THE MENACE OF ALMAJIRI SYSTEM OF EDUCATION IN SOKOTO

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The Hausa word Almajiri (Plural Almajirai) is derived from the Arabic Almajiri (Plural Almuhajirun) which means one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) who accompanied him from Mecca to Medinah during his Hijira (Migration). The Arabic word Al-muhajir, therefore had a special religious connotation in the early period in Islam. It meant a scholar who migrated from his home to another community in search of knowledge. Up to date a pupil undergoing Islamic Religious training is called Almajiri in the Hausa language, hence the Almajiri system of education. The schools are found mostly in the Northern parts of Nigeria with just a few in the southern part of the country. (Fafunwa, 1975).

This schools system is organized by individuals who have either been requested by community to teach pupils or have voluntarily decided to establish the schools on their own. This is in line with the Islamic injuction that “The best man among you is one who teams the Qur’an and cares to teach” (Fafunwa, 1975), It follow then that individuals whom organize Qur’anic schools do so as service to Islam such individuals teach for charity, and live on occasional donations in cash or kind from pupils Parents and other sympathizer.

As one establishes such a school, the tendency is to solicit for and admit young children from far and near for the purpose of teaching them Islamic Education, As there are no formalized conditions for joining this type of school, the children are simply handed over to the Mallam by parents. There is no limit to the number of pupils a Mallam could accept in his school. Through pre-survey discussions with some Mallams, it was revealed that one way of earning prestige is for a Mallam to have many Almajirai. The number of pupils also determines the quantity of Zakkah given to him. A Mallam’s prestige may be one of the reasons why some parents insist on sending their children to a particular Mallam (Muhammad, 2000).

Due to the flexibility of the system, pupils go at their own individual paces in the learning process. There is no regimented system of enrolment and promotion, pupils can be admitted even at the age of four years, when the teacher has gathered enough pupils, he sets out to a Rural or Urban settlement to took for a place to settle among a Muslim community. The host community will provide shelter for him and his pupils. But the sedentary Mallams who establish such school leave in their home without moving with their pupils such schools will admit day students and boarders the sedentary Mallams provide accommodation for the boarding students. Such Mallams may also provide accommodation for the itinerant Mallam and their pupils (Adamu, 2000).

Ado (1997) notes that unlike what was obtained in the past when accommodation £ was provided for the itinerant Mallam and their pupils under the present dispensation, no proper arrangement are made for accommodation for them. The pupils are usually accommodated in over-crowed place called Zaure (Plural Zaurukka) these served dual purposes of being class room and dormitories, pupils sleep on the floor or anywhere within the vicinity of the schools. The Mallam is accommodated inside the compound.

Both the itinerant teacher and the pupils depend on charity for feeding from the community, in the past the host community fed the entire schools by sending meals as Sadaka (alms). But today, the Almajirai go from house to house begging for food. Sometimes they take part of the food or money they are given to the Mallams. Ado (1997) The Almajiri phenomenon has become a common feature among Hausa Muslims communities in Northern Nigeria as Shima and Daudu (1981) have noted.

……………………………… a casual but observant visitor to the Urban centres of the country, particularly in the Northern states will not miss the presence of a large number of young children, (age) between 6 and 14 in some cases (older) in market places, petrol filling stations, railway stations by department shops or on the streets generally, with or without enamel-ware boards begging for alms from shoppers vehicles owners or simply any body considered by them to be more well to – do. To those not used to the system of institutionalized begging, these children constitute a nuisance, others are considerate and given them money, while the unsympathetic dismiss them with insults.

There is no sufficient information to provide as with the exact current figures of these children and their schools. A rough estimate of over Ten Thousand schools for the whole of Northern Nigeria was given by Sa’adu Zungur in 1984 (Yakubu, 1999), while Alao (2000) reported that in 1999, the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF (1999) did a survey of Qur’anic schools in Eight Northern states and Abuja. It recorded over 100,000 such schools  with  an  enrollment  of  over  two  millions pupils. What is known for certain is that the number of these young beggars keeps increasing day by day.

Generally, the Almajirai live in harsh conditions under which learning becomes extremely difficult. This phenomenon of Almajiri Education system constitutes a major menace in Nigeria, and Sokoto in particular. Therefore, this research work intends to investigate the problem and menace of the system with a view to proffer recommendations while highlighting these menaces.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The way Almajirai system of education is been practiced in the Northern part of Nigeria and more particularly Sokoto is an eyesore that need urgent attention in order to rescue the situation. The Almajiri system of education has turned its students to tools for money making for their teachers. Daudu, (1981) To fed and cloth themselves, they have to always roam about the streets public and private places, begging for money they also render services as plate washer in restaurants and even find prohibited places, which make some of the Almajirai to result to intermingling with bad people, engaging in prohibited conduct like pocket picking, stealing, or being mobilised by other peoples to promote violence in return for money. They waste their time in other unnecessary activities instead of acquiring knowledge. These acts make them get exposed to diseases and other hazards. Shima and Dauda (1981).

THE MENACE OF ALMAJIRI SYSTEM OF EDUCATION IN SOKOTO