Wednesday October 24, 2018
Home World More than 5 m...

More than 5 million Almajiris begging on the streets of Nigeria: Activists Seek End to Child Begging ‘Culture’ in the country

The widespread hunger epidemic induced by Boko Haram's seven years of violence in the region has increased the number of children begging on the streets

1
//
312
Almajiri mendicants stretching hands to collect sweet as Sadaka. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Republish
Reprint

More than 100 boys are sitting in the dirt off a secluded street in Maiduguri. Rocking back and forth, they recite a mantra of verses from the Koran written on wooden slabs. They are Almajiri, students who attend a traditional Islamic school called a ‘Tsangaya’. They were sent to the Tsangaya by their parents who live far away. But when their lessons are over, these boys will begin walking the streets, pleading for food. Begging is part of the Almajiri tradition. “Begging is luck. Sometimes you get food immediately when you go out. Sometimes you don’t,” said Abdul Abbas. He is 16 years old and has been at the Tsangaya since he was a young boy.

Activists estimate there are more than 5 million Almajiris begging on the streets of Nigeria. The Almajiris flood the local markets at noontime, looking for rotten fruit and discarded leftovers. They carry their signature begging bowls, walking from house to house and pleading for handouts. Cultural historian Bulama Mali Gubio says the Almajiri system goes back centuries when every boy from the age of about five was expected to attend a Tsangaya. The community was expected to take care of the Almajiris, as part of what he describes as a “communal feeding system.”

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

The Almajiris have long been a normal part of life here. But these days, people increasingly see them as the nuisance. Gubio admits the system has gotten out of hand. “Almost on a daily basis, young kids the age of five, six, seven have been dropped in Maiduguri here in the thousands,” Gubio said. “They have no parents, no teacher, no guardian, nobody to take care of them.”

More begging due to Boko Haram

The widespread hunger epidemic induced by Boko Haram’s seven years of violence in the region has increased the number of children begging on the streets. Children running away from their destroyed communities end up in Maiduguri, standing on the streets alongside the Almajiris, trying to look like them.

“Because they know if they look like an Almajiri, people will be more inclined to give them charity. People see it as a religious duty to help the Almajiris, and they believe Allah will bless them,” said Usman Mohammed, who was an Almajiri many years ago. Now he is an activist, trying to reform a system that he sees as degrading and abusive. “If they are begging, some people will beat them, harass them, all kinds of insults. They have been experiencing all kinds of humiliation,” Mohammed said. “I know the humiliation they are going through.” Mohammed goes around the city to find Almajiris and take their photograph. He talks to them, learns about their background, and finds out where their parents are. He began this personal campaign five years ago to advocate an end to the begging culture.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

Government officials have noted that in its early days, members of Boko Haram recruited many vulnerable Almajiris. “The street is their father. The street is their mother. The street is their culture. The street is their tradition,” Gubio said, commenting on how the group targeted Almajiris. “They will be stealing, grabbing, getting arms where possible. This is what brought up Boko Haram.” Mohammed agrees. He says Almajiris usually do not have stable childhoods. “How are they going to not turn into something evil?” he asked. “Because they did not know anything called love. Nobody ever loved them, nobody brought them out from the rain, nobody brought them out from the sun. They don’t know where to get medication if they get sick.”

Deeply entrenched ‘tradition’

But the tradition of begging goes back to the teachers, the mallams, who the Almajiris live with. Abbas’ mallam, Umar Mohammed, has more than 100 students under his care. He says that forcing children to beg is un-Islamic, but it is necessary. “I can’t take care of them,” Umar Mohammed said. “They should even be the one taking care of me because I am an elder man. There is no organization that is helping us, so we have to allow them to beg. It has been there since our grandparents, so you can’t just wake up and condemn it.”

But in fact, more are condemning it. Mohammed Sabo Keana is another activist in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. He started AlmajiriProject.com where he posts pictures of Almajiris.

“What I understand about the issue and the plight of Almajiri is that everybody is turning a blind eye to it,” Keana said. “And how I feel to get people to focus on it is to have some prominent people — religious political and traditional rulers — from the northern part of the country to speak on it. Let’s have their position on camera. Are you in support of this? Do you condemn it? Let him condemn it on camera. “And once we have that, we’ll use it to form the basis of our advocacy so that we can drive citizens to rally the government to have it take major policies that will bring an end to this system,” he added. But bringing an end to this system means challenging a deeply entrenched tradition.

Back in Maiduguri, evening is approaching and dozens of Almajiris run to a waterhole. After a long day in the streets, they put down their begging bowls and splash in the water — in the tradition of children everywhere. (VOA)

ALSO READ:

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Kabir Chaudhary

    The Nigerian Government should actively take part and support local organisations to end this culture of ‘child begging’.

Next Story

Top Healthy Habits Which Parents Can Teach Their Children

Just make a proper time table or a list of habits that you want to see in your child and start inculcating them in your child slowly.

0
Parents
here are many parameters on which you have to make decisions that shape the lifestyle of your ward. Be it education, health, friend circle etc. Pixabay

Parenting is not an easy task! It comes with a lot of responsibilities and decision power. As a parent, you are the owner of your child’s life, especially in the early years.  Thus, you need to be extra careful in every step that you take. A little carelessness on your part may cost a lot to your child. There are many parameters on which you have to make decisions that shape the lifestyle of your ward. Be it education, health, friend circle etc. In the early years of life, children are not completely aware of what they should do and what not. Thus, they need a helping hand who can guide them in every situation.

Talking about health; every parent wants his or her children to be healthy and fit. They make sure that he or she gets proper proteins and nutrients from the beginning itself. But, how long will someone’s parents continue to feed his or her children? Obviously, a point will come when the kids have to take care of themselves all alone, right? Hence, apart from providing a balanced diet which is full of fruits and fresh juice, it is really important that your children inculcate some really good healthy habits which will continue to be with them throughout their life. It is the duty of the parents to develop the habits in their kids from the very beginning itself. This is because; you cannot develop habits all of a sudden; say in a short span of two-three days. It takes months and years to get used to a proper lifestyle and then it becomes really difficult to adapt to new changes.

Kids, Parents
As per the doctor, it is mandatory to sleep for at least 6 hours for the body and mind to relax completely. Pixabay

Therefore, if the parents build up an environment which motivates the children to remain health conscious, there are very minimal chances of any difficulty to arise at some later stage.

Now the question that arises is what kind of healthy habits can the parents teach their children? Well, there is no specific answer to this, as it depends from person to person and from family to family. The place where you live, the lifestyle of your family, the society that you belong to are few of the many factors that influence this decision.

Below mentioned are top 5 healthy habits which parents can and should teach their children no matter what.

 

  • Regular Exercise

 

According to a survey conducted, every doctor’s first advice to stay fit is regular exercise.  If you, as a parent, can inculcate the habit of regular exercising in your children, there is no need for them to find a doctor.

Kids, Parents
A baby with parents, Pixabay

You can follow the old concept of lead by an example. If you yourself are used to exercising regularly, it will obviously have a positive impact on your kids. They do what they see. Having a habit of exercising daily is really helpful not only for the current time period but also for the long run.  

It is not important that the children exercise indoor, confined in the four walls of their room or house. Rather, one should prefer taking them to the park or any other open area so that they interact with other children of their own age. Apart from the health benefits, kids also learn values such as team spirit and co-ordination.

 

  • Proper eating habits

 

Proper eating habits are a must for all the children to learn during their childhood. For this, the first requirement is that the parents themselves have good eating habits. If the kids see their own parents eating in an unhygienic and filthy manner, they will tend to learn the same. Thus, make sure you set up a right example in front of the young generation.

Parents
parents should not pressurize their children to score high marks and should not compare them with their friends or relatives kids.VOA

Good eating habits include the following:

  • Eating green vegetables
  • Washing hands before and after eating
  • No skipping of meals
  • Avoid over eating
  • Avoid junk food
  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Drink sufficient water
  • Eating the food with suitable cutlery

These are few good eating habits that a child must follow from the start itself, to stay healthy and wise. You can follow different approaches to develop this habit in your ward. If need arises, you can take the help of the family doctor or any of your relative or friends.

 

  • Knowing when to relax a bit

 

It is generally assumed that childhood is one of the best phases of life. It may be true to some extent, but not completely true. Being a child can be very stressful at times. Although you do not have to deal with water and electricity bills, rent payments etc. but there are many little things that worry children. For example, homework and exams are a major fear in the life of every child. As per the statistics, more than 60 percent of the population aged below 13 years who are victims of depression and anxiety, visit the doctor on a regular basis; the major reason for the same- exams.

 

Parents
Proper eating habits are a must for all the children to learn during their childhood. pixabay

 

If you want your child to not belong to this category, he or she should know how to maintain a balance between every small thing in life. Excelling in academics is good and should be motivated in the children, but only up to an extent that they can handle. Not everyone is Albert Einstein. Thus, parents should not pressurize their children to score high marks and should not compare them with their friends or relatives kids.

These tiny tots should know when to relax and when to worry. It is very crucial to understand this difference to avoid any obstacles later on.

 

  • Positive attitude

 

We as adults are always told to have a positive attitude towards life, isn’t it? Then why not apply this to the children as well?

Some people may say that children do not have to face tensed situations like adults do. But, one cannot compare the life of an adult and a child. These are two completely different aspects. Children too have their own problems in life, maybe not that major for the adults, but not so minor for the children.

Teaching your children to have a positive attitude towards life is really necessary. It will help them overcome the problems in life in an easy manner and also will keep them stress free and more happy. Positive attitude brings positive life. Therefore, if you want your offspring to lead a successful life it is very important that they are able to tackle all the negativity in their life in a smart and wise manner. If this is not the case, it is really going to be a tough long journey for them.

Parents
There was a similar, although not quite as dramatic, increase in the risk of best friendship dissolution for children with psychologically controlling parents. pixabay

Hence, make sure that you develop this healthy habit in your child in the best possible manner.

 

  • Have a proper sleep

 

Well, this is one of the toug