By Ogundeji Oluwatosin Abigail
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that has become a threat to all nations, there are speculations about how the virus would hit the poor than the rich and of course the Almajiris fall in that category.
A 2014 UNICEF report showed that 72% of the Nigeria’s 13.3 million out-of-school children are Almajiris. States like Bauchi, Kastina, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, and Kaduna among others have the highest record.
The government of Nigeria announced that three states should be on lock down and governors of each state have been giving orders and taking preventive measures. Someone then asked, what will happen to the Almajiris?
I could remember in December 2018, when Nigeria’s National Security Officer, Babagana Monguno warned that the Almajiri phenomenon would come to bite the government in the butt and that they needed to address the issue. But surprisingly, the Almajiris are still on loose, begging for alms, working menially, and living life like a ticking bomb ready to explode.
However, there’s a humor seen in the name give to these children – ‘Al-maajirun’ is an Arabic word, meaning ‘a learned scholar’ who searches for knowledge at home or in transit, displays high moral behaviour and propagates the peaceful message of Islam. Ironically, in Nigeria, the term is used to describe children who beg for alms and lack proper education.
All that being said, if the coronavirus begin to increase in parts of the country where we have a large number of the Almajiris, we may begin to treat ‘an epidemic in a pandemic.’ There is no way these ones will want to isolate themselves because of their predicament; they live, eat and have their ‘well-being’ on the street.
The government had watched the fruit turn sour for long and doing that may cause rebellion from the Almajiris. What happened in Kastina and Kaduna states is a good example, where youths took to the street to protest against the directives of the state.
This and many factors keeps the question rolling: What is the government doing in times like this? Are they hoping the virus won’t be full blown? What are the preventive measures put in place to curb the spread of the disease? What will happen to the homeless Almajiris?
Petitions need to be written to the government before the issue become full blown. Citizens need to make the government accountable on these children too. Are they not all Nigerians?
The Almajiris are the representation of all that will go wrong and maybe it will take Nigeria to right the wrong. Well, that’s if the wrong did not kill us all.