At a dumpsite located along Court Road, Gyadi-Gyadi, Daily Trust reporter caught up with 12-year-old Auwal Mohammed. Auwal, an almajiri, says “Since the state government does not want to see us on the streets, this is the only option available to us. We glean through this refuse dump for anything that could be of use to us either as food or clothing.
At the end of the day, some of us get clothing, foot wears and food from here.” He said since the ban on street begging by the Kano State government, majority of them especially those below the age of 10 have been facing serious difficulty in feeding since they are not old enough to do menial jobs to get money for self-sustenance. Auwal makes about N200 daily from iron and plastic materials he picks from the refuse dump.
Similarly, Usman Adamu, a resident of Mahuta in Katsina State, said since he came to Kano about two years ago, his major means of livelihood has been alms from well-spirited individuals. Following the ban on street begging, Usman says he is forced to resort to scavenging for survival. He makes at least N150 from the refuse dump every day.
The Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, on Tuesday made a pronouncement banning street begging in the state, saying any father whose child was caught begging in the state would face the wrath of the law, as government would not hesitate in prosecuting any erring parent. However, shedding light on the statement, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Abba Anwar, said the general public should understand between policy statement and implementation of a policy, noting that “What happened at the Sani Abacha Indoor Stadium is nothing but a policy pronouncement.”
Anwar explained that the state governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, only made a policy statement regarding the ban on street begging, noting that programmes that would make smooth implementation of the policy were underway. The issue of Almajiri Street begging has over the decades been a source of concern to successive governments in Kano State. Moreover, various attempts to address the issue have been adopted by different governments before the recent ban. It would be recalled that a concept of Islamiyya Qur’anic and Tsangaya Education (IQTE) was introduced.
It was a system where conventional education is integrated into the Islamiyya and Quránic school system with feeding support all in an attempt to reduce the Almajiri roaming the streets of Kano. In 2016, the Kano State government made provision of N150m in the 2016 Budget to be expended in IQTE as part of the state’s commitment to the development of education in the state and as a measure to incorporate the Almajiri in 16 local governments of the state operating the IQTE schools.
According to the 2010 Ministerial Committee’s report on Madrasah, the Almajiri constitute the largest group of out-of-school children in Nigeria. And in order to reduce inequality and provide access to qualitative education to these segregated classes of children, the Federal Government set up a Committee on Implementation of Almajiri Education Programme and charged it with the responsibility of ensuring that these Almajirai are integrated into the Universal Basic Education Programme.
This is without prejudice to their acquiring a sound mastery of Qur’anic Knowledge. While some residents have commended the governor for taking the bold decision to tackle the ugly trend of street begging in the state, others not only criticized the move, but described it as political, saying successive government have also made similar pronouncement but failed at implementation.
However, following the mixed reaction expressed by different sectors in the state, Special Adviser to the Kano State Governor on Child Welfare and Women Mobilization, Hajiya Fatima Abdullahi Dala, issued a statement stating that the decision of the Kano State government was in good faith, without any prejudice or sentiment against any group of people, or class of individuals but in line with the commitment and unrelenting passion of the Kano State governor to uplift, safeguard and secure the lives and promote the welfare of the children in the state.
According to Malam Isa Usaini, an operator of Almajiri school in Hotoro area of Nassarawa Local Government Area, his school has about 26 students and none of these students was brought to the school with any food item. Some of the students came to the school with only one or two pairs of clothings. He further revealed that his students still go out to beg for food as he and the children have no alternative. According to him, “Now that they have banned begging, I will allow them to go back to their parents.
To be honest with you, I feel relieved and free to send them back to their parents with the strong reason that government has banned begging.” However, one of his students, 9-year-old Umar Abdu Gofaru, told Daily Trust Saturday that he doesn’t want to return to his parents because life here is far better that life at his home. Another teacher of an Almajiri school, Malam Haruna Ali, said no one can stop Almajiri from begging. He has about 41 students and says he will not return any of them, as stopping them from begging is like stopping them from studying about their religion.
On his part, the chairman of the Kano State chapter of the Council of Ulama, Sheikh Ibrahim Khaleel, viewed the decision of the Kano government on street begging as nothing but mere pronouncement. Addressing a press conference, Sheikh Khaleel lamented that government was not serious about the issue of street begging, noting that “this is not a proper way of handling this issue because right steps have not been taken on the issue.
Historical evidences on the ban of street begging are there to testify that the governor is just not serious about this issue. “If we view the history of banning street begging since the time of Sir Ahmadu Bello, efforts to ban street begging were opposed by the Ulama who saw it as a way of keeping people away from Quranic or religious studies because the issue was at that time politicised.”
The scholar further recalled that during Governor Audu Bako’s administration, Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim, father of former Education minister Prof Ruqayyah, initiated good plans to curtail street begging, but it was also politicised.” Subsequently, the military administration of Ndatsu Umaru had established a committee of prominent Islamic scholars made up of Sheikh Isah Waziri, Ibrahim Umar Kabo, Rabi Wali, among others, with a view to tackle the issue of street begging in the state.
“As the committee resumed work, Ndatsu was transferred from Kano State and the move died naturally. After the return of democracy, many governments have made efforts to address this problem but all were in vain due to some reasons. Sheikh Ibrahim insisted that the right steps to ensure effective ban on street begging in the state have not been taken by the government, hence the failure.
“The right steps to follow include firstly, the real Quranic scholars who are really manning Tsangaya and Qur’anic schools in the state have to be identified. Thi is because there are street beggers who are really Quranic students, and there are those sent by their parents from the rural areas to come and beg in the urban areas. There are also physically challenged persons who engage in street begging because of their deformity. So, all these have to be identified first and categorized.”