Almajirai, Blessing or Nuisance?

The word “Almajirai” is a Hausa word derived from the Arabic word “Al Muhajirun” which literally means ‘The Immigrants’ in English. Perhaps the definition of Immigrants can vary from the purpose of the migration. In this context, the Al Muhajiruns are immigrants in search of knowledge where ever they can find it. The Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon Him) which says “Seek knowledge even from far away China” has made a significant influence in the process at which Muslims from all over the world travel to seek Knowledge.

This philosophy has resulted in a very important development among Muslims from the 7th to the 19th century which has seen many great Muslim astronomers, philosophers, doctors, mathematicians, physicians, chemists, all of whom have played significant roles in the technological advancements we are seeing in the 21st century. Most of these great people who contributed a lot to chemistry, physics, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, etc were all Al Muhajiruns, they travel to vast lands of different terrains, and different cultures to search for knowledge and make advancements into what they found. For example the mathematical terms of Algebra and Algorithm was originated from Muhammad Al Khawarizmi who was born in Baghdad and a devoted practicing Muslim. He traveled to so many places to seek knowledge in vast areas including Mathematics and Philosophy. Looking at these facts, we can see that without doubts, the Al Muhajiruns have played very significant roles in their times, and of course they were blessing to both the people of their time and to us.

Up to the 20th Century, so many states that exists at that time has seen great scholars flourishing in places like Daura, Kano, Zaria, and drawing students from all around West and some parts of North and East Africa. These scholars were mostly educated in North Africa like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, some from Sudan and Baghdad. However, since the arrival of the colonial rulers, things started to change, especially when certain conditions made these scholars to flee from the regions, some of them though do stay.

From 1930 to 1980 must of the Almajirai studying in Arewa (Northern Nigeria) were between the ages of 20 and 28, some have even passed the age of 30. Most of them normally went back home during the rainy season to irrigate their farmlands, or support their family in doing so. Begging by the Almajirai became intense when extreme poverty hits most parts of the region. Parents at home cannot feed their children any longer whether they stay at home or travel to another place.

Nowadays, parents mostly from villages send their children as young as 5 years old to densely populated cities like Kano to study as well as find ways to feed themselves, this young people grow in a very rough situation so much so that their future is likely they become part of the gangs in the streets who steal, and start violence, or maybe even become robbers. The current situation of the Almajirai is very hard to explain, the situation has been left for so long. Those responsible have not done anything to change the situation, and are not planning to do anything about it. Now, it has become a common sight in the streets of Arewa to see a very young child stretching his hands asking for 5 Naira to buy pure water or wash his clothes. The situation is getting extremely worst every day, they have become fuel to every happenings in the region, from political crisis, religious crisis, to ethnic crisis, they are everywhere, because they are not educated in anything good, some of them hardly recite a Surah from the Holy Qur’an rather than to talk of Mathematics, or Science. Their number is roughly estimated at more than 10 Million. Yet, only few become successful in their educational pursuit, but also, most of them fall into the business of witch doctors “bokaye” which you can see in all corners of major cities of Arewa.

Leaders of Arewa need to urgently look into the situation and act accordingly, because leaving the situation as it is can lead to so many disasters and condemnations of the International community and already, so many people are seeing the Almajiri situation as being supported by Islam which is by far very wrong, in fact, it is a very serious offense in Islam for parents to send off their child far away from them without any guarantee of protecting his right as a child, his right to go to school, and his right to be fed, etc.

Leaders of Arewa should urgently open Emergency Enrolment Centers to enroll this innocent children to schools, and provide them with standard shelter, food, and clothing, this should not be an option to the Almajirai, rather it should be enforced on them, any Almajiri seen during school time should be captured and send to this Emergency Enrolment Centers, parents that does not like their children to be sent to the school must be taken to court for denying to give their child the education he needs to be successful in the life of this world and the hereafter. Special curriculums should be designed for these students, and extra classes should be built in each school, while accommodation and food should also be provided for them.

Perhaps the future of our nation lies on its people, what kind of future this nation will get if majority of its people are not educated? Of course it will be a chaotic, bad, horrific, and awful future. We need to put education as the first priority in anything, because education is the solid foundation of any development in any society at any time.

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