Usman Yahaya


Almajiri is a system of Islamic education practiced in northern Nigeria. Almajiri derives from an Arabic word, rendered “al-Muhajirun” in English transliteration, meaning a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.
This system of education started in Nigeria in a town named Kanem-Borno, which had a majority of its rulers widely involved in Quranic literacy. More than 700 years later, the Sokoto caliphate was founded by a revolution based on the teachings of the Qur’an. Sokoto caliphate and Borno caliphate started running the Almajiri system together. During this precolonial era, students used to stay with their parents for proper moral upbringing. All the schools available then were in a close proximity with the immediate environment of the students. Inspectors were introduced to go round the schools and after inspection they report to the Emir of the province all the matters regarding the affairs of the school. The schools were funded by the community, parents, zakkah, sadaqqah and sometimes through the farm output of the students. (No room for begging)


The year 1904 brought a new twist to the almajiri system of education, as the British invaded the northern part of Nigeria. During the invasion most Emirs were deposed. The remaining emirs lost controls of their territories, this resulted also in the loss of fundamental control of the almajiri. Boko was introduced, boko meaning western education. The British abolished the state funding of almajiri schools. With no support from the community, Emirs and government, the system collapsed. The teachers and students had no financial support, so, they turned to alms begging and menial jobs for survival.


A report by the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute (NCWD) approximated the number of current almajiri to over 7 million of which majority are underage and minors. The system now lacks things like good teachers and basic amenities like proper clothing and shelter. Most of the almajiri do not graduate and are left with the option to do menial jobs. There is no consideration of what ever sort from the social welfare wing of government, the Almajiris themselves were sometimes victims of their parents decision to relieved their fundamental duties of providing care to their wards due to fear of poverty.


A lot of people want to share their view regarding effects of Almajiri system in our society but chooses to remain silence in order not be misinterpreted or classified as saboteurs to religious settings. The government as well chooses not to regulate the system for the betterment of both the almajiris, the mallams and the general society either due to the fear of being harassed by the benefactors or using the system to achieve hidden political goal.


The truth is that banning the almajiranci without adequate plans to accommodate the students (Almajirai) and their teachers in a well designed program for self reliance and legitimate engagements will further compound the social illness accumulated over the years. It will there for be a better option for government to reform the system effectively with zero tolerance to politics and corruption as seen in the previous governments.

This can be done through series of rehabilitation process and interventions to reduce the impact of radical reasoning as a result of harsh treatment by their masters and the Almajiri hosting communities. In my humble opinion, regulation and provision of basic amenities like government owned institutions is what is required for now, further checkmating and enforcement can follow after quenching the present dilemma.

Have a nice weekend!

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