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A timely intervention

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THRILLER FROM  THE VILLA By Abdulrahman Abdulraheem

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President Goodluck Jonathan, during the week fulfilled his electoral promise to introduce a modern alamajiri education system that will not only take the 9.5 million kids away from the streets but also give them a proper mix of Islamic and western education. He did this on Tuesday by leading a high-powered Federal Government delegation to Gagi in Sokoto state where he commissioned the first ’Almajiri’ Model Boarding School.
A novel idea, the model school, which is one of the 100 billed for commissioning by June this year, was constructed by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund on behalf of the Federal Government with the aim of cleaning the streets of the almajarai and giving them quality education and chances of better future where they would have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the country in future
President Jonathan noted that his desire to see to the realisation of a modern almajiri system of education was borne out of his conviction that Nigerian children must have equal access to quality education across the country.
The President described as worrisome, a situation where about N9.5 million almajirai were in the north, out of which 65 percent are from the North West and do not attend conventional basic education schools.
He said further: "The commissioning of the first model school in Sokoto today is only a precursor to the commissioning of other such schools, including the Day School located in Tambuwal town, which shall commence shortly.”
He spoke further, "our administration believes that the time has come for the nation to build on the moral foundations of the traditional school system by providing the children with conventional knowledge and skills that will enable them fully realize their creative and productive potentials.”
This column can’t agree less with the President and I have always wondered why our leaders at all levels had not thought of doing something about the embarrassing presence of the potential legends of tomorrow on the streets, looking unkempt and begging in the pursuit of Islamic education which could be gotten in a better ways than that?
On my very first contact with the almajari boys in the beautiful city of Kaduna many years back, the first thing that struck me was how come a society that calls itself the giant of Africa looks the other way when the group that represent its future is on the street without proper education and without an idea of where the next meal will come from? My mind went back to the past and I asked that if the likes of Sardauna, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano, Professor Yusuf Bala Usman and other icons were not allowed the benefit of both qualitative Islamic and sound formal education, how would they have contributed their respective quotas to the progress of the north. Of course, we don’t need to start reeling out what the legendary Ahmadu Bello especially did for the north here. All we have to say here is to clamour for equal chances to be given to the children of today.
While the idea to take them out of the streets and camp them in a school environment where they will receive proper education taste delicious in the mouth and deserve a rare commendation, one must call for it to be sustained and the programme carried out to the letter.
At this juncture, I recall similar attempts to stop begging and its attendant environmental hazards in Lagos and other parts of the West in the past. They always fail because anything that has to do government in Nigeria hardly succeeds with unnecessary bureacarcy, policy somersaults, instability in government and corruption being the major issues.    
I recall that Buba Marwa as military administrator of Lagos then built a caring house for beggars on the hopelessly dirty Kano street in Ebute Metta. The house was built to take care of their needs, feeding and all that and it was located at Okobaba, Ebute-Metta. But because their food and other needs would not arrive on time apparently as a result of the afore-mentioned issues, these beggars started missing life on the streets and they simply ran out one after the other. This same scenario had been replicated in so many places not only in Ebute- Metta.
While we note that President Goodluck Jonathan’s dream for the northern kids is far more serious and audacious project than other attempts, we must warn against complacency and lack of consistency. It is hoped that his lofty dreams are not sabotaged by reluctant state governments or incompetent government officials. There is no reason for the kids to start missing life on the streets.       

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