Almajiri system of traditional Qur’anic education, which aimed at spreading the study of Islam in Northern Nigeria, collapsed during colonial rule leading to some of the students becoming tools for bandits and insurgents in recent years.
According to Alfacare Help and Care Organisation, a firm that seeks and works for peace in Northern Nigeria, the Almajiri traditional Qur’anic system established in the 15th century is made up of children of primary school age who move around with their teachers to different locations, sometimes far away from their settlements, to learn the Qur’an and other books of Islam.
But following its collapse during the advent of colonial era, due to various factors including; imposition of colonial rule which does not support acquisition of Qur’anic knowledge, death of many scholars in the battle against colonialism, stoppage of funds for Almajiri among others, the system became disorganised and the students became willing tools for insurgency and banditry.
National Coordinator of Alfacare, Malam Hassan Abubakar, who at a one day workshop on Sharing of Findings/ Suggestions on Almajiri System of Education as a Basis of Legislative Engagement supported by MacArthur Foundation in Kaduna, said tha the almajiri system of education has become a serious problem that needs to be resolved to enable it serve it’s functions effectively by creating the opportunity for children to acquire Qur’anic education without the challenges bedeviling the system.
He said, “There was close connection between the community and almajiri schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. The malams were hosted and fed by the district or village heads before they settle down, the students were fed by members of the community. The Malam enrols children from the community into his school. Thus, under the Sokoto caliphate, the almajiri schools were fully funded from the state treasury. Students were taught in various stages; recitation, learning the alphabets, memorisation and advanced learning of books on different branches of knowledge.
“The collapse of the system started with colonial conquest, the imposition of colonial rule and the wars of colonial conquest that led to the death of many scholars at the battlefield. The death reduced the number of learned persons and instilled fear in the ones who survived. This led to the loss of teachers and also weakened the morale of the surviving ones, which disrupted traditional Qur’anic education in both the caliphate and the Borno Empire.
“Colonial policy on education dealt another blow to the system when it withdrew funding by the state. Colonialism undermine Qur’anic education through change in the language of instructions from local languages, which were written in Arabic/Ajami script to Romanised Hausa and later English, which was later made the official language.
“The Qur’anic schools located around private houses are becoming irrelevant, the schools lack physical infrastructure beyond a canopied forecourt forcing the students to cohabit in any available space possible and the curriculum is limited. Other problems are teachers qualification, lack of a centralized system of control of the schools by government, paucity of resources to run the schools, neglect, misconception by the elite that see the almajiri as ready recruit into Islamic radicalism, militancy and the periodic riots in some states in the North.”