irrespective of whether you are rich or poor. This is the highlight,” he said.
Speaking further Retired General Rilwanu stated that as part of the group’s agenda within the first 12 months; it will come up with a concept of a model school for the Almajirai, noting that the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, already built model schools for the system. He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow the program to be abandoned, rather complete, improve and modify it so that the region could maximize on it.
Professor Abubakar Suleiman of the Department of Science Education, Faculty of Education, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), in his paper titled: Health Challenges (Problems and Needs) of Almajiri: Who Should Solve Them?” said the Arabic school as practiced today in northern Nigeria seemed to be a complete corrupt system, compared to the form and conditions under which the system was operated initially and its output before and during the colonial periods.
According to him, as the economic outlook started to change for many of the benefactors of Almajirai, who gave support through alms, gifts and so on, the capacity of the tutors (Mallams) to continue to care for their wards was affected negatively.
“The children were forced to look elsewhere for alternative substance. They took to the street to beg for alms and this may explain why Almajirai are living in unhealthy conditions that are injurious to their health and the society at large.”
Also, Professor Aisha Mohammed of Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, Faculty of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria said the challenges facing the Almajiri educational system include; lack of facilities, poor funding, teachers lack adequate training, poor implementations of policies; and inadequate curriculum.
On a paper titled: “Issues, Challenges, Strategies/Way Forward Toward Effective Almajiri System of Education In Northern Nigeria” Professor Mohammed said in spite of the fact that societies do not see elements of child right abuse in the Almajiranci, the Almajirai are victims of child abuse.
“The most obvious is that they suffer undue neglect by their parents who send them to the school and leave them without any support base to cater for their needs. Many of these pupils are very young at their formative stages. Yet they have no access to adequate food which they need for their growth and development.
“The agony of a five to ten year old child having to live barely on his own with virtually no visible means for his livelihood other than the little alms he gets is a real one. Undoubtedly, such conditions can be damaging to the psychological as well as physical development,” she said.
On the way forward, Prof. Mohammed said the system must be remodeled and integrated into or educational system. “The reform of the system should therefore aim at standardizing its curriculum to ensure that in addition to religious knowledge, the pupils and students have instructions in literacy and numeracy as well as exposed to both civic and vocational education.
“The reform of the system should also go to the elimination of begging as the means of feeding for the Almajirai pupils and their teachers,” she added.