At the wake of thoughts about external forces trying to bring us down in whatever means they can. We may not have realized that those external forces are the wings we spread that went far ahead of our sights.
In Nigeria, there are children from very low income families that are scattered in major cities, you cannot call these children orphans, nor disabled, these children are healthy and fit to compete with any other child in the developed world if given the right education and care.
These children are citizens of Nigeria, without any identity except their village names, and if you are lucky to find a wise one, he can tell you the name of their village head. These children walk around the major cities barefooted, sighting a knee hole on their trouser is not fashion, but rather a sign of a decaying peace of cloth that they brought from their villages, worn for as long as a month that you can easily identify them by the type of clothes they wear everyday than by their faces.
They are not orphans because you will find both parents alive, and they are not disabled because they are the best runners when the need arises, you will also get their echos at every corner of the streets in Northern Nigeria’s major cities. These children are called Almajirai, rooted from the Arabic of Al Muhajiroon, in the traditional sense, they were sent from villages in order to study the Holy Qur’an and become ‘Hafizi’ (one who can read the complete chapters of the Holy Qur’an by heart). The Qur’anic teachers are called ‘Alaramma’. Parents in the villages prefer to send their children to the best Alaramma in town and in most cases you will find his school over-crowded with children from all sections of Northern Nigeria. They even hire assistants to help them in some sessions while they rest or go to the market to make ends meet.
So basically in Nigeria, you can take note of 3 categories of disadvantaged children, the orphans, the disabled, and the almajirai. But I rather prefer to call them the ‘internally displaced’ children of Nigeria. Because their accommodation is over-crowded resembling the pictures of accommodation in a refugee camp, they sleep on mats, and take their weekly bath every Friday just before going to the Mosque for Jumu’a. You cannot talk of their health condition, hygiene, primary education, secondary education, they are completely disconnected from any good social amenities. The situation is very bad that you can instantly feel the urge to help when a child knock on your window begging for some money to buy detergent for washing his clothes or food to eat at the middle of the road.
Truly the situation is very bad, but who’s fault is it? Frankly, it is our fault, me and you, and all those who feel they have escaped from this devastating social divide.
Before 2008, many people will deny strongly that there will ever be suicide bombing in Northern Nigeria or even any militancy of Northern extraction. But today the story is entirely different now. In true sense, what we are fighting now is part of us. The social and ideological disconnect has gone beyond our control such that we think our own people cannot do this, and as usual we always try to blame the ‘external forces’ for our problems.
The Nigerian government from all indications have failed to see the main reason behind these problems by introducing Almajirai schools, this is an insult to them, their parents, their teachers, and to every Northerner, because where ever you are in Nigeria, when ever the word Almajiri is mentioned it is directly a reference to Northern Nigeria. It just like creating a school specially for the Lagos’ ‘Area Boys’. None of those children will refuse to attend conventional school when given the chance, even if there is any, only a few hundreds out of the millions will be influenced by their parents not to attend.
Why not introduce Qur’anic subject in our conventional schools of Northern Nigeria and employ the ‘Alarammas’ to teach the children in their own villages, while staying with their own parents? Why not introduce a welfare system where children from very poor family will have get food and clothes from the government? Why not place donation boxes specifically meant for their food and clothing in major shopping places and areas with more privileged people around the North?
I so much believe in action and results, getting opinions about solutions not digesting an issue around, like in football, get the ball inside the net to win the game, no matter how stylish you play, if you didn’t score, you will lose, as your opponent will score in every given opportunity.
So I call on my people to please act and save these children, our brothers. We have multiples of problems but we have to act on whatever is at our reach now, we cannot jump and fight for the upper lands while our own land is in turmoil. Their future is the future of our own children. We want them to be the next brightest engineers, programmers, doctors, pilots, teachers, and many other professions of choice that will bring positive development to Northern Nigeria.
In the end, I only ask for one task from you the reader, the task is simple but very important. When next you see an Almajiri, call him, ask him his name, ask him what he will want to become in the future, (me kake so ka zama idan ka girma?). This is the same question we used to ask the more privileged children, but they are not different, so let us start the change today, let’s not wait for tomorrow.