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CHRICED Makes Case for Almajiri Children of Nigeria

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Maureen Okpe

The Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International (ASI) has beamed it’s light on the horrible human rights abuses experienced by ‘Almajiri’ as a result of the problem on forced child begging.

In lieu of this,the Center through research recommendations have called on government, multilateral institution and Civic organisations to take a deeper interest in specific priority areas of education and the enforcement of their fundamental human rights.

The Executive Director Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi at the public presentation of the research report tittled ‘shackles to the past; an exploration of the best prospect for combatting forced child begging’ stated that the project essence was focused on understanding the details of what has worked well and what has not worked so well with reference to the various state and non-state interventions on forced child begging in Northern Nigeria.

Zikirullahi said the massive scale of the problem of forced child begging in Nigeria, is a fact of everyday existence, especially in Northern Nigeria adding, No amount of statistical data can better describe the enormity of the problem than the disturbing everyday experience of seeing hordes of hungry, undernourished, and barely clad children roaming the streets of major cities in the North of Nigeria.

“These children are supposed to be young pupils of Qur’anic schools pursuing the goal of acquiring religious knowledge. However, the reality of the collapse of the ancient system of religious education means the Qur’anic teachers or ‘Mallams’ have no means of fending for the pupils in their care and resort to sending out the children to beg to sustain both the Mallam and the almajirai themselves.

“Ostensibly in the keep of their Mallam, these children spend almost all their day in the streets and in market places, and spend their night wherever they find to lay their heads. Thus, these children are effectively abandoned by their parents and exploited by their Mallams.

“Further, they are largely condemned to a future life of poverty and hardship,this is because the Islamic education they receive equips them with few skills usable in the modern economy. This has transformed the almajiranci system of education which previously is the foundation for the generational transmission of Islamic culture into a means of child abuse, specifically exploitation, neglect, and impoverishment,” he said.

Speaking further the Director disclosed that irrespective of the amount of government and non-governmental resources, which have gone into finding solutions to the problem, the scale continues to be daunting stating, little wonder, Nigeria continues to retain its position as the country with the highest number of out of school children in the entire world.

“Given the huge scale of the problem, we believe stakeholder response to the Almajiri situation in Nigeria must be driven by a collective and sustainable response. Such a collective effort from state and non-state actors, we believe should be motivated by the notion of Almajiri as holders of fundamental rights, which must be protected and promoted by duty-bearers.

“The Almajiri question is one that all actors within and outside government can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to. This point becomes even more pertinent when the extent of insecurity confronting Nigeria is put in the proper context. As we speak, the gory stories of the activities of armed bandits, kidnappers and other violent criminals in the North West, have become staple for daily news updates.

“In the North East, the Boko Haram insurgency continues to rage. In the North Central, the activities of herdsmen continue to undermine security of lives and peaceful co-existence. The reality of over 10 million children wandering the streets, with no education, healthcare and other basic necessities to make them a proper part of society amounts to yet another recipe for future violent conflicts.

“In the end, the millions of children roaming the streets are children of this country. This is part of the reason our research makes recommendations to the government; federal and state multilateral institutions, and civil society organizations to take a deeper interest in the fate of the Almajiri children,”he said.

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