NIGERIA – As the Almajiri system of education deteriorates in the northern part of the country, former Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Prof. Ahmed Mohammed Modibbo, has accused northern state governors of frustrating the integration of the Almajiri schools with basic education.
According to him, “in an attempt to address the problems of the Almajiris in the region, the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have spent billions of naira for the construction of more than 100 model schools, purposely for the integration of the system with basic education.
However, the schools are said to be rotting away as they have not been put to use since they were constructed years ago.
Speaking at a lecture with the theme “Before the Ban on the Almajiri System of Education in Nigeria,” organised by the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, which held at the Arewa House Kaduna, Modibbo said the schools where abandoned by state governments because they wanted to be given cash to construct the schools.
His words: “The state governors left the schools unoccupied, abandoned and vandalised because most state governments refused to even take them over, not to talk of fulfilling their own obligations contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the federal government.
“The state governments were not happy with the decision of the federal government to undertake the project through UBEC and the Eduction Tax Fund (ETF), as they wanted the money to be given to them so that they could nominate contractors for the project.
“That episode was the last in the history of woeful failures to address the challenge of mainstreaming the Islamic system of education thereby catering for the multitude of mainly children of the poor in the northern region who often migrate far from their homes following their itinerant mallams and surviving on charity.”
Recalling the genesis of the Almajiri phenomenon in the north, Modibbo, a professor of history, said it was an offshoot of the quest for Islamic education from the 8th century which continued to flourish through numerous Qur’anic schools.
He said Qur’anic teachers of that time were sustained by “Zakat” and other forms of taxes, managed by the religious authority, such that by 1900, there was an estimated 250,000 pupils in 20,000 schools in the region.
He said the system witnessed a “final blow” when the colonial administration halted support to Islamic education in 1922 following the establishment of the first teacher training college in Katsina.
“Since then, there were several initiatives to address the challenges of the Islamic system of education, beginning with the 1962 special committee set up by the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who visited Egypt, Sudan and Libya to study their models and submitted recommendations in a report, but was short lived, denied of government funding in the turmoil of 1966-68.
“Unfortunately, we missed an opportunity to establish a system that would provide not only manpower but scholars of high standing comparable to those in other parts of the world where the system worked well.
“Today, they stand shoulders high in producing scholars through such systems. Ours was subverted, truncated, left to rot, to decay and bastardised,” Modibbo said.
He lamented that northern political leaders, with the exception of those eliminated in the tragic military coup of 1966, “are squarely responsible for the failure to have a fully integrated Qur’anic system of education with basic education”.
He, however, expressed the hope that with the comprehensive blueprint and draft plan of action introduced by UBEC in 2017, the implementation of the Almajiri Quranic education project would succeed
Modibbo also called for the full and strict implementation of the UBE Act, introduction of School Time Marshals and catering for welfare of the children.
He further advocated that the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) be allowed to monitor the utilisation of federal funds released to states and other agencies of government for the implementation of basic education.
The event, which was chaired by Mallam Adamu Fika, Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), was attended by representatives of northern governors.