Some 59 years after colonialism here we are still blaming it for our collective failure to deal with some national, regional and sub regional issues like the Almajiri system of education.
We have not only failed but have finally shot ourselves in the foot by killing some of our legacies as nation out of sentiments and lack of forward thinking and strategic planning.
Recently, the Northern Governors forum an umbrella body formed to nurture, articulate, sell and defend the interest of the North in the common wealth recklessly killed the Almajiri system of education without alternative approach but the usual thinking we shall merge them and that is it.
When the blame game started various hypothesis were formulated to find those responsible for the woes of the almajiri system.
Firstly, colonialism was accused for deliberately refusing to recognize the Almajir education as a form of education arguing it was more of religion than education. The British were accused for not adopting the Almajiri system in the curriculum of the conventional school system.
The second hypothesis is the attempt to blame the oligarchy for the collapse of the system even in the light of the fact their roles under the system was reduced ceremonial duties. They too are now calling the alamajiri un Islamic.
Thirdly, the parents were blamed for abdicating in their responsibilities of providing proper upbringing of their children. They were accused of transferring their burden of parenting to the Malams of the Tsangaya school schools.
The Malams of the tsangaya school were also accused of taking advantage of the children under their care by subjecting them dehumanizing conditions and enslavement.
Harsh economic realities, mass poverty and lack of gainful employment opportunities in the local communities that led to rural-urban migration contributed to the migration of the almajiri to the cities.
But the major systemic issues arising from inconsistent policy changes in our national and local educational system were glossed over even though they are the real problems.
This how the teachers colleges were killed, today we have classroom teachers who do not know how to draw lesson plans talk less of impacting real knowledge to the pupils.
Similarly, this is how the Arabic teacher’s colleges that could have provided buffer to the Islamic Tertiary institutions were destroyed.
This contributed massively in the falling standard of education in the country.
It may be argued by other sections of the society Nigeria is not a secular state the almajiri education should not be accorded special preferences. This could be true, but nothing stops the regional governments from dealing with the matter more especially when education is on the concurrent list.
The northern governors forum an organization responsible for articulating policies for north ought to have used the privileges provided by the law to improve or change the fortunes of the tsangaya schools. But disappointingly they fell in to the trap of the conspiracy theorist.
To deal with issues of the almajiri system requires forward-thinking and visionary leadership not like the one displayed by the northern governors forum.
Anyone who undermine the significance of the Almajiri system of education and it’s contributions in the spread of Islam and Islamic education in Northern Nigeria is either a hypocrite or delusional.
The positions expressed by the most vociferous members of the Northern governor’s forum, one accused of thievery, the other a rabble-rouser, a foot-soldier, gradually becoming an irritant is no longer surprising to many as their antecedents in the recent past has been belittling to the North.
The Northern Governors knew very well how Usman Danfodio fought to spread Islam across the North and the reasons the colonial administration adopted an in direct rule in the administration of the northern protectorate region. The main aim was not to distort the already established administrative machinery in place.
It is no wonder our brothers in the south are sarcastically reminding us of the good work President Jonathan did to reform the Almajiri system, rejected by the same northern governors.
Their concern was not out of love for the North or Islam, but they see the Almajiri system as a threat to their wealth scattered across the country.
Another reason for their support of the reform introduced by their “SON”, they know how dilapidated the schools systems in the north are, aware the northern governors may not keep up the reform. They supported the reform a situation not in tandem with their sectional attitudes to issues of development in Nigeria.
For those of us that went to primary and secondary schools in the 60s and 70s, we took some of our religious lessons in the conventional schools system before the Islamic education was de-emphasized and made optional in the schools curriculum.
Another lesson that one can learn from the stupid and un thought out action of the northern governors is their in ability to go back to history at least they should have learnt the reasons behind the agitations by the missionaries for the return of their schools taken over by the Federal and State Governments during the national education reform. They have since gotten their schools back and continued with their missionary work, while we have killed the system we ought to have improved and formalized.
The northern governors also blindly fell into the trap popularized by those who wanted the Almajiri system destroyed as they are aware of its contributions in protecting the sanctity of the text of the Quran and spread of Islamic education in spite of its informal nature.
But let’s agree even for the sake of argument and give it to the antagonist of the Almajiri system that it encourages the enslavement of children, it breeds armies of beggars and miscreants, whose fault is it? Is the forum of northern governors not meant to articulate and deal with the common underdevelopment issues drawing region back?
Some hundreds of years since the Almajiri system entered Nigeria, what has the forum done to formalize the system so that it is accorded the same recognition as the conventional schools.
Our hallucinations, how to deal with the system is what brought us to where we today. Talk without ‘walking the talk’ only blame game and camera talk.
Lately in advancing reasons for why he outlawed the Almajiri system in Kaduna state, governor Nasir el-Rufai, was quoted to have said, “We’ve been looking for ways and means to end this system because it has not worked for the children. It has not worked for Northern Nigeria and it has not worked for Nigeria so, it has to end and this is the time” What a bizarre thing to say, is he really a Muslim?
Let us remind el-rufai, the Quran was kept undiluted in spite of the evil onslaught by western imperialist conspiracy to distort it’s content because of the “Hafiz” most of them products of the Almajiri and similar Islamic schools across the globe, who committed to memory the whole verses of the glorious Quran a tradition, kept since it was first revealed to the Prophet. (may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him).
Today in Nigeria the top most influential scholars in Islam, all started their Islamic education either as resident students of the “Tsangaya school “ or those who take lessons from the Malams of the Tsangaya schools and return home.
El-Rufai a Fulani born in “Daudawa” a village in Katsina state, considering his age I can safely speculate he must have been a product of the Tsangaya school either as resident pupil or go and come.
Today that he is a Muslim, he owes his ability to read the Quran if he can, and practice his religion through the same system he has condemned and destroyed.
When we were growing in the mid fifties our parents ensured that we attended both the western conventional school and the Tsangaya. The aim was to ensure we do not lose our identities as Muslims, while the latter was to keep with modernity and prepare us for white collar job.
Another sad outcome from the saga was how governor Ganduje repatriated the Almajiris back to their states of origin against all medical advice in dealing with movement of people during a pandemic. His actions were not only callous, foolish but absurd.
Kano like Lagos is one of the most cosmopolitan city we have in the North, that other tribes in the country freely adopt as their state of origin. This is how Kano developed as a commercial and learning centre for Islamic education in the North. To overlook this is not only self-serving but dangerous to the unity of the north.
All these were happening when the other regions are busy creating their volunteer forces to protect their people against the influx of the Hausa- Fulani herdsmen, but here we are on a pandemic ravaging the whole world infecting the low and high in the society, yet the forum used the COVID 19 to execute their diabolical agenda. A situation they know has the potential of further widening the divisions between us as a people.
Available statistics of the Almajiri repatriated between the four states involved during the early stage of pandemic stood at 423 out of which 177 tested positive, a far cry from the number of those who imported the disease into the country.
If the transfer of the Almajiris to their states of origin is the only blueprint adopted by the governors to deal with the phenomenon, without hesitation it will fail just like other efforts before it aimed at ridding our streets of beggars (not the Almajiris)
Going by what is happening in some of the states, the whole exercise will remain a mirage as the policy was not thought out properly. It will only take sometime before we see the resurgence of the system.
I agree we do need some reforms in the Almajiri system, to do this we must consult widely, it is a shared responsibility between the stakeholders, but not in the manner it was carried out by the northern governors forum.
The only outcome achieved by the forum’s action is the division it created. The so-called concept of the “monolithic north” eroded and thrown out through the window.
If this is how the Northern Governors articulate policies for the North, they have woefully failed, paraphrasing el-rufai’s words in another form, the north also does not need the forum, it has failed the North, Northerners and Nigeria. The North needs Visionary Leaders and Strategic Thinkers. If the forum can’t provide that, it MUST as well also disband.