The abrogation of the Almajiri (Qur’anic learning system associated with begging on economic and religious grounds peculiar to some Northern states) system of education remains an objective but there is no immediate ban of it by the Buhari Administration, as widely reported by the media.
The Presidency, therefore, calls for caution in responses to the pronouncements by President Muhammadu Buhari on free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria, during his speech on Thursday, June 20, at the inauguration of the National Economic Council (NEC).
The Presidency notes that while the Buhari administration is committed to free and compulsory education as a long-term objective of bringing to an end, the phenomenon of out-of-school children, any necessary ban on Almajiri would follow due process and consultation with relevant authorities.
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Indeed, the Federal government wants a situation where every child of primary school age is in school rather than begging on the streets during school hours.
At the same time, we don’t want to create panic or a backlash.
Reports that there are plans for massive arrest of parents are definitely out of place. Things have to be done the right and considerate way.
Free and compulsory primary school education is a requirement of the Nigerian constitution and any individual or group not in compliance with this is violating the law of the land and liable to be punished.
In his speech at the inauguration of NEC, President Buhari stated, without equivocation, that the country’s children have rights and must be given their due rights and protection under the law.
As many have stated in their views, the Almajiri phenomenon represents a security challenge and a scar on the face of Northern Nigeria.
In that speech, the President said:
“On education, I want to stress in particular the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education. Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.
“Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
‘‘It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.
“This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum.
‘‘If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.”
This statement by President Buhari is well within the law of Nigeria.
But in addition to relevant consultations, State governors need to put in place structures like schools and educational materials for pupils; otherwise, they also, are complicit in violating the law of the land.