Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State has warned that parents who enroll their children into the Almajiri education system stand the risk of prosecution and up to two years jail.
Mr El-Rufa’i stated this in Kaduna on Monday when he visited some 200 Almajiri children repatriated from Nasarawa State and undergoing rehabilitation and optical screening at Government College, Kurmin Mashi in Kaduna Metropolis.
Almajiri are children enrolled to be taught Islamic knowledge under Islamic Clerics, but who loiter on the streets with bowls begging for alms and food.
The governor also said that any Islamic cleric who enrolls any child into the Almajiri system would also be prosecuted and jailed as well as fined N100,000 or N200,000 per child.
He said that all the Almajiri pupils repatriated from other states of the country were indigenes of the state adding that the government would give them all the opportunity they deserved to grow and develop.
Mr El-Rufai expressed satisfaction with the ongoing transformation of the Almajiri pupils from hopelessness to hope and confidence.
According to him, the state has a responsibility to do whatever it can to give them hope and a better future.
“We will, therefore, continue to take delivery of every Almajiri pupil indigenous to Kaduna state for rehabilitation, treatment and enrollment into formal school nearest to where their parents live.
“We will continue to do this until we clear Kaduna state of the menace of Almajiri system, which is not education but the abuse of the privilege and future of a child.
“Our ultimate goal is for them to acquire formal education without depriving them of the opportunity to acquire Quranic education.
“They will continue their Quranic education but under the care of their parents and not under someone who does not know them or paid to look after them.”
He explained that the Ministry of Human Services and Social Development (MHSSD), along with UNICEF would closely monitor them and ensure that no child would leave his locality until he finished primary and junior secondary school.
The governor stressed that every child in Kaduna state must get 12-year free and compulsory primary and secondary school education.
“Those that cannot proceed to senior secondary school will have the opportunity to go to vocational school, also free.
“As such, no parent has any excuse for his child not to go to school,” El-Rufa’i said.
He thanked MHSSD and other state agencies for the commitment and passion for the welfare of the children.
He equally thanked AMA foundation and other NGOs and civil societies for supporting the government to provide the Almajiri pupils with the needed medical care, food, and clothing, among others.
The governor particularly appreciated UNICEF for supporting the state government in ensuring that all the repatriated children were well documented.
Mr El-Rufa’i said that the care and support provided had restored the sense of dignity of the children.
Also speaking, Hafsat Baba, Commissioner, MHSSD, said that the state had so far received more than 900 Almajiri pupils from Kano, Bauchi, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
Mrs Baba said that no fewer than 500 of them were rehabilitated, treated (those who tested positive to COVID-19) and reunited with their families.
She added some 400 others were still undergoing rehabilitation and would soon be reunited with their families.
On his part, Dr Zakari Adam, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Kaduna, commended Kaduna state government for the efforts to ensure that all children go to school as against begging in the streets.
Adam reiterated UNICEF’s continued support to the state in all children-related issues such as child protection, education, and health among other areas, for uninterrupted growth and development of every child.
He stressed the need for all stakeholders, the government, civil society, parents, communities, religious and traditional leaders and the media to work together in ensuring that children acquired quality education.