The children deserve more in Kano, writes Victor C. Ariole
“Pumping money into school feeding programme while the schools are not open (and Almajiri who are in makarantar centres are deported to nowhere) is a little absurd….”
-Olabode George

Makarantu, whether Ilmi or Allo—as explained in Sulaiman, 2013, the makarantar Ilmi is the school of advanced learning which covers the whole range of Islamic literary, theological and legal education and according to Abdullahi Adamu, Makarantar (school) and Allo (slate) are two Hausa language words put together to refer to a traditional Islamic institution of learning particularly, for the Muslim children—relate to schools meant for Almajiris ( Almajiri is a word borrowed from Arabic for someone who leaves his home in search of knowledge in Islamic religion). And Nigeria had signed, for long, the United Nations’ bill for the rights of the child. Basically, education is one of such rights. On UBEC platform (Universal Basic Education Commission), it is recorded that total number of children in preschool is slightly above three million, while Kano has the highest figure of 269,000, Lagos has 67,312. Logically, it creates an impression of manipulation to see that at primary school level, the total is slightly above 24 million pupils. It turns out that at that level, it is Kano and Kaduna dominating while Lagos is slightly above 500,00. In effect, whether at pre-school or primary level, Kano State lays claim to harbouring 10% of the Nigerian children that ought to be in school and in deed UBEC allocates resources on that basis.

While ASSU is fighting for the Ilmi side, no one seems to be fighting for the Allo side, and it is seen in the way the Almajiris are treated by Nigerian government that is supposed to protect them.
Hence, the need to hold the Kano State government responsible for the abuse of child’s rights in Nigeria without which the Nigerian government must be called out to take the blame and face supra- national justice.

Twenty-four million pupils are quite above 10% of Nigerian population and their behavioural characteristics would be sampled out of what Kano, Kaduna and Lagos project. Almajiri pupils are in all these three states also. However, what Kano claims to have done with them as per over 5000 centres for pupils and 1,700 for pre-school children is worth investigating. Assume each of the 5000 centres accommodate 400 pupils and it is quite manageable for the expected 9-3-4 system where at most 60 pupils would be in a class at the “9” segment of the 9-3-4. Though not of international standard that requires less than 40. It is still acceptable for Nigeria’s poor standard. By the 157 prototype model built to create sameness of interest for the Almajiri, the Kano government should account for resources deployed to fit into making 5000 centres in Kano comply to standards, and why at the peak of pandemic, the children would be thrown out of Kano to the vagaries of virus assault.

Somehow one wonders whether the members of House of Representatives numbering also 10% of Nigeria’s honourable members, who are from Kano State, are not concerned about the fate of their children. Legislation in effect is valued on what it adds to the value of life of those who vote to get such people to represent them as it was also seen that 10% of the votes garnered by the current government came from Kano.

When you check how much is spent to keep a child in school in South Africa and how much each representative earns, there’s some correlations dictating that it is indeed the project upon which the earning of the representative is deduced. Almost 19% of the budget goes for education and the 460 members do not take that percentage of money in the budget compared to what Nigeria with 7% of the budget assigned to education, which could make the primary school and secondary school budget where the Almajiri would belong to have less than 3% , which could not match the over 120 billion appropriated for the National Assembly’s recurrent budget. And UBEC prides itself of spending only about N2.7 billion to improve on facilities in some schools as if it is a great achievement.

For the lives of the Almajiri pupils, no fewer than three million of only Kano and Kaduna figures could serve as representative samples; 10% of the allocation of the current expenditure of the National Assembly would keep them out of Covid-19 dangers or be “absorbed” by the dangers as recorded in recent deaths in Kano. It was also reported that billions of naira goes for allocation to the Emirs in Kano, and if their offices are to serve as preservers of traditional heritages, then the Almajiri are entitled to such allocation hence, the need to save their lives. It is indeed absurd to be talking of humanitarian ministry as no fewer than three million children suffer in an avoidable situation.
For Kaduna State to accept to take over their own Almajiri indigenes in Kano, and as cerebral as Kaduna governor is, there must, definitely, be a cover-up that is not meant to be overblown.

Nigerians need to know if those in Makarantar Allo are not part of what the UBEC should care for as UBEC allocates resources to the 36 states of the federation based on the number they supply; funds accessed or not accessed, the funds still remain funds meant to cater for Nigerian children who must not suffer stunted growth so as to have a country that could still remain competitive in the future. The future starts today as it starts with the value of the manpower trained today. The Almajari children are part of the expected future. Kajiko!

Ariole is Professor of French and Francophone Studies,
University of Lagos