Mubarak Yahya is an indigene of Dogon Daji in Tambuwal Local Government Area (LGA) of Sokoto State who was an almajiri before getting admission to study medicine at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDU), Sokoto.
How did you swap from Islamic to Western education?
My father was an almajiri before being appointed as a ladan (muezzin) at one of the Juma’at mosques in our community.
He had multiple books written in Arabic and wanted me to be reading them. That was the beginning of my journey into almajiranci at the age of three. When I reached seven, he took me to an Islamic school run by one Malam Abdullahi Yagawal.
A few months after my enrolment, Malam Yagawal relocated to Kebbi State with his pupils, including me. I remained under his tutelage until I got admission into the university.
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As an almajiri, were you going out to beg for alms?
Malam Yagawal doesn’t like begging. He counsels and allows his students to decide on whether to join conventional school or to learn skills of their choice. Some of his students learn mechanics, businesses and some join conventional schools, like me.
Three of us were taken to primary school in Gwandu Emirate by one of his senior students and after completing our primary education we got admission into a Junior Secondary School (JSS).
We lost our friend while we were in JSS three. He drowned in a river. My other friend dropped out and is now a successful businessman selling brocade and wrappers.
I was the only one that stayed and completed my secondary school, and I did that with flying colours.
But some malams allow their almajirai to beg on the streets…?
They are not doing the right thing. Islam doesn’t condone begging, and those malams are not helping their almajirai because they will end up becoming nuisance in society or tools for all sorts of abuse and crime.
So, after my Senior Secondary School Certificate examination, when malam saw my result, he was very happy. He said his wish was for me to be a medical doctor. So, he secured admission for me to study nursing at the College of Nursing and Midwifery, Gagi, Sokoto State, because he thought I could read medicine there.
I went to Gagi and came back to him as a certified nurse. It was then that he understood the difference between nursing and medicine. So, he counselled me to go and read medicine, which I accepted.
I wrote another JAMB in 2019 and got all the requirements needed to get admission into the university as a medical student, and to God be the glory, Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDU), Sokoto, offered me admission to study medicine. So, malam’s prayer was heard and answered by the Almighty Allah.
What level are you in now?
I am in 200-level. I would have been in 300 but for the COVID-19 and ASUU strike.”
So how was the switch from Islamic to Western education?
It was smooth. Even now I am the National Amir of the Voice of Nigerian Almajiri.
Who is sponsoring you in the university?
I am sponsoring myself with the support of Malam Yagawal.
Do you regret ever being an almajiri?
This is something I love to be identified with. It always gives me great joy to be called almajiri.
I always visit my former school and interact with younger almajirai, encouraging them to borrow a leaf from me.
This was part of the reason we formed the Voice of Nigerian Almajiri. We want to change the narrative about almajiri because many Nigerians hold wrong perceptions about it; they see us as a nuisance, as people who know nothing and therefore cannot contribute anything to society.
But this is wrong. Almajiri is a learned and wise person. There are many almajirai who are contributing to the development of their communities, states and the nation at large. Some of our leaders started as almajiri.
What is your advice to almajirai?
Listen to your malams and heed to their advice; this is the only way to a successful life.
What does the Voice of Nigerian Almajiri do?
We visit Islamic schools and sensitise their malams on the need to enroll their pupils in conventional schools and encourage them to be self-reliant.
We also serve as the voice of almajirai in the country, especially the victims of abuse and injustice.
Don’t you think the government should establish an almajiri commission?
Interestingly, the member representing Dange/Shuni/Bodinga/Tureta Federal
Constituency of Sokoto State, Shehu Balarabe Kakale, has initiated a bill for the establishment of an almajiri and out-of-school commission. We learnt that the bill is being sponsored by Kakale and 17 other members and has passed second reading. The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Sokoto State branch; 21st Century Entrepreneurs Hub and other youth organisation have risen in support of the bill.
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