Professor Rashid Aderinoye of the Department of Adult Education, University of Ibadan, a former secretary to the Ministerial Committee on Almajiri Education, Abuja, in this interview with KEHINDE ADIO says the increasing number of Almajiris in the North is responsible for the intractable burden of out-of-school children, and is slowing down the Education for All programme in the country. He also proffers solutions.
What do you have to say about the inability to control the rate of out-of-school children as well as the influx of almajiris in the North, South-West and eastern part of the country? Has it in any way affected the progress of Education for All Programme?
Definitely yes! Apart from slowing down the progress of the ongoing Sustainable Development Goals in the country, they (almajiris) are threats to security and peace in the society. As a matter of fact, some people use them to perpetrate all kinds of evils in the country. It is high time the Nigerian government put in place an effective and affective mechanism to address the issue.
How do you think government can introduce Western education to them?
There was a rumour that government was planning to bar them from the streets. My response to the statement then was that ‘it is not possible.’ As a matter of urgency, we should rather integrate and rehabilitate them. These children in question are over nine milion, according to statistical survey conducted on them not too long ago. They must have increased in number. Basically, almajiris, according to Islamic concept, can be interpreted to mean a people on a journey in search of knowledge. You may call or refer to them as nuisance, but they do not see themselves as such, but rather scholars in Islamic religion with a vision to become teachers and leaders in Islamic education.
The reason you find them in urban centres is that their learning centres known as Tsangayas are cited in the cities. The only option they have is to come to the cities, courtesy of their parents, who do not believe in Western education, but Islamic education. It is a free learning centre, and because the malams in charge of the centres are not rich enough to take care of their feeding and other expenses, these children-almajiris resort to street begging as their means of livelihood and also share with their malams what they make out of begging.
As a matter of necessity, the ongoing policy on Education for All Programme in the country must catch on them. Though the Federal Government has done a lot in the area of rehabilitating them through education, the effect is very insignificant. The situation calls for a review of the policies in operation.
In your opinion, do you think the solution lies solely in the hands of government?
In my opinion, the solution lies exclusively on government efforts to take Western education to their doorsteps. To achieve this, it is necessary for government to renovate all their learning centres in the country, by making them child-friendly learning and living centres. More so, the free food programme must be extended to them to make life comfortable for them. The centres must be well-equipped with all their malams being remunerated alongside other teachers in the centres.
Moreover, it is important to introduce vocational studies that will make them to be self-sufficient. Agriculture-based vocational education will be more appropriate for them. Most importantly, state and local governments must replicate these measures in their various states. The development will go a long way to rehabilitate these children and make them relevant in nation building. It will also control insurgency being experienced in the society.
What about the out-of-school children in the South West and eastern regions of the nation, how can they be rehabilitated?
Government must revisit the law that prohibits the roaming of school age children on the streets during school hours and enforce it. This means that parents whose children are found on the streets during school hours should be prosecuted. This action will curb the situation.
Moreover, parents should be committed to the training of their children. Even if government has cancelled school fees, it does not mean that parents should hands off the education of their children. Success in a child‘s education is a joint effort of the parents, teachers and government. The role of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) in any school system should not be taken with levity; most importantly the School Based-Management Board. These are the bodies that ensure truancy control and effective teacher monitoring in schools within their jurisdictions. Basic education must be highly qualitative being the foundation of education.
Government has the responsibility to renovate and expand school facilities and make them child-friendly. There are some schools in some states in the country that do not encourage schooling. These must be addressed to attract children to school. It is sad to note that only few children complete their basic education; there is a large number of dropouts on a yearly basis. Do you know that there are some communities in some states in the country that do not have schools? This is the reason every state government must access UBEC fund meant for basic education’s infrastructure development.