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Dilemma of Tsangaya, Almajiri schools in Katsina

The federal government through the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) built the schools in Katsina, Batsari, Dutsin-Ma and Funtua local…

The federal government through the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) built the schools in Katsina, Batsari, Dutsin-Ma and Funtua local government areas of the state which are managed by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
The schools which are intended to draw away almajirai from the streets by combining both western and Qur’anic studies into a single module, have not lived up to expectations going by the increasing number of almajirai still roaming the streets in Katsina.
These young children could be seen loitering around seeking for alms especially at eateries, roundabouts, motor parks and along major roads in the state.
According to a recent headcount, it is estimated that there are about 462,212 almajirai in Katsina while their tutors, number about 22,572 across the 34 council areas of the state.
The almajirai are found in a total of 8,365 religious institutions with 3,032 of such institutions in Katsina zone, while Funtua and Daura have 2,689 and 2,653 respectively.
This alarming number prompted the federal government’s intervention with a view to addressing the problem. However, with about three years gone into the initiative, nothing much can be said to have been achieved with regards to taking the almajirai off the streets.
When our reporter visited the school along Jibia road, it was observed that even the few students that are supposed to enjoy the boarding arrangement of the Science Primary Model School only come in the morning and leave by afternoon just as in the day schools.
The school which has capacity for about 300 students could only boast of about 64 which are divided into two classes of 32 pupils each.
Most facilities of the school are left idle and underutilised especially the computer classes and student hostels and despite the number of classrooms in the spacious compound only two classes were seen with students while the rest were under lock and keys.
Daily Trust also observed that the vocational centre which had six sewing machines and the computer centre which boasts of 15 computer sets was not put into use.
Similar situation obtained at the three other Tsangaya schools in Batsari, Dutsin-Ma and Funtua towns, Daily Trust observed. A teacher at Batsari Tsangaya School, who craved for anonymity, said the school is faced with serious challenges.
About six teachers are said to be taking 12 subjects, among them Arabic, science, computer, English, mathematics, social studies, health education and vocational studies in the Katsina Tsangaya School.
Although the state government runs its Allo system of education for the almajirai about 20,000 are being catered for in terms of feeding and allowances to teachers, the number is a small fraction from the close to 500,000 almajirai in the state.
The Allo education system of the state however does not incorporate Western education but is purely a move to take off the almajirai from the streets which, unfortunately, is now fast becoming an illusion.
Some stakeholders who spoke to Daily Trust on the issue said despite the good intention, the schools are becoming another paper projects.
The Acting Area Operation Manager, Save the Children, Nura Muhammed, said the association has been advocating for synergy between the state Allo initiative and the federal government’s Tsangaya schools initiative to harmonise their activities for effective tackling of the almajiri issue.
He said there is no way the federal government can effectively run those schools without infusing state participation.
For Dr. Aliyu Abdullahi Jibia of Bayero University, Kano, government must stop politicising almajiri education, noting that doing so will only compound the situation.
“What is needed is genuine and sincere commitment to the programme by the three tiers of government so that together they can solve the issue,” he added.
In his reaction, the state SUBEB chairman, Aminu Danbaba, said people must understand that the almajiri issues have been on for long and to address them all at once will not be possible, noting that the intervention is just about three years’ running, hence it cannot address something that has been on for a long time.
“Just look at the conventional schools in their thousands but still there are out of school children. So, if this still persists in the sector, the almajiri school then needs a little more time for the impact to be felt,” he said.
He added that it was only proper for people to have faith in the initiative, noting that the Tsangaya initiative has greatly reduced street begging in the country. It will improve with time, he said, adding that “the major issue is to enlighten the almajirai. Tsangaya system can eliminate begging entirely.”
Danbaba said people should stop thinking that admission policy in the Tsangaya schools is same as that in the conventional system where people are admitted at the end of sessions, saying “we are now having just two sets of 34 classes and with time the classes move on and more students would be admitted until we graduate our first set.”

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