The Senate has today urged Federal Government to upgrade the existing Almajiri (street urchins) model schools and build more in order to increase the number of school enrollment, and reduce the number of out-of-school children on the streets.
The Senate resolution was a sequel to a motion, “The Need to Integrate Almajiri Education into Modern System of Education in Nigeria,” sponsored by former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and Senator representing Kebbi Central, Senator Adamu Aliero.
According to the former Kebbi State governor, in the past years, the Federal Government had worked towards reducing the menace of street begging by introducing the Universal Primary Education (UPE) Scheme in 1976, and re-introduced the Universal Basic Education (UBE) in September 1999.
He said the street urchins, Almajiri were among the persons covered by the UBE Act 2004, for the purpose of provision of basic education.
Citing findings by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Aliero said, “we have more than 14 million out-of-school children, most of them being Almajiri roaming the streets of our major cities in Nigeria begging for alms and food.”
The former FCT recalled the selfless move by the past administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan who in his determination to integrate the street urchins built model schools in which these children were enrolled and given both Islamic and Western education.
Senator Aliero expressed regret that “some of the structures are either laying fallow or put into uses other than what they were originally intended for and some of the facilities in the Almajiri Model Schools are already decaying as they have never been put to use.”
He further recalled that the Kano State governor, Abdullah Ganduje, recently announced the ban on street begging and launched the Basic Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), a policy which penalises parents or guardians of children caught begging on the streets.
Supporting the motion, Senator representing Niger North, Sabi Aliyu said the quest to address the problem of out-of-school children was one of the legislative agenda of the Ninth Senate.
He said: “Within the context of the north, most of the out-of-school children are the Almajiris, and I think that the fact that some states in the north are finally rising up to the occasion shows that this issue requires our attention and is long overdue.
“It is an abuse of the rights of these children, and of course, many of these children, when you have any engagement with them do not even know why they are brought to where you see them.
“These parents just take them and dump them on some of these Mallams, who in turn are also exploiting the children.
“I think the bottom line there is that we must acknowledge that no matter how well other children are educated, no matter how well we give education to our children, these children that are abandoned in the name of Almajiri system will come out to be the key determinants of the success and progress of our own children.
“Because those who are left unattended to and uneducated, will definitely in time grow up to know nothing other than to be recruited into criminality and other vices which are now the order of the day.
“Mr President and Distinguished Colleagues, if you are following the spate of kidnappings and the reports we are getting, many of these children are actually the kidnappers and even those who are involved in banditry, are products of the same system we are talking about.”
Concluding, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, described the number of out-of-school children as a big challenge facing Nigeria as a nation.