An estimated 8 million Northern children are engaged in the Almajiri system, an Islamic school system common in northern Nigeria, Chad, and Niger republic.
The idea behind the Almajiri system is to inculcate in the young children the culture of memorizing and reciting the Koran at an early stage.
Children as young as four are sent by their parents in search of knowledge and some of the children in this system usually sleep in their guardian’ houses, often in very unpleasant conditions without parental visitation.
Many Almajiris end up on the streets begging for alms, hawking and other forms of child labour.
The situation is closely linked with high rate of poverty and poor literacy level in the region.
The Secretary General of an umbrella body of Muslims in Nigeria, Jamaltru Nasril Islam (JNI) said he is concerned about the future of the children in the Almajiri system.
He said it is un-Islamic to treat children in a manner that will jeopardize their collective wellbeing.
In a move to integrate the Almajiri school system into basic education system, the federal government embarked on construction of Almajiri model schools in some states in the north.
This is in addition to integrating the curriculum of the Almajiri system with that of the conventional one in other to add value and empower the children.
speaking to channels television at a one day education summit in Kaduna, the state commissioner of education Mohammed Usman, said the model Almajiri schools will bridge the gaps that currently exist between the Koranic schools and the mainstream education structure.
But in spite of the challenges, these young children face, they still have dreams of a brighter future.
As government intensifies efforts towards transforming the Almajiri system in line with contemporary realities, observers are of the view that the authorities concerned must have the political will and genuine desire to address the underlying challenges associated with the Almajiri system.