Hundreds of almajiri have returned to the streets, months after northern state governors banned them from begging in their states.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some northern state governors spent millions evacuating the street children to their home states and some outrightly banned the almajiri practice.
However, despite the confusion relocating the almajiri generated among state governors, many children are seen in their numbers, in tattered clothes and begging bowls in Zuba, Bauchi Lafia, Kano and Kaduna.
DailyTrust reports that in Bauchi, an increasing number of almajiri thronged different markets, motor parks, petrol stations, local food joints and prominent junctions in the state capital, particularly Wunti Roundabout, where they spend the day begging for alms.
Almajirai were also seen on major roads, streets, and popular junctions begging for food and money, a situation that exposes them to traffic and other dangers.
Daily Trust Saturday recalled that the Bauchi State Government had last year repatriated hundreds of almajiri to their states of origin and received another set from neighbouring states who were reunited with their parents.
Surajo Hamza, 13, was repatriated to his village in Sheme, Lere LGA in Kaduna State. He returned to Bauchi two weeks ago.
“Our Malam, Malam Sani, went to our village two weeks ago and brought us back to Bauchi,” he said. “I was among hundreds of almajiri who were repatriated from Bauchi State to our state of origin.”
Yusuf Rabe, 10, from Dagolo village in Katsina State is now an almajiri at Unguwar Kurmi in Bauchi metropolis.
“It was my brother who brought me back to Bauchi six weeks ago to Alaramma school in Unguwar Kurmi. I don’t know why they brought me back to Bauchi because I was taken back to my parents,” he said.
A resident, Garba Mohammed, said that the state government was not sincere about its ban of the almajiri system because, “there is no practical step to monitor the implementation of the ban, neither is there an arrangement to enforce the ban. Any filling station you enter in the metropolis, you see these children chasing you for alms.”
The proprietor of a tsangaya school, under the leadership of Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, had rejected the ban on the almajiri system by the northern state governors, describing the move as callous, discriminatory, and a conspiracy against Qur’anic knowledge.
The Bauchi State Commissioner of Religious Affairs and Community Relations, Ado Sarkin Aska Zigau, declined to comment and insisted on a face-to-face encounter when contacted on the phone. When our reporter requested to meet the commissioner, he dropped the call.
However, the Commissioner of Education, Dr Aliyu Usman Tilde said that the government is aware of the return of the almajiri. A committee is at work to find solutions to the challenge.
“The committee is still working and consulting with critical stakeholders on a gradual process to enforce the ban because this system has been in place for over 1,000 years,” he said.
Tilde explained that the committee had already directed the local government councils, through their welfare offices, to commence preparations for a smooth process of implementing the new approach to tackle the problems.