By Mohammad Sabo Keana
Eleven years from now, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hope to have eliminated hunger, ensured quality education and decent work for all, and achieved 15 more things aimed at leaving no one behind. Sadly, at our current pace, over 9 million Almajiri children will be part of those who have been failed by the rest of us.
In pursuit of much needed reforms to align with the SDGs, our organization has worked over the last five years to bring visibility and increased public awareness to the plight of these children. In May, as one of the 21 organizations that made up the global recipients for the UN SDG Awards in Bonn Germany, we took the plight of the children to the global stage and on the 2nd Anniversary of Almajiri child rights Day on May 25, we declared that “Nigeria, and the world, cannot achieve the SDGs without addressing the Almajiri child rights crisis where over 9 million children are socially excluded. The declaration was made simultaneously by Almajiri child rights advocates across 17 northern states and beyond. Gladly the call has enabled government take action at all levels.
To maintain this momentum and ensure a different approach is adopted to address the Almajiri Child rights crisis, on September 25 the Almajiri Child Rights Initiative will launch Almajiri Child Goals, the next phase of our previous accountability campaign, demanding government actions towards the education and social inclusion rights of Almajiri children.
This phase of the campaign is aimed at focusing Government proposed interventions towards addressing Almajiri phenomenon on all the factors that combine to promote and sustain the Almajiri Child Rights Crisis and not just lack of education alone. Previous intervention focusing on education rights alone has not yielded any meaningful impact.
We believe that addressing the Almajiri crisis within the framework of Almajiri Child Goals will ensure holistic and more sustainable solutions and not charity-like interventions that conceal the issue and shrug off real government responsibility to the poor. The Almajiri Child Goals are not optional and will serve as our yardstick for assessing government-proposed interventions.
The Almajiri Child Goals are a set of nine (9) SDGs whose achievement or otherwise has a direct impact on the lives of Almajiri children – No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Healthcare and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Decent Work, Reduced Inequality, Peace and Social Justice.
While we wait for government to take responsibility, the campaign is working to (1) Localize the SDGs to policy makers using the #AlmajiriChildGoals (2) empower local communities to demand for accountability around goals that affects their children (3) Enlighten Mallams—Teachers in the ALMAJIRI SCHOOL SYSTEM and Parents on proposed government reforms plans for their acceptability (4) inspire Public support for the Vulnerable children within the community they live. They are innocent children and victims of our collective irresponsibility. Apathy towards their plight is not an option.
We are partnering with individuals to send 500 Almajiri Children to ‘CLAS’ (Community Learning Almajiri School) where they have the opportunity of having both secular and religious type Education taught within their community.
We are providing medical outreach, food and nonfood items like shoes, clothes and toiletries to over 5000 Almajiri children across the states.
We are Launching AlmaCare to provide and encourage free Healthcare support for sick Almajiri children within the community while we advocate for the full and immediate implementation of the National Health Act.
CLEAN Almajiri CHILD, a biweekly Sanitation Initiative to improve hygiene and wellbeing within Almajiri set-ups
We are also using this day to continue with our campaign #13millionsignatures – representing the estimated total number of out-of-school children in Nigeria to collect SIGNATURES TO demand increased investment in education for all Nigerian girls and Almajiri children.
The Launch of Almajiri child goals and global day of impact for Almajri Child will take place across 17 northern states, Lagos, Imo and by our friends & SDGs advocates in India, Japan, Russia, UK and at the United Nations building in New York on the 25th of September to mark the Global Week of Action to #ACT4SDGs. We invite all Nigerians and SDGs advocates across the world to take part on this day to #Act4SDGs by amplifying the #AlmajiriChildGoals and hold government accountable for a sustainable solution to the Almajiri child rights crisis.
With at least 8 of the 17 SDGs interconnected to the plight of Almajiri children, it simply means that nowhere in the world are child rights as critical to the attainment of SDGs as Northern Nigeria. It is an urgency driven by both time and demography that neither Nigeria nor the world can afford to miss if we are to meet our global target by 2030.