Dr Mohammed Ali, Executive Director of centre for Human Resource Development and Empowerment Initiative Kaduna (HRDEI), said the North didn’t need an ‘Almajiri Commission’, but a total ban on the almajiri practice.
He said this while receiving Ayana Centre for Almajiri Development and Empowerment Initiative during a visit to his office on Sunday in Kaduna.
The bill to establish the commission to tackle Almajiri and other out-of-school children scaled second reading in the House of Representatives on Nov. 23.
The ‘kid beggars’, popularly known as ‘Almajirai’, are mainly students of the Qur’anic schools, better known as ‘tsangaya’ who are given to Malams (Islamic teachers) by their parents for the purposes of learning the Qur’an.
The Malams in turn, take them away from home to distant places without any provision for their boarding, feeding and even clothing by their parents, where they end up resorting to begging to make ends meet.
Ali explained that street begging, (Almajiri) is a social, economic and environmental menace highly visible in urban centres all over Kaduna State, with prevalence in the Northern part of the state.
He lamented that the current situation was worrisome because not only adult members of the population engaged in such acts, but even the under aged children.
“Beggars pervade public places like markets, motor parks, religious centres, residential neighbourhood, ceremonial places and worse still, inside commercial buses.
“Begging, no doubt, is a downgraded act which leads to image tarnishing and loss of prestige of anyone engaging in it,” he said.
Ali also lamented that some scholars, media practitioners and the general public had variously linked
begging with Islam.
He noted that there was nothing Islamic about it; rather, a by-product of laziness, mental dependence and oppressive consciousness of those that engaged in it.
“Islam is both an intellectual tradition and a social movement and has provided principles and modalities by which one can earn a living but not through begging,” he stressed.
“There is no relationship that exist between Islam and begging. The problem of begging in Kaduna State, like in other states of Northern Nigeria, is rooted in the socio-cultural and socio-economic realities in the country.
“To ban the practice of begging, government must develop the moral courage to act and to also disabuse the minds of many Nigerians who think or believe that Islam approves of begging,” Ali said.
The Executive Director advised that Muslims must be educated to understand that crackdown on street begging is not attempt to obliterate any aspect of Islamic culture or norms.
He noted that it was rather to make the Muslim public less susceptible to mischief makers who were bent on tarnishing the image of Islam and Muslims in the name of begging or other obscene behaviours observed in their conducts.
He further stressed that Almajri system as currently practised, is out-dated and should therefore be stopped.
“Parents must be ready to shoulder the responsibility of their children because that is what qualifies them as such.
“Government should on its own part, not hesitate to replace the migrant system of learning the Qur’an with a more formal, more vibrant, more pragmatic and more relevant Islamiyya system like the Tahfizul Qur’an model.
He said such system should be integrated into the UBE programme of the state,” he said
Furthermore, the executive director stated that begging had its roots in the culture which was inconsistent with the teachings of Islam.
He said on the other hand, that the Nigerian society encouraged too much dependence, which made begging to thrive.
He therefore said attitudinal change was required to change the orientation.
“To this end, government is advised to ensure that the SURE-P programme is judiciously handled in order to break the cycle of poverty that has ravaged most citizens in the state.
“If properly handled, it has the potential to end capability poverty; which refers to people not being able to be sheltered, nourished, educated or supported.
“Lack of support mostly results from individuated or collapsed homes. Here again, government is advised to liaise with Jamaatu Nasril Islam and the Sharia Courts to check unrestricted or frivolous divorce cases.
Such cases have negative impacts on the larger society, the executive director said.
He called on the government, through the Bureau for Religious Affairs, Islamic Matters, to ensure all wealthy Muslim individuals paid zakat when due and set up an endowment fund purposely to take care of the needy and less privileged.
Earlier, Sani Daura, the Chairman of the Ayana Centre for Almajiri Development and Empowerment Initiative, said the write-ups and video clips of HRDEI’s Executive Director on Almajiri, prompted their visit.
He said he picked so much interest in Ali’s videos and write-ups about almajiri because his organisation worked towards their betterment.
Daura added that he communicated with the Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari on issues of Almajiri, which led him to seek views and opinions from organisations and stakeholders about the pending bill on the matter.
“There is going to be a public hearing in the parliament on the bill sooner or later; for us, we have begun ours,” he said.