Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
“Running Mate” Of Almajiranci, Destiny And Bitter Solution
April 11, 2006
Going by the antagonist of late Waziri Ibrahim’s immortal words, “politics without bitterness,” late Alhaji Aliyu Sabo Bakinzuwo, for whom “politics must be bitter,” and also his laughable conception of political running mate (governor/deputy, president/vice president) as “intractable problem,” truly, most of Northern states of Nigeria have a “running mate” (intractable problem). And the impeachment of or the remedy to this “running mate” of Almajiranci, to borrow Bakinzuwo’s lexicon, “must be bitter.” Therefore, swallowing the bitter pills would certainly be a tall order. But I will come back to this issue.
This is simple, hassle-free system: Your children don’t need to sit for common entrance examinations. They don’t need to obtain application forms. Save yourself from unnecessary spending associated with boarding schools – you don’t need to buy mattress, luggage, corn flakes, milk, soaps, nor do you need to give pocket money. No school fees, no medical charges, no Izals, brooms, no annoying PTA levy, let alone the vague “other charges.” Dear reader, save your lean pocket from draining and save your kid from carrying the impedimenta. All you need to do for your beloved and promising son is to gather his two or more clothes, put them in a polythene bag (not even Adaka, as the practice in those good old days). Take him to motor pack and hand him over to touts, the scalpers would find the right lorry that heads for the desired destination (mostly Kano, Maiduguri, Zaria, Katsina). Why shouldn’t we save our money, time and adopt the Almajiri (Allo) system? Is there anything wrong with it? Yes. But why do our leaders encourage it? What a wilful inaction!
The worst part of this practice is underage enrolment. At anytime their children attain a certain level of age (5 or less) they, mostly rural dwellers, will send them to these schools. The children are deprived of parental care, no food let alone balanced diets. No good shelter. How can a child of 5 be left on his own, to feed and clothe himself? How cruel. What on earth would an adult, least of all a child of five learn with barely empty stomach?
Almajiri is a symbol of ‘curse,’ a prime example of poverty (fakir), a paradigm of wretchedness, an archetype of “learned” illiterate. He starts learning from Alu Ambaki Waw Zal (a nebulous phonetic order that doesn’t clearly differentiate the sound pattern of the symbols or alphabets). They learn by rote and recite parrot-like without knowing the meaning of the text. The lexical structure of the context is badly twisted to mean something else. Their preferred phonological order of qira’a warsh is badly abused. They pray with a frenetic rhythmic movement known as pijo (Peugeot or ‘Yar faki) in common lingo. The teachers mainly read Holy Qur’an and one or two other fiqh books (had they gone deeper into Islamic jurisprudence, they wouldn’t have engaged in Almajiri system or begging). The teachers and the students study some literatures like infiraji and ‘yar bakara (begging songs), and book of spells (kundi) whose esoteric knowledge is but only shared with few because of its commercial inclination. They engage themselves in shirk like fortune telling, giving charms, amulets or talismans to their rich clients, most of whom, our leaders, for success in business, election and other earthly pursuits. By a freak of chance, if Allah wills, they attribute the success to the Mallams (not Allah!). As they fraternise with them, which as a result, hamstrings their efforts and grow reluctant to radical approach because of fear for being hexed by these demigods who think they can do just about everything. So now, we can reasonably attribute the leaders’ inaction to this unwholesome affinity.
The adolescents engage in a hard labour and often beg food for the pedagogue. They fetch water he uses in his house, wash his clothes, and engage in “part-time” jobs in the rich residences around. They come early to take our children to school; they are the hapless errand boys of our wives and children; they wash our clothes (laundry is expensive), abused anyhow, scolded at all the time and forced to do jobs that surpass their abilities. All these tortuous tasks that we can not ask our “blessed” children to do, we call the “cursed” ones to do it for leftovers, paltry pittance or be allowed to watch India. Pity. Think of any nauseating task, stinking food that a dog or pig would put its snout, grimaces, and kick it away with its paw – our wives would say, “sai dai Almajiri” (only Almajiri can eat). Think of a task that only a crane can do, a broken down vehicle that only a towing van can tow in their absence, we call them to man the job. And there, they rush with calloused bare feet as hard as the back of crocodile. They can go far than one can imagine in blazing sun, barefooted. After treading some miles battling with the clapped-out vehicle (taskmaster sitting in), and on reaching the destination, all you need to do is to short-change them with a few bucks or a dozen or two of kuli kuli – just toss up the damn hard stuff and see how they will scramble to snaffle it. Hunger. Even this should elicit sympathy from our leaders to act radically.
But destiny or fate, they say, is something that happens to us or will happen to us that we can not avoid or change it. If our children (not even Almajiri) can select parents, perhaps our children would have chosen to be where to wear double-pronged turban (royal family). Perhaps Almajiri would at least chose to be the reader’s son (if my guess is right, good school, Mr Biggs, Tantalisers, etc.). Certainly, the elemental havoc of Tsunamis would have been averted. Yes, the pall of eerie darkness of the recent solar eclipse that hovered around us and paralysed activities would have been stopped. Even this writer would have chosen to live in GRA. But Allah, the Omnipotent and Wise is most rational. Think of Bill Gates or king with millions of children – do you expect them to live a good life, go to school, etc? Think of us, GRA dreamers, living in those highbrow areas. Just give us a year or two, you will see blocked gutters, butchers, noise pollution (grinding machines), Almajiri and all those glossy walls would be strewn with obscene graffiti by the wayward scamps we call our children. The GRAs would turn to slums, and no more GRAs.
Sometime ago, a lecturer in Bayero University, Kano (BUK) uncharitably remarked “who will offer [admission into] law to Almajiri?” Making allusion to my person (glorified Almajiri though). My offence: I sought admission into law! Little did I know that wearing wig and gown has now become an exclusive preserve of one circle. Even though I had fallen in love with the wig ever since (toddling or thereabout), I swallowed the ambition. That’s a twist of fate, I wasn’t meant to be the disgraced Wilson Egbo Egbo or a shyster at the bar.
But we digress. Even though the root of Almajiranci could be traced to poverty, illiteracy or misconception of the Islamic teachings, the parents who send their children, fervently believe that is the pathway to heaven, and without so doing, may lead to divine retribution for being ungrateful to Allah (SWT) who endowed us with the exalted fecundity. While it could also be traced to rural areas, yet some of the rich rural dwellers shun the practice because of the attendant exposure that goes in tandem with wealth. What one may still wonder is there is the presence of these schools in rural areas, yet they prefer to take the children to urban areas. Worse still, these schools have no definite graduating time. It may take up to 15 to 20 years. And even after sauka (memorisation of Holy Qur’an or graduation) they still remain while the young ones are being admitted in hordes. When they become adult they engage in mobile nail clipping, shoe shining (Hausa exclusive preserve), Achaba or join the underworld. I bow my head in shame that these inauspicious businesses are synonymous with my tribe.
So, the successive governments of most Northern states have tried to arrest the problem by merely triggering the situation. Kano and Katsina are doing something, but in my opinion is wrong approach. Let’s take Kano for example, according to government’s recent statistics, Kano has about 13,335 “schools,” with 45,454 teachers (Mallams/Alarammomi) and above all, 1,272.844 Almajiris (all depend on begging). However, in trying to arrest, formalise and proffer a lasting solution to this “intractable problem” (or running mate), the present administration of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau ends in misdiagnosing the menace – A kind of pratfall. How do I mean? In a bid to “empower” the 45,454 Mallams in Kano, the government ends up in “empowering” only 52 Mallams with cultivators and bulls (don’t ask me whether there are farms in Local Governments of Kano Municipal, Tarauni, Gwale, etc). So the remaining 45,402 un-empowered are left to live on scrounge, panhandling the people. On the other hand, the “students” are “empowered” through vocational training: tailoring, calligraphy, computer training, leather works, electric works and carpentry. Out of 1,272.844 Almajiris, only a handful 656 were privileged to benefit. The remaining 1,272.188 are left battling to keep the wolf from the door, scavenging, toiling up every commercial spot to collect alms and beg the leftovers of our children. There were also some pilot programmes, aimed, when successful at feeding and accommodating all Almajiris. How Herculean a task!
As some commentators tend to often extrapolate in their analysis from approaches taken in the military era, yes tackling the menace of Almajiranci if far from mere convening seminars or trying to incorporate these schools into formal system – building hostels, feeding, etc., as a matter of fact surpass government’s ability. The answer speaks volume: just take a look at the public primary and secondary schools that government neither feed nor shelter, but how can you rate the quality of the education? Rarely can you find five students in a class of eighty to hundred that can form a good English sentence.
The pragmatic approach, in my opinion, is also not junketing Saudi Arabia, Sudan, etc to copy models that are symmetrically different with our own. This bitter solution, as it has become my cliché from the outset, is to out rightly embark on rigorous deportation, stop new enrolment and embark on arrest and prosecution of the offenders (those who abet, since we all believe it is not part of Shariah). With this, by God’s grace, in a year or two we shall achieve positive results – Almajiris like their other brothers (our children) will test the nectar of good life. Truly, this must be addressed with weighty voice – I beg on their behalf, Makiyallah, Mallam, Makiyallah…
Jaafar lives in Kano
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.