On Sunday, December 6th, 2020, Funmi discussed the plight of Almajiri children with the founder of the Almajiri Child Rights Initiative, Mohammed Sabo Keana, a child rights advocate, Helen Obiageli Oshikoya, and the Director-General, Directorate of Strategic Communication and Press Affairs to the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Yakubu Lamal.
Almajirinci is a practice dating back to the 1500s, where young boys/girls receive religious training from an Islamic tutor. This practice which once produced clerks and scholars fluent in Arabic now feeds the number of young, illiterate, unskilled, homeless young men in a region ravaged by insecurity and terror groups.
A documentary highlighted two of such boys, repatriated by the Almajiri Child Rights Initiative to their hometown of Shagari in Sokoto. The young children, who could not have been older than 12, expressed their joy at the repatriation. They revealed that they want to get a wonderful education, however, their parents are of little means.
This led Mr Keana to comment, “The government as an institution has the primary responsibility to protect children from exploitation, abuse, and neglect. The failure of the government and society to get angry at the situation is just unimaginable.”
Funmi, in turn, asked. “Why have we not gotten angry at the sight of almajiri children? Why are we not angry to see children on the streets in that deplorable condition?”
According to Ms Oshikoya, “We’ve become insensitive as a nation. We associate begging with the North. We see children begging for money and think they are just Northern beggars. But we cannot understand that no child from the North, South, East, or West should be begging.”
In the next segment, Funmi sat with a representative of the government as an institution – the Director-General, Directorate of Strategic Communication and Press Affairs to the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Yakubu Lamal. He revealed the comprehensive plans the Nasarawa State government had set out to reform the Almajiri practice in the state before the outbreak of COVID-19.
“The governor set up a study team and passed the bill for the Child Protection Law, banning street begging in Nasarawa. The model we used was planned and meticulous. We spoke to Quranic Reciters and Tsangaya Mallams to reform the Almajiri process. We repatriated the Almajiri children and registered mallams. We are done being politically correct. We are just being honest.”
“The insurgency in the North-East refuses to go away because these vulnerable children can be conscripted and fed distorted religious teachings. The entire society needs to wake up to the fact that it is dangerous to let these children remain on the streets.”