The United Nations Convention on the rights of children and the Nigerian child rights acts provides and guarantees the rights of every child to a fair chance to start in life. The Rights to childhood, safety, nutrition, shelter, education and a dignified life.
But children under the Almajiri scholarship migrant culture of sending children age 6 or below to other states and nations for Islamic studies are deprived of these fundamental children’s rights. They live in some of the shabbiest conditions imaginable, with many facing nutritional challenges aggravated by daily street begging, many face exploitation and abuses including sexual abuse, many are being used for ritual purposes and are undocumented when they die, and because they are out of school they will have next to no jobs or opportunities when they grow as Almajiri adults in an increasingly challenging and competitive world.
It is safe to describe the Almajiri children as the world most abused, deprived and marginalized set of children because they are practically being abandoned by thier parents, neglected by their Government and ignored by the society. No one cares for them and they are denied of both childhood and adulthood opportunities. Who does that to its future, only in Nigeria!
According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 9-10 million Almajiris in Northern Nigeria. Because of long time abuse and the fact that they are not educationally empowered, The situation makes these children prime targets for radicalisation; turning gullible youths who have been largely abandoned by society and lacking structured homes into recruits for banditry and terrorism.
For this reason, addressing the Almajiri system has a fundamental role to play in resolving the security crisis in Nigeria and across West Africa. But it is first a human rights issue affecting minors. This is why it is morally reprehensible for our government and the northern leadership to continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of these innocent children.
Article 19 of the UN Convention on rights of children specifically states that:
“Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”
In Nigeria, grey areas around religion and culture have repeatedly been used to justify the abuse and exploitation of the #AlmajiriChild, there’s absolutely no justification for the abuse of human rights and certainly not of innocent children.
The current state of the #AlmajiriChild portends a real and existential threat that left unchecked, could have profound consequences. The entrenched inhumanity towards the #AlmajiriChild is not acceptable. The time to act is now!
Today, the Almajiri Child Rights Initiative is joined by child right advocates in Nigeria and across the world to call on the Nigerian Government and Northern leadership to demonstrate leadership by addressing the plight of Almajiri children and other vulnerable children.
Specifically, the rights of Almajiri children to a dignified life, decent shelter, adequate nutrition, proper healthcare, and education are not optional and should be ensured and protected.
In marking this year world children’s Day, we call on the Nigerian Senate to immediately pass the proposed child Destitution commission bill which has passed the public hearing stage of which our organisation made some far reaching recommendations .
The Nigerian Government and Northern governors set up a multi-stakeholder task team to come up with a unified position on how to address the social, educational, nutritional, and security situation of the #AlmajiriChild including a medium-term enlightenment plan for building consensus with actors and benefactors.
The ECOWAS Commission to work with the affected country to initiate and amend policies that will address the regional implication of ungoverned borders as evidence suggests that uncontrolled migration accounts for a large number of the street begging population in places like Borno State where an estimated one million Almajiri reside.
The United Nations and our friends across the international community to add their voices to the plight of the #AlmajiriChild especially as addressing the rights to education, nutrition, healthcare, sanitation and decent work of the over ten (10) million Almajiri children is critical to achieving the SDGs in Nigeria.
The plight of millions of Almajiri children might currently be a Nigerian problem but it has potentially grave consequences for us all. It is time to make the commitment for children and the #AlmajiriChild has the potential to be great and should have a fighting chance in life too.
Mohammed sabo KEANA
Almajiri child rights initiative.