✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Educating the Almajirai for national development

The Hausa word almajiri (pl. almajirai) emanates from Al-Muhajir(singular) which is an Arabic word that literally means emigrant. Its origin can be traced back to…

The Hausa word almajiri (pl. almajirai) emanates from Al-Muhajir(singular) which is an Arabic word that literally means emigrant. Its origin can be traced back to the prominent migration of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah to Madina.

Those who followed the Prophet (SAW) on this journey were called Al-Muhajirun (plural).

These pupils migrated from their home town in pursuit of Islamic knowledge. Nowadays, the word almajiri refers to an unkempt, hungry-looking child that roams the streets in tattered clothes carrying a bowl and begging for money, food, or anything you can offer to them. The boys are usually enrolled in an informal Islamic school headed by a mallam (teacher) in a different state. The parents of these children send them to the mallam so that they can obtain Islamic education and memorize the Holy Qur’an. The almajirai sleep in incomplete or dilapidated buildings where they also have their classes during the day. The almajirai are mostly found in Northern Nigeria, and they are between the ages of five and eighteen years.


Historically, the almajiri schools in Northern Nigeria were supported and maintained by the state, parents, communities, Zakat (almsgiving), Waqf (endowments) and supplemented by the teachers and students through farming. There was a drastic change in this structure in course of the colonial period.

At that time, the British invaded the region and killed many of the emirs and deposed some. Consequently, the Emirs lost control of their territories and the almajiri system. The British intentionally terminated state funding of the almajiri system because to them the almajiri schools were just mere religious schools. With the loss of support from the government, its direct community and the helpless Emirs, the almajiri system fell apart. Boko, (western education) was introduced and funded instead. Having no form of financial support, the mallamai could neither sustain themselves nor the almajirai. They were left with no choice but to send these boys out to beg and partake in menial jobs for their survival. AbdulQadir (2003) in his article “The Almajiri System of Education in Nigeria Today” posited that the governmental neglect, especially with respect to funding, became the genesis of the predicament of the almajiri system today.

The almajirai are left by their parents early in life so, they lack the proper moral upbringing, support and guidance every child needs. This makes them highly vulnerable and, in turn, they are easily persuaded and influenced into all sorts of negative practices. The almajirai are found in all nooks and crannies of every state in the Northern parts of the country. As they roam the streets, they get exposed to social ills such as drug use and distribution, prostitution, cultism, armed robbery, gang wars, child abuse and religious fanaticism. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram take advantage of their vulnerability to recruit them. Such groups feed the almajirai with radical, extreme views to the extent that the almajirai see anyone that is not part of them as an enemy that if needs be, should be eliminated.

Furthermore, the almajiri system has now become a matter of great concern as children of school age roam the streets aimlessly. As a result, the potential of these children is never harnessed, and the chances of their unique talent ever being discovered are in the nadir. Instead of learning the Holy Qur’an, the almajiri now spends most of his time begging on the streets in order to sustain himself and his mallam.

In addition, the almajirai do not have any form of formal education, and once they reach voting age, they end up voting for politicians who give them the most in terms of material things—food, money and others— during campaigns. Unfortunately, this is the same for most people in Northern Nigeria because of the high rate of illiteracy.

According to a National Literacy Survey (2010)[6 years and Above] which was carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics, the literacy rates of the nineteen Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory were as follows: Borno (14.5%), Katsina (21.7%), Taraba (23.3%), Jigawa (24.2%), Kebbi (25.3%), Yobe (26.6%), Kaduna (29.3%), Sokoto (30.1%), Kogi (33.5%), Zamfara (33.9%), Bauchi (34.1%), Niger (37.5%), Gombe (39.3%),Adamawa (40.5%), Nasarawa (41.9%), Benue (45.1%), Plateau (46.6%), Kano (48.9%), Kwara (49.3%) and the Federal Capital Territory (61.4%) [Source NMEC]. Lacking education, the gullible almajirai would go to any extent to do the bidding of any person who shows them kindness, love, and provides for them. They are at the mercy of corrupt politicians who deploy them to perpetrate election malpractice and political violence.

In spite of the fact that the almajiri schools teach the moral standards, principles and values needed for proper behaviour in a society, these schools do not teach the skills and type of education required for these children to become functional members of society. Therefore, educating the almajirai would make them have a sense of purpose in life because it gives them a chance of becoming economically productive members of the society. If they are educated, they will be aware of their rights, duties and obligations as citizens.

Also, they can understand the rules and regulations governing the country. This would greatly help in raising informed and positively active youth. Similarly, our youth would vote for competent leaders who would bring peace and development to the beleaguered nation.

Although the girl equivalent of the almajiri child is not seen carrying a bowl and roaming the streets, she faces her own social problems. For instance, she is seen hawking, selling traditional snacks by the road, and most times she is employed as a house help. Another common practice is that these girls direct blind people who tread the streets begging for alms. The blind person may either be the girl’s mother, father, relative or a stranger, in which case, he is permitted by her parents to carry the girl on the understanding that he will give her something out of what he gets that day. They are mostly found at traffic intersections, which are strategic locations to ask for alms when motorists stop. Many others wander about, on the streets and in the markets, and even at mosques from where perhaps an uncertain meal might come. Also, more often than not, that deprived, dejected girl is married off at a very young age because her parents or guardian is unable to provide for her.

Equally important, the education of the almajirai would bring about the development of a competitive atmosphere. Supplying Nigeria with a large pool of sharp, innovative and inquisitive minds. This would, in the long run, foster progress and inspire change in the country. Hence, we would have youth imbued with the mental capacity and moral awareness to craft ingenious solutions to the challenges which have long held this nation down. Surely, there is no doubt, great potential and talent are yearning to be unlocked in the life of the almajirai. Thus, educating them would highly contribute to the fight against abject poverty and sectarian violence in Nigeria. The education of the almajirai in terms of academic work and skill acquisition would greatly boost national development. As Nelson Mandela once said “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.” Likewise, once the almajirai are engaged in a formal school, they would be less likely to go into kidnapping, banditry, and terrorism.

As a measure to stop these children of school age from roaming around and begging on the streets, I would recommend that the government more vigorously enforce the Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education law for all children of primary and secondary school age and, subsequently, punish the parents or whoever fails to comply with its provisions. Conversely, the government may need to build more Almajiri Model High Schools so that it would be able to accommodate all the almajirai. It is necessary that the Federal Government strictly ensures that these schools are properly funded, supervised and maintained. There should also be proper mobilization of qualified and dedicated personnel. Besides the aforementioned, the government should embark on public enlightenment campaigns so people in rural areas are aware of the importance of education, and are motivated to send their children to school.

Governments at all levels should make concerted efforts to return the almajirai to their states of origin where they would be reunited with their families. It is imperative that the government collaborate with the private sector to not only enlighten the parents of the almajirai on their parental responsibilities and obligations but also help to bring about a safe, misery-free environment in which these children may thrive.

The efforts of the Kaduna State Government are worth commending. Evident are its effort to put an end to the antiquated system of “almajiri education.” Also, it is a laudable initiative that the Kano State Government formulated standard criteria and guidelines for people who wish to continue with the almajiri system. I would propose that Kaduna and Kano states partner with the other Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory in this drive to educate the almajirai for the progress of the North and the federation in general.

Additionally, the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration courageously undertook a re-energized fight against illiteracy by rethinking and restructuring education for the almajirai. The new system was designed in such a way that the Almajiri Model High Schools offered secular subjects such as Mathematics, English and vocations alongside the Holy Qur’an and Islamic education. However, the Federal Government is yet to tackle the long running challenges posed by the almajiri system.

The AMA Foundation has immensely contributed to the education of many young Northerners. Their work will go a long way in addressing the gaps in education which can easily be observed in the Northern parts of the country. It is not a question of “if” but that of “when” regarding the mass education of the North. To that end, civil societies, corporate organizations, and individuals must continue to commit themselves to the attainment of this worthwhile goal.


Ibrahim Khaleel Hassan can be reached on [email protected]


Are you currently earning in Naira but need salary/earnings in Dollars? You have an opportunity to earn as much as $10,000 (₦9.2 million naira) monthly. Click here to get evidence.

%d bloggers like this: