By Destiny Ameh Okayi
Almajirci is a Hausa word with its roots in the Arabic word ‘al muhajir’ which literally translates to ‘a traveler’. The concept of ‘al muhajiroon’ (plural of al muhajir) was born in the prophetic era when the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH) and his small community of believing Muslims migrated from the city of Makkah to Yathrib (modern day Madinnah in Saudi Arabia). Apart from being the migration that marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar, the ‘Hijra’ (migration) symbolizes a great sacrifice made by the pious predecessors to propagate a noble cause – Islam, which Muslims across the world now practice with relatively high level of freedom.
Migration in the Islamic world is done for different reasons, one of which is seeking knowledge. Students of Islam, especially during the Golden Age of Islam, travelled long distances from their native communities to learning centres in major cities like Andalusia (modern day Spain) to study under Sheikhs and scholars of Islam.
This centuries-old system of education is similar to the practice among tertiary students of formal, conventional, Western-style education who cross state and country lines in search of knowledge in different subjects like Physics, Al Chemy, philosophy, jurisprudence, mathematics and other sciences.
However, the standard ‘Al Majirai’ system based on the Islamic education platform like many other Islamic concepts has, over the decades, been grossly misunderstood, interpolated and abused in almost all the states in the northern part of Nigeria. Child labour, destitution, negligence of parental duties on the part of parents and poor guidance and counseling and management of the system on the part of the teachers has become part and parcel of the ‘Al Majirai’ system of education.
Parents send off their wards to inner-city precincts to enroll in the ‘Al Majirai’, committing the lives of their children to God with the cliché ‘Allah zaihore’, which means ‘Allah will provide’, thereby absolving themselves of any parental obligations. Philanthropic donations are not the key to solving the problem of ‘Al Majirai’. Repairing this damaged system is a long haul that has to involve all the major Stakeholders – parents, teachers, traditional and religious leaders, the media and the government (both state and federal).
Parents need to be educated and sensitized to by well-meaning traditional and religious leaders about their religious and social obligations upon their children with strong emphasis on the religious (Islamic) views of parenting and responsibilities. Using the religion which they put forward in defense of their inactions to persuade and enjoin them to sponsor their children’s Islamic education, however meager their support is, will be a sure-fire effective tactic.
The media, especially radio, also needs to engage these affected societies with an avalanche of child welfare programmes, tailored to suit the nature of the societies in order to create awareness and stir actions towards improving children’s well-being. Local entertainment industry should also make efforts through various arts such as music, dramas and such other innovative ways to spread awareness and solution to this national problem.
The government’s funding of the ‘Al Majirai’ education system is not enough to end this problem. The government should incorporate community-based welfare development projects that will aid human development and employment opportunities and economic empowerment for the parents so that they will have no excuse for not bearing the financial needs of their children.
The ‘al majirci i’ system administrators also need to work closely with the ministry of education and the government to come up with an Islamic education system that is based upon the practical Western education model of day/boarding schools with an Islamic education curriculum that includes the official lingua franca of the country. More vocational centres internship and start-up entrepreneurship programmes should be opened up for adult Destitutes so that they can start up a business of their own.
Cleaning up the streets in these states is definitely a long process. It all begins with one big step: targeting the values and belief system of the affected societies using traditional and religious rulers who will work with the government and NGOs across in the country. This is really a tough and resource-consuming project, but it is a project worth embarking upon, considering the social vices that might be nipped in the bud.
Destiny Ameh Okayi wrote in from Mass Communication Department,Bayero University, Kano