By Muhammad Mahdi Waziri

The word Almajiri came from an Arabic word “Almuhajir”, which means one who migrate from a given geographical area to another.

Meanwhile, Almajiri is one who travelled from home to another geographical area in searching for knowledge. The reason why parents send their children down to a Mallam’s place in another geographical area is because they want their children to be devoted and be very much committed to their studies without any interference from friends or relatives. This is the reason why if an Almajiri went to a place for study and he becomes familiar with the people there, sometimes they travelled to another different place where they have no friends in other to focus on their studies.

The Almajiri system of learning is an old aged traditional system of learning in northern Nigeria that existed right before the coming of the colonialists, which dates back to almost 1000 years ago. This system is not something that is odd in our contemporary age, as there are some systems that look like that today. A clear example is the boarding school we have in our contemporary age, where parents will send their children to a school far away from home in other to acquire knowledge. However, the Almajiri schools are meant for teaching the holy Qur’an alone.

According to one northern elder (which I will not mention his name) who made a statement about fifteen years ago; every northern elder that is of the same age with him (he was around 50 years then) went to Almajiri School.

There is no specific age of attending such schools because the schools are normally not classified according to classes. But most a times, parents don’t take their children to the school until they are able to wash their clothes by themselves which is often at the age of 10-11 approximately.

When a person is taken afresh to a Mallam to study the holy Qur’an, he is referred to as ‘balla’. Gradually, he then becomes ‘qolo’, i.e. someone who have started getting matured, and then gradually when he became an adult who memorized a large portion of the holy Qur’an, he is referred to as ‘titibiri’. From then, he becomes ‘alaramma’, meaning someone who fully memorized the Qur’an and can at the same time write the Qur’an off head. From then, the next stage is the stage where someone becomes a ‘gwani’, someone who has written many copies of the Qur’an off head without any mistake, and then gradually to the final stage which is to become a ‘gangaran’, i.e. a graduate.  From then, one can go home and move on with his life. All these falls within the duration of 10-12 years approximately.

Nonetheless, children go on holidays from time to time to see their parents and to get more provision from home.

The Almajiri system of learning normally have four lesson periods of at least fourteen hours (3am-7am, 10am-12pm, 2pm-6pm and 8pm-11pm). However, Thursdays and Fridays are free days.

The Almajiri system not as people view it has no relation with begging. In contrary, the Qur’an and the sayings of the prophet of Islam discouraged begging because it leads to disrespect. However, nowadays, parents don’t give their children enough provisions that can sustain them up to a holiday, and very few people pay their religious tight called ‘zakat’, which is being used to sponsor such schools, and also government do not give support to improve and enhance the schools. As a result, the students have no other option than to go out and beg for something to eat.

According to Luqman Alfa, a graduate of an Almajiri school and also a Mallam with full experience; “Normally, every Almajiri school have a typical requirement that a student must satisfy before coming to settle in school and learn. The basic requirements are that; every child must come with his mat, blanket, eating bowl, writing board, enough foodstuffs, among other things.”

He further stated that “Some people out of ignorance see Almajiris as people that are being used to be terrorists. Nevertheless, Almajiri system never teaches anything in relation to terrorism because it is against the teachings of the Qur’an. In fact, majority of the people that attended such schools grow up to be good, reputable and responsible individuals. A very good example is Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, late Sheikh Isiaka Rabi’u, among others.”

He added that “The government ought to identify with these kind of schools and give them all necessary support and opportunities as it gives to the western education in other to enhance and make it reach the required modern standards, (by donating foodstuffs to such schools, providing clean water to the schools, providing shelter for the pupils, giving allowances to the Mallams, among others)”.

Also, he suggest that “parents should give their children necessary support and good care so as to prevent them from roaming about in the streets begging, and the Mallams in charge of these various schools should keep a close eye on the students in other to monitor all their activities so that they may not get involved in one bad behavior or the other.”

As everything has its advantages and disadvantages, Almajiri schools also have their own. Among the advantages are;

Imparting good Qur’anic knowledge to children, Teaching children the art of self-reliance and self-determination. Many small skills were initiated by Almajiris, among which are cutting fingernails, cobbling, making rope, stitching traditional caps, stitching kaftan designs, etc.

Training children to be manageable and contented. Helping weak parents to train their children in other to grow up as good and responsible people.

Training children to help their society by making herbs for curing some illness.

Training children how to lead prayers and solve some minor problems in their society.

Among the disadvantages, we have;

Begging, which can expose children to several indecent acts.

Some students who graduate from such schools feel very knowledgeable to the extent that they don’t see any importance of furthering their studies especially modern education.

On a final note, Luqman Alfa stated that “Almajiri is another system of education as the western education which in fact existed long before the western education in Nigeria and is still existing, and the government should instead of trying to prevent it, enhance and improve it so as to reach the required modern standards”

Waziri is a 300 Level Student of Mass Communication, ABU, Zaria.

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