Interrogating Governor Sule’s 10m Child-beggars’ Claim

Some child-beggars prowling the streets

Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, may have to do more by providing facts and figures in support of his claim that 10 million child-beggars were all over the north than just throwing figures around. Olawale Olaleye writes

The Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, dropped a bombshell last week. It was a disturbing hint to say the least, albeit for those who know it. Unfortunately, it was one sickening revelation that the authority appears not to have taken seriously.

He claimed that about 10 million children operating the Almajiri system of education in the northern part of Nigeria were beggars, who spend all times on the streets.
Although he had warned parents, who subject their wards to begging in the name of Almajiri, to desist completely from it or face sanction from his government, he was however of the opinion that the Almajiri system of education was misunderstood.

As part of measures to contain this social menace, he held the view that “The government must establish that it is a crime to abuse a child. It is a crime to bring children to this world and send them to Almajiri system, where you cannot take care of them.

“It is a crime to send children to the street to beg. That is what we are trying to do. Parents must take responsibility of their wards. You can’t bring children to this world and dump them somewhere and expect somebody else to take care of them. So parents must not shy away from responsibility,” he said.

Speaking for Nasarawa, he claimed that “We are ensuring that parents, who send their children to Almajiri school are able to take care of such children and a bill for a law to that effect will soon be sent to the state House of Assembly for consideration,” Sule said.

First off, it is important to interrogate those numbers being thrown around by Governor Sule. Ten million is a lot and he could not just come into the public space, throw such a number and recline to his shell as though his intention was to create panic, which it already did.

For the record, it has become a culture in this part of the world to throw around unverified data because the majority is likely to jump at it without questions. Thus, to allege that 10 million child-beggars are all over the north, the governor would do well by first confirming the origin of the data.

Otherwise, it is a statement of fact that people, who have their interests served by exaggerating the country’s local challenges are wont to throw figures around, knowing full well that the rest of the people are not likely to ask them for authentication.

There is no gainsaying the fact that a majority of the social vices in the north took roots from child-begging, which has become a recruiting grounds for all sorts, including but not limited to insurgency and banditry. But to allege that there were about 10 million of them is rather sensational and seemingly inaccurate.

Truth is, education is still a problem in many parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, for instance, funding quality education is the one challenge they are currently dealing with.

Therefore, if the challenge is the number of out-of-school children, albeit the Almajiri education is the one in contention here, many factors are responsible for this, which must be addressed going forward. It is also important to note that equally in contention here is mostly the primary education, which is a responsibility of the local government, according to the constitution of the land, even though many states had since taken over this duty.

One, some children are out of school because their parents would rather they helped out on the farm than being in school. Even the most celebrated former US President, Abraham Lincoln suffered same fate with his father, who didn’t value education.

A number of students are also out of school for lack of parental support, being the one factor that Governor Sule harped on. But sometimes, this could be linked to the economy of the family involved. By being unable to provide the basic needs of their wards in school, some parents would rather they stayed back at home or better still, go out begging.

But, again, many children are out of school, because they are truants. They naturally do not want to go to school and no matter what anyone does, they would avoid school with the flimsiest excuse.

There are also those children who are out of school for reasons of conflicts in their locality. Thus, many of them have been dislocated and remain unsettled as a result. Examples are places that are under constant attacks by the Boko Haram.

In fact, the fear of attacks or kidnap would not let some of them go to school. This is the same fate, which families that are caught in the US/Mexico border crisis are suffering.

Yet, there are places that do not have enough schools to admit all the children of school age, while some localities have also lost their schools to disasters like flooding.

Therefore, there are various reasons many children are not in school beyond the assumptions that their parents indulge them in child-begging. Again, it is trite to ask, where and how did Governor Sule come about 10 million? That’s too large a number anyone in the position of authority throws around without facts.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the number of out-of-school children in the north could explain why the crime rate has been on the upswing and seemingly intractable.

But to have ten million children roam the streets aimlessly and begging while they should be in school is worrisome and a time-bomb that could detonate itself anytime, lest the Nasarawa governor justifies and authenticates this claim, which is otherwise instigating. That number is simply impossible.

However, if the governor was sure of his facts and is able to prove it, then, government at all levels in the north must consider this development another potential crisis on its hands and requiring emergency approach.