The Almajiri Syndrome and Acquisition of Knowledge


Mohammed Bala


In the olden days when the quest to acquire knowledge was prevalent, especially the Koranic knowledge by the Muslims, there were no laid down procedures or channels to adopt in obtaining such, except the unconventional way of handing over your ward to a supposedly teacher, known as Mallam. It was this Mallam that now enlist your child and the teaching of religious scriptures and way of life are indoctrinated into the young pupils. It was so perfect and rewarding that highly educated Sheikhs and Mullas who became successful in life by holding positions of judges and teachers that were moulding the minds of the young on how to become righteous and exemplary in their future lives. However, when the civilized life styles of the west started encroaching into the big cities of the north, some of these Mallams became allured to the greed for money and started migrating to the cities and towns with their pupils and subjected them to the vagaries of the streets.

One teacher can register up to a hundred and more pupils who he singularly keeps, guides and controlled. To keep them fed and accommodated are also part of the teacher's responsibilities. But nowadays even to keep and feed one hundred mouths is not easy, and perhaps impossible. But life must go on, and the pupils have to, as a must, acquire the knowledge their parents sent them to do. The little stipends the parents were able to give their wards for them and the teachers hardly sustains them for a month, so an alternative means of getting more income has to be employed. During the day time, when there are no classes the pupils are allowed to stretch into the town and wander around until when classes were to begin. It is this going about around the town that affords the pupils to engage in menial jobs that fetches them some little amounts. This also was kind of stopped by the people because they have other means of doing such jobs and so the pupils venture into house to house begging for remnants of food to eat. It is also said that the pupils take back part of this food to the teacher. It is clear from the above, that the teacher himself is gaining from the engagements of the pupils in the town, and can do anything to sustain it.

For one to really appreciate and understand the inner workings of the system, one has to have an experienced the trend. It is believed that only someone that had once been a pupil during their childhood under the roving Mallams can have the urge and strong conviction to send their sons to them. Otherwise, there is no cogent reason for any one to convert his ward to an Almajiri despite our having conventional and well equipped Islamiyya Schools all over the place where they can go and learn well and come back home to their parents after School. For one, the teacher you entrust your child's education might not be having enough knowledge to impart on your child and perhaps you might not even know from where he comes from, or heading to. The fact that by handing over one's child to such Teachers who live away from where you live, is enough worry, for it will deprive the child the much needed parental care.

The system that was hitherto organized and well charted, has now been bastardized and abused to the extent of letting our children roam streets and picking remnants of food leftover from dustbins. One other aspect of the system that has been abused nowadays is the degenerated value of trust and togetherness that our forefathers have lived and died with. This issue of lack of trusts is as a result of the changing world in terms orientation and our rush for acquiring the status of a civilized lot. Couple with this is also the governments non challant attitude of fending for the citizenry that results in thousands of our youths daily roaming the streets looking for what to eat.

The first step to be taken in ameliorating the hardships being generated by Almajiri and their sponsors, is for the governments at both levels to appreciate the fact that these people are also Nigerians and that they deserve to be treated as such. When this is done, governments should now embark on building schools that will teach both Koranic and western education. It will then make it compulsory and incumbent on parents to take their wards to such schools and obtain admission for them. Failure of parents to comply with the government's directive, a punitive should be taken. The governments also should use appropriately, the social welfare offices all over the country, to obtain a comprehensive list and data of all youngsters that have no surviving parents. These data can adequately be used to offer assistance to such wayward citizens.

That governments should ban the modus operandi whereby people just out of the blues take about a hundred or more kids and travel with them from one town to the other, subjecting them to harsh and sometimes unbearable conditions. These range from street begging and perhaps even picking pockets which renders the kids useless to the parents and the society. It is equally the responsibility of the authorities to make compulsory on all parents to enroll their children in the only recognized schools for acquiring both Koranic and western education. It is worthy of note here, that these schools are springing up all over the place and doing just very well in academic performance. Once these schools are given the desired recognition and support by government and the wealthy individuals, the retinue of youths along the streets will drastically be reduced, and one day, might be phased out phased out completely.

Parents have a bigger role to play by resisting the urge to give their sons out to the wandering teachers, who could take them to destinations that are unknown to the parents. Unless a father takes into account the future well being of his son or daughter into consideration, and having him/her grow and attain maturity right under his personal coaching, the child will never get that type of good and decent character moulding else where. Therefore, there is no doubt that a child who grew up under the care of both parents enjoys maximum care and support that the one who did not enjoy growing up before his parents.