Why President Jonathan’s Initiation of Almajiri Education Was Imperative By Nwosu chukwuemeka It will be an arduous task for President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), to perform a holistic national transformation of the Nigerian society into a “new dream nation”; with a radical transformation of the material conditions of its citizenry, and the behavioural transformation of […]
Why President Jonathan’s Initiation of Almajiri Education Was Imperative By Nwosu chukwuemeka
It will be an arduous task for President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), to perform a holistic national transformation of the Nigerian society into a “new dream nation”; with a radical transformation of the material conditions of its citizenry, and the behavioural transformation of the habits, interests, and living patterns of the individual members of the society. It is incontestable that the new dream nation that would emerge from the wake of such a holistic national transformation will necessitate a combination of economic, moral and ethical revolutions; the later aspects of which can be brought about peacefully without fanning the drums of war or prompting violent bloody revolts under the cover of the oppressed or exploited people of a given ethnic origin. The President, GEJ, expressed a rare display of his revolution fervour when his administration introduced and launched Almajiri education in Sokoto State.
The President, in an indirect response to the need to implant moral and ethical revolutions into the administration’s Transformation Agenda, has begun to use the instrumentality of education to enlighten the inner minds of the populace. Education, in all its basic essential interpretation of value, is synonymous with moral education, per say. Through education, human thoughts, actions and conducts are ultimately conditioned by learning of how to live more happily and peacefully, in the broad and important exercise of our daily physical living, as citizens of one united nation.
In most parts of northern Nigeria, it is easy for a visiting tourist to notice this peculiar social phenomenon called the Almajiris. In Kano and Kaduna States, they are referred to as the Talakawas in local parlance. When a child is growing-up, and there is no food, clothes, shelter, and future to look upon with hope and happiness, the child will begin to look at life as one to live without decency, and consequentially lose his sense of self –worth, compelling him to engage in a variety of prevailing negative acts, like the involvements in militant activities that we saw in the South-South from Niger Delta youths; or the horrors of kidnapping that we saw in large scale from the South-East youths restiveness; or even the open involvement in the slaughter and sales of human parts that is rampant in the West; and the deadly acts of terrorism that we are seeing in the North-East. These negative acts of social degradation have the same foundational causes and national character, as consequences of a failed Nigerian state with so much resources and wealth to be otherwise.
In the northern Nigeria society, it is culturally and religiously acceptable for a man to marry more than one wife and give birth to as many children as possible. Sometimes the number of children runs above 50 from one man and his 5-10 wives. The increases in the number of wives and children do not usually lead to a corresponding increase in the capacity of the man’s housing provisions for his enlarged family. Neither does it lead to increased earnings for their well-being as his dependents. When this odd imbalance in the man’s family provisioning plays out, the resultant unavoidable scenario is that some of these uncared for children are compelled to come together and swell up a new set of Almajiris.
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through the streets of big cities like Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, etc, when they see the roads crowded with a prodigious number of children, who, with their older grown-up ones move in droves along the streets; with bowl-in hand demanding our charity for their living by importuning every passenger in an on-going vehicle or passer-by for an alms; wearing makeshift clothes or outright rags; walking in organized manner on street ways; making routine stopovers on houses of the rich, influential politicians, popular businessmen and the feudal ruling class; settling for the day wherever the dusk catches up with their movements; and ready to continue their ubiquitous lifestyle without a permanent abode every other day under the control of their Mallams or Spiritual Heads.
Almajiri – Koranic – and Nomadic Education
The joy of these overseeing Mallams is to voluntarily act as the cultural and religious guides of these citizens, giving them their daily morning, afternoon and evening doses of meals, complemented with the timely reading of the Koran to continually acquire some fundamental Islamic knowledge called Koran education – is like a religious education of the type obtainable from a Koranic school that identifies an Amajarai or Tsangawa in the northeast – so the people take it seriously in the Lake Chad area, because a Tsangawa can be conducted in a family house, open community spaces, with parents, elders, Spiritual Heads as Tsangawa teachers, which would still allow the Tsangawa pupil to go run domestic errands for the household at the end of such Koranic education in a given day; as opposed to Nomadic education that is coordinated by the government with registration of children of Fulani cattle herds for mobile education.
The most fundamental set of sources of energy that carry an Almajiri forward in the society is his understanding of tradition, practice of culture, and adherence to religious values. This is because every Almajiri is, in a substantial measure, the culture, tradition and religious values that the Mallams incubated in him, and therefore, seem not to have the common character set of fellow Nigerian citizens. In times of socio-political or religious crisis, precipitated from disputations that are rooted in sharply dividing personal or collective opinions and interests, the many members of rank and opulence who range behind the banners of the formation, maintenance, and spiritual trainings of Almajiris – including the feudal ruling class; the influential and rich ambitious politicians; the spiritual heads of Almajiris – may utilize this kind of opportunity to put the cultural, traditional, and Islamic religious principles they have cultivated in the Almajiris to test, by calling upon them to exercise those virtues of :
•Loyalty, needed for the execution of the orders and commands given by Muslim Spiritual Heads.
•Courage, which is justly denominated in Muslim religion as a practical demonstration of the distinguishing characteristics of true Muslims’ hearts, to act spontaneously without hesitation in response for the immediate execution of the orders and commands of Spiritual Heads.
•Justice, that Almajiris would hardly contest the excellence of executing the orders and commands of Spiritual Heads, which others in the past have received and practiced in absolute believe and loyalty to their culture and tradition, that such religiously inspired sense of justice to brutally settle scores has the approbation of Allah-that blesses those will obey His orders.
The rich and the feudalistic ruling class, also, encourage the voluntary upbringing that these Mallams give to these Almajiris, by providing them with prepared food and offering them sustenance money from time to time. Moreover, because of this sympathetic and widely practiced patronage of the Almajiris, they are sometimes used like a large and deeply devoted youth population to enforce social opinions of the feudal ruling class, or those of the influential rich class, or even those between warring communities that may simply be rooted in such primordial conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, which are propagated like matters of collective interest that have polarized the social environment, even if it involves blood bound families circle.
As much as the social utility of the Almajiris’ is understood as being valuable in shaping the cultural and religious destiny of a growing and vast population of their ethnic nation in timely manner, the social adaptation of these citizens does not ultimately lead to their self-empowerments and better informed awareness of the general Nigerian society. In the decades stretching into the past, the social and economic reality of the Almajiris has been poverty and marginal social status on the wings of the communal society in which they live and spend their lives.
The GEJ administration, therefore, reasoned well that abandoning the lives of these citizens in the destiny of their own hands as servants would leave them under perpetual states of poverty and limited self-developments. Moreover, realizing as is said, that, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”, these citizens growing into adulthood, sooner or later, would develop dissatisfaction with the mere warmth and feelings of the moral elbows of community brotherhood, without such being complemented in true life with the possibility of recourse to realistic avenues for personal means of material well-being. This development would make them to become susceptible to the appeals of self-centered political leaders who can easily manipulate them into spontaneous mobs for negative socio-political actions. And the neglect of this awareness has caused the nation sad stories of socio-political conflicts in the past.
The GEJ-Inspired Almajiri Education
Therefore, the GEJ administration has identified this social syndrome of the Almajiris as a veritable source of sponsored threats to the peaceful co-existence of Nigerian citizens in major northern cities, and has therefore introduced Almajiri education – for illiteracy eradication, vocational training, skills development and formal education- as the greatest enabler to educate and properly orientate the inner minds and external behavior of these developing citizens into the national character, so as to draw them into the orbits of more decent, purposeful, empowered and happier living citizens’ circles of this great nation.
Almajiris’ education is an important aspect of human capital development that is needed in northern Nigeria. Else, how can you re-orientate the Almajiris to do the right thing in the society at all times without proper education for their mental development? And how can you blend the Almajiris to have a common chemistry for reasoning with other citizens of the country on socio-political issues without succeeding in placing them under the same level of the most basic mental development with other Nigerians, so that it would be possible for all to collectively express faith, trust, cooperation, and attain stability in socio-political and religious relationships in the Nigerian society?
Education is intended to moderate the rule compliance principle which are inculcated into the mentality of Almajiris from their foundational trainings by spiritual guides or Mallams – which compels them to simply do what they are told to do without recourse to proper reasoning, and without consideration of the danger and harm that may be associated with their sponsored rebellious actions – in relation to the love, peace and collective unity of purpose that the Nigerian society demands of them. The initial motive of educating Almajiris is to deconstruct them of this rule compliance principle, and consequentially create the moral foundation for them to develop their social conscience, from where they would learn to be humanized, kind, thoughtful, and appreciate the positive feelings of living and sharing the society with fellow Nigerians. From education, the Almajiris will become grown-up Nigerians, with the moral philosophy of valuing a principled conscience dictated by proper reason from their inner minds, that the integrity of their personal decisions will be made to conform to what is right for the society, in their exercise of the moral virtues of courage, fairness and self-discipline.
The President, GEJ, understands and embodies the attributes required in exercising a principled conscience – a personal integrity – that enables him to make complex decisions about governance of this nation, and to make real sacrifices for the goodness he believes in for the prosperity of our countrymen, which will give the citizens more lasting gratification than temporary material offers of the rich to the poor masses. The President, GEJ, equally understands that a moral principle or virtue is imperative for the growing children to adopt a sound ethical foundation for the development of appropriate perspective to socio-political issues of the nation. This is why he had chosen the education of the Almajiris, to enlarge their mental capacity to understand the society better, so that they too can make more acceptable and independent minded decisions about the consequences of their own actions, especially when coerced to do some negativity as rebellious actions by ambitious politicians.
Whoever could envision, as President GEJ has done, in the provisions of his Transformation Agenda, a fair and easy method of making these neglected citizens to acquire functional education, to help them become useful members of their community, would deserve impartial commendation of the Nigerian public to have his name recommended for a national award for a preserver of the nation.
Culled to Republic REporters by Nwosu Chukwuemeka, a content writer in the Media Team of TAN