Opinion: Increasing ‘Al Majiris’ and Our Future, a National Concern

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“…We make a living by what we get, we Make a life by what we give” – Wilson Churchill

Sad to say, but the reality in Nigeria (especially Northern States) today is that you cannot move, either by foot or vehicle for five kilometers in any habited location without coming across a cluster of children, who in most cases will literally embarrass you by their uncontrollable begging. Even worse more is that, they mostly beg for a token or food remnant to sustain themselves. Those children are popularly known as “Al Majiri”.

Despite it been very easy to detest such scene, the truth is; Whenever you see an “Al Majiri” roaming about, just know He or She could have been a young you, your sibling, child or close relation but God in his infinite mercy changed your parenthood. Yes, God changed your parenthood from theirs and vice versa. These children never chose the life they are living. In fact, they would have surely preferred a better life just like anyone who is giving the opportunity of a second choice to life.

While these children could be excused for their immediate condition, we must all worry about what they grow to become in the society despite their innocence, their very low sense of emotional intelligence is a problem for all of us.

It may interest you to know that the most honest Nigerians are the water truck pushers popularly referred to as “Mai Ruwa” by their supply of water to residents of water scarce or inadequate locations. They are so sincere that anyone who has had an encounter with them will confirm the fact that they never disappoint customers for a higher sum or any bait. Once they load, they only transit they see is their first caller and they will be so focused at such delivery to the extent that they won’t look sideways or backwards for any reason.

These “Mai Ruwa” pushers grow to become “Okada or Keke Napep” riders in towns and I need not talk about how reckless, fearless, inconsiderate and foolish both could be with not only their lives but that of their passengers on board.

Sorry, I didn’t digress but obviously making a point as to what these innocent children become with age. Most of the “Mai Ruwa, Keke and Okada” riders we see are the luckiest product of the “Al Majiris” and what they all have in common is, living to eat. Once they eat, they are okay and that explains why they do not value extra pay as a Mai Ruwa or human lives as commercial riders.

With apologies to those who does any of these endeavors for temporal sustainability, their Northern counterparts who are in similar venture has no plans beyond the next meal and that makes it easy to say, they can do anything at any cost, anytime, to anyone’s effect seemly because they themselves do not have a purpose.

Sadly, these mentality is not their fault but of their parents, government and in worst case, a society that refuses to include them in her future plans. Hence, the need to begin to plan for the minimal control and rehabilitation of the current generation of “Al Majiris” whom it is only God that can tell what they will become tomorrow.

Growing up, we were made to believe these children travel far away from their parents to seek Islamic knowledge but I can tell you authoritatively and as a Muslim too, that most of these children are not only been deliberately sent away by their parents in outright irresponsibility but also turned to mendicants by their acclaimed teachers who send them out as vagabonds. Eventually, most of them do not even say the five daily prayers, hardly learns the true teachings of Islam, lives with a purpose, knows any value for human life etc.

While the innocence of these children can never be disputed, their vulnerable living poses a serious threat to us as a nation. Aside the ease of them been used for ritual by desperately wicked evil forces, they can be easily cajoled and groomed into deadly gangs as they grow. More so that most of them has nothing to lose, they can cause any havoc without a second thought.

As a matter of fact, I feel curious and uncomfortable about the suffering of minors, especially innocent children without any health insurance, psychological guidance, physical dignity of personality and constant nutrition. I rather addressed them as minor because close to eighty percent of these “Al Majiris” are between the ages of five to sixteen. Alas, they only depend on inglorious Labor or as in the most case, begging to feed.

For any right thinking individual, the situation whereby a child must labour or beg to survive does not only attract sympathy but sets a dispute between the ideology which such an infant grows with, as may pertain to survival and that is where National security is threatened.

Whereas the federal government under Former President Goodluck Jonathan tried to establish a modern “Al Majiri” Schooling system in northern Nigeria to eradicate Street begging and create an opportunity for the “Al Majiria” to attain both the Islamic and Western education amidst  good welfare and social security, the initiative was turned to a conduit pipe for the usual ill money of politicians and eventually, the money provided for the then laudable initiative where either diverted or looted.

It is therefore pertinent for the government, especially Nothern leadership to add voices to the recent advocacy of the Emir of Kano, His Eminence, Muhammadu Lamido II against improperly planned polygamy, make legislations that will criminalize boarding Islamic Knowledge, put strategy in place for interstate mass movement of “Al Majiris” and if possible, rejuvenate the Jonathan “Al Majiri” education program in a more honest and properly planned manner for the greater good of this children and benefit of our great nation, Nigeria.

In rounding up, I admonish us all to look beyond the immediate and always give some sense of humanity and dignity  to these children whenever we can. We can hardly go a shopping and not meet any set at a close junction, a drink and sausage roll is not too much for an alms. Who knows, that may make their whole year.

I intend to end the same way I started by living you with a quote by  John Buyan wherein he Says;“You have never really lived until you do something for someone who cannot repay you back.”

– Comrade A. M. Nasiru is a social crusader and public policy analyst. He can be reached on his email naadejohs@gmail.com or His twitter handle – @amnasiru

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