President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said the responsibility for the education of ‘almajiri’ kids rests on the shoulders of state governments.
“The states also have elites who are educated enough to remind their governments about their responsibility to almajiris”, Mr Buhari said while receiving a delegation of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) at the Presidential Villa, according to a statement by spokesperson Femi Adesina.
“The issues of health and education are constitutional. If there are too many almajiris in a state, then the government is not following the constitution,” the president noted.
Nigerian law provides for free and compulsory basic education for children up to junior secondary schools.
The ‘almajiri’ is a system of Islamic education practised in Northern Nigeria where kids are sent by their parents to live with and study Quranic education at a teacher’s place.
Most of these kids miss out on the formal education as they are often sent to beg on the streets.
The administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan established and spent billions of Naira for the construction of almajiri schools across Northern states.
The plan was to get these kids from the streets into formal classrooms. The then vice president, Namadi Sambo, had said there were over 9.5 million almajiris in the country who were not participating in the basic school education system.
The plan, however, failed largely because it was poorly managed. The almajiri children still make a large chunk of Nigeria’s 13.2 million out-of-school children.
Newsmen reported how about eight million of Nigeria’s out-of-school children are in 10 Northern states and Abuja.
Many Nigerians have been calling for the abolition of the almajiri system, saying it has become a breeding ground for insurgents and religious extremists.
Last month, the presidency said President Buhari was planning to ban the ‘almajiri’ system in Northern Nigeria but will not do so immediately.
It came shortly before Mr Buhari called on state governors to “enforce very vigorously” free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
In Tuesday’s statement, the president restated the same. He urged states and local governments to play stronger roles in getting more children into classrooms. He said doing so would complement the efforts of the federal government in that direction.
Under the Nigerian constitution, education is on the concurrent legislative list where both the federal and state governments share legislative powers. Where there is collusion in exercising concurrent powers, the federal government’s authority will supersede.