The President Muhammadu Buhari administration Friday concurred with the general view that “the Almajiri phenomenon represents a security challenge and a scar on the face of Northern Nigeria.”
The Federal Government, however, added that contrary to the widely reported news, the ultimate proscription of the Almajiri system of education remains a priority but not for an immediate implementation.
“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,” the Federal Government clarified in a statement by a presidential media aide, Garba Shehu.
The Presidency called for “caution in responses to the pronouncements by President Buhari on free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria, during his speech on June 20, at the inauguration of the National Economic Council (NEC).”
The Presidency noted 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.”
According to the statement, “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.”
Shehu added: “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.”
In his speech at the inauguration of NEC, Buhari stated, without equivocation, that the country’s children have rights and must be given their due rights and protection under the law.
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.”
Shehu said the statement by the remarks by the President Buhari was well within the law of Nigeria.