News The African Way

Mr. El-Rufai And His Many Tantrums

By John Danfulani, Ph.D

img_0882-1On 3rd April 2016 the “Accidental Governor ” of the North Western state of Kaduna uttered below words while signing the NO HAWKING BILL recently passed by Kaduna State House of Assembly:

“This morning, I signed a bill that prohibits street hawking and begging in Kaduna state. From September 2016, every child between the ages of 6 and 15 must be in school, not on the street hawking or begging, otherwise the parents must be prosecuted and sent to prison. We have taken this step to give impetus to the Universal Basic Education Act which makes basic education in Nigeria compulsory.We must force people to send their children to school and we are not going to give them choice; everyone in Kaduna state must go to school,”  Governor El-rufa’i Of Kaduna State.

Mr. El-Rufa’i and many northern states governors must accept the fact that threat to global, regional and national goals of seeing that all kids go to school are deeply rooted in some cultural practices and religious beliefs of some ethnic groups in Northern Nigeria . In northern Nigeria parents “send kids” to far places to acquire education under an aged long informal system of learning tagged in many literatures “THE ALMAJIRI SYSTEM”. It is mostly these ALMAJIRIS that are seen loitering the streets begging for food in hours formal education system called “school hours”. Local and internal statistics by United Nations specialized agencies  like UNESCO and UNICEF suggests that these kids are between the range of 12 to 13 million in Northern Nigeria- a number far and above the entire population of many countries in the world. 

ALMAJIRI SYSTEM  is outdated and colliding with realities of our times, but majority of northerners indulging in it think otherwise. Unfortunately, those opposing its liquidation are the poor, the very victims of the failed political and socio-economic systems that is making them live miserably and down below globally accepted standard of living. The elites who sits in various lawmaking chambers at the state and federal levels lack the political will to take this problem head-on for fear of being labeled anti culture and religion. In order not to risk their political careers and attract the stigma of anti religion and culture, they are playing safe by avoiding discussions bordering abolition of a system that is refusing the realities of modernization and globalization. 

It will take the sagacity of a native statistician to know the number of conferences Northern Governor’s Forum (NGF) have organized to address this issue. Even bodies like UNESCO and UNICEF can’t count (off-hand) efforts they made to making Northern Nigeria understand multifaceted negativities of the ALMAJIRI SYSTEM. The Sultan of Sokoto added his disapproving voice to this system that is not only exposing kids to all forms of social ills but compromising their future. Recently, the Governor of North Central state of Nassarawa described status ALMAJIRIS as sheep without an owner. All calls against it oozed into the deaf ears of parents and the incentives provided  poorly unattractive.

With these difficulties and multiple failed attempts, how can a single state out of many think it can tackle the problem? We know as well as Mr. El-rufa’i himself that over 98% of the kids on street in Kaduna State are imported from other states and even neighbouring countries. How is he going to effect his resolve of arresting and prosecuting parents of these kids? Can laws made in Kaduna State be used to drag parents from Sokoto or Zinder in Niger Republic whose kids are caught on street in Kaduna State during school hours? In the case of foreign ALMAJIRIS can laws made by a state not a bilateral protocol signed between Nigeria and foreign states hold? 

Mr. El-rufa’i knows that the kids are under the care of a teacher called MALAMIN ALLO. These are the people who admitted these kids into their informal schools. They don’t charge feeding, accommodation and all types of fees known in formal schools. Since no fees are charged on parents, they send these kids on streets to beg for food to eat and take some to them. Which punishment is set aside for these teachers admitting pupils in their schools? The living and learning environment of these kids is pathetic- hence the presence of sores and all sorts of diseases on them. Is there a punitive measure in the law for Malams that are exposing these kid to endemic and pandemic diseases? 

Let us even think pedestrian here, is there force in education? Take it from a different angle, if it is possible to force kids to school, is it possible to force them to learn?  I want to believe Mr.El-rifa’i can enforce his laws in urban and semi urban areas, but what happens to areas where there are no police and the only standing authorities are the village heads? Does the bill empower the last layer of feudal authority to perform the work of Nigeria Police? If the bill permits, is that not encroaching the work of Nigeria Police-a body with the sole powers to arrest and prosecute in Nigeria? 

We are tired of Mr. El-rufa’i’s unpalatable tantrums and playing to the galleries on very serious issues. That was how he played politics with a billion Naira gulping school feeding programme that his own Commissioner of Education came out crying that kids abandoned classes after eating their ration of food. Elementary education is so vital to be used as a political tool. 

If Mr. El-rufa’i really want us to believe that he is dead serious to seeing all kids in the classrooms learning ABCD and 1 2 3 4 let him ban ALMAJIRI SYSTEM in Kaduna State just like what happened recently in Kano State. Courage isn’t only in demolishing structures in schools lands, arresting and jailing dissidents, or telling opponents to go climb Kufena Mountain and Fall. Courage in this instance, is tackling the ALMAJIRI SYSTEM that is refusing kids to go to school, period. 

 

Dr. John Danfulani can be reached through his email: Johndanfulani@gmail.com

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