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The Fate Of Almajiris Amid The COVID-19 Threat

The decision by the Kano State governor, Alhaji Ganduje, to expel the is from Kano state is causing a lot of ripples in the polity already. The fate of the Almajiris, a community of mostly wandering young males, has been a source of controversy in Northern Nigeria for decades.

Traditionally, the Almajiri children undergo Arabic schooling in the hands of local teachers or Mallams who are left in unkempt conditions after their parents dumped them in the main city of Kano and its metropolis from other parts of northern Nigeria.

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Most recently, former President Goodluck Jonathan established several schools tagged ‘Almajiri Schools’ in states of northern Nigeria ravaged by Boko Haram. As of 2014, the Almajiri schools were largely rejected by Northern politicians for political reasons. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Kano State hosts about one-third of the estimated 9 million out-of-school children in Northern Nigeria. Almost all of the 15 billion naira which was expended on the Almajirai school by Goodluck Jonathan now stands wasted.

Since 2013, when the Almajiri schools were established, not much success has been recorded by Northern governors in ridding their streets of jobless Almajiri. Across many Nigerian states, the Almajirai who were expelled from Kano have been turning out with high rates of COVID-19 positive test results at the state border posts where many of them are being isolated.

The inter-state expulsion and movement of the Almajiri also has posed a new national question about state border policy. Most conspicuous among these is between the Kaduna and Kano state governors who have been exchanging words between themselves. The Oyo and Rivers state governors respectively, Seyi Makinde and Nyesom Wike, have also raised alarm over the alleged southward movement of expelled Almajiris into their states from the north.

The simple reason of avoiding the burden of caring for the homeless Almajiri by Ganduje has spiraled into a series of border politicking between states.

However, if the Almajiris have had the opportunity of being integrated properly into the modern society as designed by Goodluck Jonathan, we may never have been in the position of risking COVID-19 transmission by the Almajiri between states in Nigeria.

Moreover, despite the imposition of ban on inter-state travel by the president, that people – Almajiris or not – are still able to move between states is a failure of this administration’s drive to reduce the rate of spread spread of the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

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The reality of that haphazard move by Ganduje is already bearing bad fruit. It is hoped that the pandemic does not spiral beyond this.

But the lesson here is that most governors in the Northern part of Nigeria are already waking up to the evils of helping the Almajiri system to fester into this crisis. They already now seem to be in consensus that something urgent must be done to salvage the negative fate of the Almajiri in the North.

The Almajirai schools will have to be rejuvenated and the kids who have been perpetual vagabonds under the exploitative system will also have to be fully integrated for learning again. This is the ideal situation which northern governors and Nigerian leaders should covet for the development of larger Nigeria. 


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Macaddy Gad

Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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