This write-up was prompted by a radio programme I overheard on the need to reform the Almajiri School system in Nigeria. Prominent Islamic scholars; including Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi offered varying but discerning opinions on how to get it to function very much like its western secular counterpart across the state. Beyond any iota of doubt, it has some big pluses and problems which require all hands to be on deck to give it and the entire system, a new lease of life.
A quick review of the Almajiri School system in Nigeria shows that from onset, it has been very effective especially when it comes to Qur’anic memorisation (though undoubtedly not too good in Jurisprudence, Thauheed, etc.; all essential components of Islam as a religion). Unfortunately, a little after the 70’s and the 80’s, it has suffered its worst ever and perhaps beyond reformation (as argued by some scholars) despite several attempts by successive governments; leading to breeding all manner of persons who would have contributed immensely to Nigeria’s progress and development. But, it has today ended up fueling societal problems rather than quenching it.
Of the scholars’ opinions, I considered this of serious importance and worthy of exampling for us to get the Almajiri School to function like it has never functioned before:
“In Libya for example, what you have is a functional Almajiri School. Just like every other sector in Libya, the Almajiri School has its budget annually. It is well catered for; giving it near equal share and treatment in every respect. Almajiri School teachers are well recognised and respected just like every other teacher (western) in the society as opposed to what is obtainable in Nigeria. No Almajiri needs to seek anything outside his school; everything is provided as at when due. It is a big plus to Libya’s quest to attaining excellence. To us, it is what you may want to call a “Boarding School”, where students are confined to an environment and adequately catered for, for knowledge sake.”
“When an Almariji is able to read a complete Al-Qur’an (Holy Book), he is given a certificate equal to a Bachelors Degree. When an Almajiri is able to memorise the Holy Book, he is given a certificate equal to a Masters Degree. When an Almajiri is able to memorise and translate the Holy Book, he is given a certificate equal to a Doctorate Degree. Again, on top of these all, he is paid a decent salary: A salary to live on, establish a family and adequately cater for their needs. This is Libya’s Almajiri School. This is an example for us if we must get it reformed, and reap the endless benefits of having such unique people amidst us. It will do us good if the government, parents, teachers and concerned individuals will key-in, see it as a duty to stress its importance and be willing to, at all costs, help get it reformed.”
From the scholar’s submission above, one thing stands clear; government’s will and commitment to the plight of Almajiris’ in the country. This is to say, with the will and a similar commitment from the authorities concerned as in Libya (and well-meaning individuals), our Almajiri School system will be made to function well and be better and better. Indeed, it will do us well in no small measure if we all sincerely and faithfully commit to getting it to work, and intermix it side-by-side with the western secular education for the system and its products to guard against today’s contemporary challenges. Western secular subjects are equally essential to free the system from utter despair and wantonness – whose integrity and potency are constantly being challenged and questioned; hence losing its essential values.
Finally, the example of Libya in the Almajiri School system is one that if copied and diligently pursued, will squarely address the problems Nigeria’s Almajiri School system has been facing, and revitalise the system to add to our efforts in our quest for attaining excellence. This is why for Nigeria, the Libya’s example is worthy of emulating.
Mustapha Garba Jama’a,
Makarfi, Kaduna state