Almajiri system to be supplemented with skills training

By Kabir Yusuf

Photo by Jonas, 2015

Imagine 7 million young and skilled fashion designers, masons, electricians, woodworkers, welders and plumbers engaged in economic activities in northern Nigeria, and what level of prosperity that could bring? Unfortunately that is not quite the case. Instead, according to the National Council for the Welfare of Destitute (NCWD), 7 million Almajirai roam the streets of northern Nigeria every day. Many of them concede to the strongest wind that blows: street violence, child trafficking, diseases or hunger. Those who manage to resist their vulnerability and grievances within the society remain unskilled, and ultimately undertake menial jobs with very limited future perspectives. Almajirai are young boys enrolled in Quranic education with poor social networks, they rely on both door-to-door and street begging as their primary source of income. The Almajiri system was established in the 11th century by the Borno Empire. 700 years later, the Sokoto Caliphate started this teaching. These two empires ran similar Quranic systems which became known as the Almajiri system. 
The Quranic education system is still dominant in the North, however, no longer sustainable in its current form as its sources of maintenance including state, communities, parents, Zakat (Islamic charity) and Waqf (endowment) cease to flow. MAFITA, a skills and employment programme in northern Nigeria aims to address the issue of Almajirai through a systemic approach. By 2021, the end of the 6-year programme, a total of 68,000 youth will have benefitted from skills training and job placement. 25% of MAFITA beneficiaries will be from Almajiri intake sources. Ibrahim is a MAFITA beneficiary. He is a 12 yearold Almajiri in his second year in a tsangaya (Quranic school) in Kano. He has memorized 6 out of 60 portions of the Quran. The young boy is passionate about becoming a fashion designer. Alaramma Rabiu, the Almajiri’s caregiver, is happy to work with MAFITA to help Ibrahim and his other Almajirai turn their dreams into reality.

“This tsangaya was established 50 years back by my father. After my father’s death, 15 years ago, when I took over 250 Almajirai, financial support from the government wasn’t available anymore. I established a small carpentry workshop for sustenance and for the kids to supplement learning Quran with learning a technical skill. For 2 years now, we have run out of capital to pay a master craftperson. I am happy that MAFITA is here to help us, it is an opportunity for the Almajirai to learn one of MAFITA’s trades.”, explains the caregiver.
Alaramma Habibu, a caregiver of 283 Almajirai in Dan Marke expresses his gratitude for the MAFITA programme: “I am happy that MAFITA is going to help me on this front. I am always concerned about the future of Almajirai. To leave Quranic education and go to a formal school at a younger age is not an option, and by the time they finish Quranic education it is difficult for them because they don’t have any skills to fall back on.” — Translated from Hausa language.

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