OPINION: Almajirci in the North: Problems, Solutions and Unexplored Possibilities II – By Hajara Bukar
It is unfortunate today that the socially productive system I described in the last article has given way to some sort of hellish practices that include turning it into a dumping ground for carelessly and excessively produced children just to avoid the responsibility of catering for them, which to some people is outright impossible. In some cases, it is children that were left to teach themselves good manners at a very young age that are sent away into amajirci as a punishment for failing to teach themselves good manners.
But do they get punished and learn the good manners? No! They become some of the worst criminals in the society; from pickpockets, political thugs, area boys or ‘yan daba to the most unspeakable crimes like assassinations, highway armed robbery and they are easily talked into joining any emerging criminal organisations without questioning their motives and ideologies. Drug abuse and addiction is just a side issue.
Another bad scenario of the situation is whereby children are turned into merchandise or machineries of some sort whereby the so called mallams put them to hard labour at farms, construction sites and other forms of chores and in the end of it all the mallams pocket the rewards for their own use without an iota of scruples. In the same vein, these abandoned children are often left in situations where they are likely to being whisked away for sale into slavery to a God knows land; in a nut shell, they are exposed to all sorts of victimisations.
These children, by decision of their fathers; yes fathers, for no mother would like her child to live in such conditions; live the most obnoxious life style when it comes to personal hygiene, clothing, healthcare, shelter and feeding. They are wrapped in dirty rags without bath or washing which makes people look at them with scorn and disdain – another harmful psychological seed being sown in their beings.
In terms of healthcare, with permission; I herby narrate the experience of my friend’s uncle as an almajiri a few decades ago. In good faith, his father took him to a remote village for Quranic education because that particular mallam had carved a niche for himself in terms of giving children sound Quranic education and, because he was in a village, the children got no streets to roam about. Moreover, only his children worked on his farm, not the almajiris. He was praised all over the surrounding villages; but, unfortunately, the old man lacked the foundation block upon which all moral values are built; the truth.
Every Friday, he meets the parents of his students and they willingly give him something for the upkeep of their children and some token for himself; so every blessed Friday, he met the father of my friend’s uncle and the father would always ask: “how is Amadu?”, “Amadu is doing well”, he would answer. The father would give him something for Amadu and for himself.
Unknown to the father, Amadu had sustained an injury on his shin which got seriously infected and unbelievably widen and deepen due to lack of antibiotics. Worse still, due to constantly lying on his back, he had developed a wide, deep and equally infected bedsore. But every Friday, his teacher said he was doing fine and rapidly progressing in his learning until a traditional freelancer or, may be an investigative journalist came to the father and said: “quickly go visit your child before it gets too late”.
The father was reluctant due to the trust he had in the teacher but he finally decided to go. Alas! There was his Amadu barely alive, without talking to the teacher, he took his son on his horse and when the teacher wanted to talk, the father said “rufe min baki, tskanina da kai sai Allah Ya isa” (keep your mouth shut, only God would judge between us).
The story of Amadu happened in the late 1970s when teachers did not start taking the children to cities for the purpose of making money. Today you often times find a child between five and ten lying on a pavement besides the road. Ask him what is wrong; he would tell you I have a headache or stomach crumps.
Why would he not have headache when he sleeps anywhere in the open for mosquitoes to have a field day? Why would he not have stomach crumps when he eats left over and crumbs left by children who enjoy parental care when their plates are due for washing; flies have also taken their shares and excreted on it? That stomach crump may lead to diarrhoea that would be hardly controllable. How many times have you met a five year old boy who asked you for ten naira to buy paracetamol?
This is the condition that our young children are put to that almost all of us now take for granted whereas it is a crucible that can melt their hearts and mould them into hardy criminals.
I said this because I witnessed where a woman called an almajiri into her house and gave him spaghetti with meat and asked him to eat from her own plate no need to put it in his rubber bowl which has become their identity cards or should I say symbols?. Upon finishing, what came out of that boy’s mouth shocked everybody that was present. He said wallahi idan na girma sai na yi wa babana rashin mutunci (I swear by God that when I grow up, I must disgrace my father). So one can imagine what someone who vowed to disgrace his own father can do to the rest of society!
This calls for a swift action to tame this imminent danger before it gets out of hand; an action from all stakeholders in the society; the governments, parents, traditional institutions and wealthy individuals.
If not, our land, the North particularly, can never be safe enough to attract the much coveted foreign investments that we are always eager to have; even the indigenous investments would be at a precarious situation let alone the foreign ones. Even if the foreign investors come, from where are they going to pool the resources of labour force; from the groups of drug addicts, sadists and pilferers? From where else is the labour force to be fetched?
Our society is about to implode if nothing is done; production will drastically decrease if not vanish, creativity will is disappear or is almost a thing of history, security will further deteriorate, quality leadership will be in want, mortality rate would rise or, rather; life expectancy will drop to a mouth gaping level.
The only way out is for all stakeholders to organise themselves, find out how to pool resources together and confront this menace that is eating deep into the fabric of our society and threatening to dismantle it all together. This can be done in many ways if serious organisation and supervision is maintained.
In the next outing, I intend to suggest the most efficacious ways through which this can be achieved by recalling and referring to some of our long forgotten Islamic and social values that are still in congruence with best modern economic practices and are being applied in other developed societies in various forms and shades.
Moreover, I would also like to suggest how we can tap from a large emotional reservoir, an energy that may apply a brake to the rising menace of almajirci pending the organisation of the well thought and institutionalised economic actions to stamp out this shameful practice once and for all.