Katsina State Gov’t Almajiri Repatriation: A Step In The Right Direction – By Malam Naini Musa
Carol Bellamy, the former director of peace corps and the executive director of United Nations children fund succinctly put that “… in serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity.” Children of today are the baton carriers of tomorrow, it only makes sense for people that are vying for a better tomorrow to invest in the development of its leadership and followership. However, the threats that have impeded children centuries ago are today prevalent and some even extended beyond their previous capacity.
Of the threats that children of Northern Nigeria face, by far the gravest after the threat to life is the double edged sword of Almajiranci and its inevitable consequences of deprivation of knowledge, child labor and so many other rights abuses. The Almajiranci system was originally a student mission to acquire knowledge by travelling to wherever he can find it. This was a culture of the early Muslim scholars for tens of centuries. It is a clarion call to knowledge seekers. Some hadiths of the prophet were collected by these students of knowledge. It was a noble thing and still is. It produced most of the famous scholars of yesterday and today. Today, Almajiranci goes hand in hand with begging and child labor. These things were later added on and legitimized over time.
It would interest you to know that the famous Sunni scholar and the founder of Hambali school of Sunni Jurisprudence was famous for his contentment. The sheikh would not accept government allowance (which was allocated to some of the scholars for their services) for fear that it would corrupt and influence him in his dealings with leaders. He would not borrow money or receive alms. He even stubbornly refused to accept help from his own uncle. This is in clear contradiction of the culture and Sunna of our students of knowledge today, who are constantly at the doors of everyone that would offer them assistance.
The present system and culture of Almajiranci is not for the sake of knowledge but rather an industry of its own. One person on one end of the spectrum is free to have unprotected sex and irresponsibly give birth to as many children as his wives can pump and then ship them off to a pool to be cherry picked by another person in search of cheap labor. It is no secret that the Almajirai are the highest number of domestic labor in Northern Nigeria. It is a vicious circle where the parents win, the labor seekers win, the proprietor of the school wins and the child loses. A system birthed by irresponsible parents to be built on the backs of children sometimes as young as four (4) years old.
We are better than this, we can do better than this, and we must do better than this. In the words of former United Nations Secretary, Mr. Kofi Anan “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want, and that they can grow in peace.” The status quo has consciously and unconsciously propagated a system that has subjugated these children. Today they are stripped of dignity, education, aspirations and dreams and through deprivation and neglect, discriminated from reaching their potential as other children have.
The government has fired the first shot as it should. It is now time for society to play the role of ethical citizenship. We must stop lending our hands to this vicious abuse. It does not help anyone to have a large portion of human potential unexplored. Everyone’s interest is better served by a system that gives everyone a chance, then unearths the best and without nepotism, promotes them. This is what makes nations great. I would like to close with the powerful words of Grace Abbott on child labor, she said “Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.”
Mallam Naini Musa
Mallam Naini Musa is a writer and a social critic.