Effect of Economic Crisis on the Almajiris in Northern Nigeria

SSRN Electronic Journal 02/2011; DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.1762695


The increased presence of beggars both children and youths at every public place, places of worships, filling stations, restaurants, super markets in most northern states in Nigeria is becoming a matter of concern to every serious minded Nigerian. The issue of Almajiri, a Hausa word meaning immigrant child in search of Qu’ranic education, has become worsened by the economic crisis. The children are sent out early in life to seek Islamic knowledge outside their environment. They are placed under Islamic teachers known simply as Mallams under whom they are supposed to learn the rudiments of the religion. In most cases, and due to the high level of poverty and the large number of children the Mallams have to cater for, they are often not able to take adequate care of the children; thus, they are sent out to search for their livelihood. Almajiri phenomenon is common in the Northern part of Nigeria. The ‘Almajiris’ are referred to as ‘street children’ due to the way they wander along the streets begging for food, clothes and other necessities. They are very vulnerable, because of the lack of care and weak foundation been given to them. Whenever they go out to beg for food, every Moslem is under obligation to give them whatever food that they can afford and this is decreasing due the current economic crisis. The Almajiri are innocent children who have become unfortunate victims of societal neglect, let loose to drip and get drown in the unfathomable sea of corruption, ignorance and poverty; and thus often hypnotized, hoodwinked, coerced or simply hijacked to play active roles in many of the northern conflicts. The parent of the Almajiri is supposed to cater for their basic needs, but this is not the case in Nigeria presently, as most of these parents are illiterate and poor. The only responsibility the parents owe these hapless children is to bring them to the Quaranic School and they are then left to their fate. Some of them are forced into the act of begging and doing menial jobs. They have large population that runs to several thousands and are prevalent in almost all the villages and cities in this part of the country. Only male children are involved because the females are assets to their parents. Any female child born by a household in this part of Nigeria is a ticket for wealth making because of the ‘bride price’ that must be paid on them by intending husband. Key Findings: The twin tragedy of poverty – increased poverty and ignorance assumes greater dimension in a section of the country where the so-called ‘almajiri system’ is prevalent. The teachers in these schools, known as Mallams, are itinerant teachers who depend on charity for their livelihood. They survive on gifts (in cash or in kind) given ‘feesabilillahi’ (in the way of Allah or for the sake of God). They also take care of the children put in their care from the charity received. Most of the time, the children in their care are from distant places. In the event of insufficiency, they send out their pupils for the same purpose: solicit for charity for survival from door to door, place to place. This practice reduces the teachers and pupils to beggars.Recommendations: The paper recommended amongst other things, that the governments at various levels should partner with the higher Islamic scholars who are revered by these scholars in the villages and who are in the habit of bringing such children to cities for scholarship to desist. All Muslim sects leaders should be directly involved in a conference that will brainstorm on the negative consequences of Almajiri Phenomenon and such teachers be given the mandate to implement what ever decision the conference comes up with especially a development of a Almajiri education system.