By Aderogba George
The Almajiri Child Rights Initiative (ACRI), an NGO, has called on the incoming administration of Sen. Bola Tinubu to include tackling the menace of Almajiri problem ravaging the North in his development agenda.
Mr Mohammad Keana, Director of ACRI, made the call in Abuja at the the 2023 Almajiri Child Rights Day with the theme: “Transformative Actions to Address the Situation of Almajiri Children in Northern Nigeria.”
He called on Tinubu to prioritise the issue of almajiri children so that they can have a better life and opportunity like every other child.
Keana also called for effective laws and political tools that can be used to address the situation of these children, adding that the Child Rights Act (CRA) must be made to work in all states.
“For us to have all these, it is about building family support in the community and also provides alternative care for these children, as well as enforces the existing laws so that they are not being exploited the way we see them.
Also speaking, Mr Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive of Connected Development, also an NGO called on states yet to domesticate and pass CRA to do so to provide equal opportunity and access to these children with others.
According to him every child deserves to live a dignified life and have access to timely education irrespective of where they are, where they come from and their social status.
“We want these children who are known as almajiri to contribute their quota to nation building and society; we cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we don’t take care of the children that are on the street, the vulnerable.
“Just yesterday the Kano State House of Assembly passed the child protection act, now we are calling on the Executive Governor of the state to sign this into law before he leaves office, and other states Executive Governor to do the same, they still have time before handing over.
“I also believe that the incoming government must ensure that we have the political will with committed resources to almajiri children, and most importantly work with partners, CSO, private sector, the UN agencies to achieve the SDG.
“If we work together and are sustainable, we can put this almajiri issue behind us and move forward as a country, every country that does not take care of people that are vulnerable are countries that will never prosper.
“The almajiri syndrome must be collective efforts where society will frown at the way these children live. Our traditional and religious institutions must also play their roles.
“Children are being rape, molested because our society have shown a blind eye to the necessary thing, that is the Act that protect the children, we must also carry on with behavioral change for things to work in the country,’’ he stressed.
Mr Joseph Apeh, Advocacy and Campaign Coordinator, Save the Children International in Borno also called on Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano to ensure he signs the Child Rights Act before leaving office.
Apeh also called on the Bauchi State to sign the CRA.
“We are calling on all states to pass and sign and comprehensively implement the CRA in Nigeria, that law is comprehensive, it covers nutrition for the child, it covers health, education and everything a child needs.
“We need to focus on the law, implement it to the fullest,’’ Apeh stressed.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, who also spoke at the occasion noted that the socio-economic implication of the almajiri phenomenon is enormous in a country that is facing harsh economic realities.
Tallen who was represented by Mr Ali Madugu, Director, Child Development Department of the ministry stated that the almajiri situation requires a concerted action and commitment of both government and NGOs to address.
According to her, the ministry in its efforts to tackle the almajiri dilemma has since 2006 moved to secure a solution to address the challenges by convening a stakeholder’s forum in Gusau, Zamfara state.
She said that to put the issue of almajiri at the front burner for stakeholders’ solutions, including the government, other efforts include the conduct of surveys to determine the number, peculiarity of vulnerability as well as possible solutions to the problem.
“The Federal Government is also setting up other programmes such as the alternate school programme for out of school children and the home grown school feeding programmes to encourage enrolment, retention and graduation especially from primary school and junior secondary school.
She appreciated the ACRI and the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for organising the programme and to further bring to the fore the almajiri issue for further attention.
Good call. But it is better to tackle the root cause of this almajiri. Enlightenment programmes should be organised to educate the northerners about the danger this pose in the society. No doubt, some these children are much more vulnerable and could be used by the terrorist organisations.