We are making a most serious and impassioned call on the Federal government of Nigeria to as a matter of urgency, categorically outlaw the Almajiri practice of child abandonment.
As the Buhari government marks its second year, it is difficult to jubilate when as many as 10 million of the most vulnerable of Nigeria’s 180 are still discarded by society, subjected to the Almajiri inhumanity. These millions of kids have not enjoyed a single dividend of the current democratic dispensation and present administration at its half-way mark.
There is only so much citizen advocacy can do without government policy and responsibility. We have done our part. From ENDS’ first contribution to this painful societal aberration, with the article, “Nigeria: Almajiri And The Nuclear Alms Race” in mid 2013 and advocacy through our AlmajiriProject, we have fought to raise local and global awareness to the plight of these kids and supported them in all ways we can. Our activists and emissaries have interviewed community and religious leaders and messaged others to speak out for the rights of these children.
We are pleased with the current level of societal consciousness and condemnation of the practice which culminated a few days ago with the Sultan of Sokoto, his Royal Highness, Amir-ul-Momineen Sa’adu Abubakar declaring the practice “Unislamic.”
But the cycle of abandonment will continue until and unless the Federal government decides to live up to its obligation to defend these children against abandonment and exploitation. The time is now. With the clear condemnation from the highest religious leaders of the land, there is no longer a religious or cultural excuse for the continued practice of migrant and beggar Islamic education that has no basis in the religion.
The laws are there, it is only left for the Buhari government to apply them as is its sworn duty.
We therefore implore the Buhari government to unambiguously declare the abandonment of children for any reason whatsoever as a crime, subject to punishment as prescribed by the constitution and as the global child protection act declares.
It is time to start cataloguing the children in prevalent Almajiri schools and returning them to their families or proper foster homes.
It is time to declare Almajiri schools illegal and ban the creation of new schools while existing school shackles are being closed down.
Every child has the right to a family, provision and unlimited forms of education. There is no role for Almajiri schools however modified as the former administration misunderstood. Children cannot be raised in such herd-like environment by a single male Mualim as “father,” “mother” and teacher of dozens of kids. The raising of children is much more than just academic.
There is a window of opportunity here with the condemnation from the highest religious quarters in the land that the Buhari government must not miss. It is time to shut down the Almajiri child abandonment system for good.
This Ramadan, we call on all Muslims to adopt Almajiri children into their fasting ritual. Please visit Almajiri centers near you as frequently as you can and help the children with food and utilities to fast like you. You can support our feeding programs too through ENDS.ng
Dr. Perry Brimah; @EveryNigerian