Bearing the burden of the Almajiri
As the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) rages on in Nigeria, so is the fear and the controversy over the repatriation of the almajiris to their states of origin. Many state governors have taken strict measures to curb its spread including closing their boundaries and restricting movements. So far, hundreds of almajiri children have been transferred to their states of origin by the northern governors. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes with agency reports
ccording to the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, it is one of the measures adopted at the Northern States Governors’ Forum.
El-Rufai, who spoke recently on Channels TV Politics Today’s show, said the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to determine the state of almajiri education in the north. He said the decision has been a subject of deep deliberations in the Northern States Governors’ Forum under the chairmanship of the Plateau Governor, Simon Lalong, for the past 12 months. “We’ve been looking for the ways and means to end this system because it has not worked for the children; it has not worked for Northern Nigeria and it has not worked for Nigeria. So, it has to end and this is the time,” he said.
The Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku-Bagudu corroborated the Kaduna State Governor by saying that the resolutions were reached at the meeting of the NGF in Kaduna. He said that all the northern states had been mandated to take steps, to return Almajiri children to their states of origin.
Speaking through his Special Adviser, Malam Yahaya Sarki, he said it was part of concerted efforts by northern states governors, Federal Government and other stakeholders to further stem the tide of the raging global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He explained that some of the Almijiri children from the state had since been returned to Kebbi from Kaduna State.
Bagudu said: “Some states have already started implementing this decision by taking back such children to their own states of origin. I do believe that all the states in the region will soon commence the repatriation and this is for the common good of the states and Nigeria, in general,”
Bagudu said efforts were on to collaborate with the management of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in the state to convert the orientation camp in Dakingari to an isolation centre as directed by the Federal Government. He promised that the state would do what “is necessary” to improve the camp to serve as a befitting isolation centre. Similarly, Bagudu said the Presidential Flood Committee had availed the Internally Displaced Persons Camp at Kalgo for the state to use as an isolation centre or quarantine facility in case the need arose for its use.
“This is in addition to the ones already designated by the Task Force on COVID-19 at Kalgo Medical Centre as Isolation camp and fully functional Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 victims.
“The task force has also identified and dedicated a ward at Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kebbi, and Sir Yahaya Memorial Hospital also in Birnin Kebbi as additional facilities for COVID-19,” he said.
The Kano State Government began contact tracing of the five Almajiri pupils, who tested positive for Coronavirus in Kaduna State. It was reported that the Kaduna State Government had, on Monday, announced that five of the 195 Almajiri children evacuated from Kano tested positive to the virus. In swift reaction to the discovery, Kano State Commissioner of Education, Muhammad Sanusi, said the government would conduct contact tracing of the Almajiri schools where the affected children were evacuated to their states of origin. Sanusi said that the decision followed a report by the Kaduna State Government that five of the Almajiri children evacuated from Kano to the state, tested positive to the virus. The Commissioner, who is also the Chairman of the Almajiri Evacuation Committee, disclosed that children were screened to ascertain their health status before they were conveyed to Kaduna and other states. “Although, before we evacuated those children to their various states of origin, we provided some medical personnel to check their health status. During the preliminary medical checks their temperature was normal. “We have records of all the evacuated Almajiri children, we know which Tsangaya school they belong, therefore, we are going to trace those schools to stem spread of the virus,” he said.
Kano State Government had evacuated more than 1,000 Almajiri children to Katsina, Jigawa and Kaduna States in the past one week.
Govenor Bala Mohammad of Bauchi State has said that the state would test all Quranic education (Almajiri) pupils for Coronavirus (COVID-19) before returning them to their states of origin. He also said that the state had developed the capacity to handle the scourge of the virus due to its experience with Lassa and yellow fever outbreak in the state.
“We want to reveal to Nigerians and the people of Bauchi that we have developed the capacity to handle the scourge of COVID-19 because of our experience with Lassa fever and yellow fever. And we must thank our partners like the WHO, UNICEF, European Union, the Dangote Group and all other development partners who have helped us to build this capacity.
“The Northern Governors Forum has agreed to make sure we put a stop to the Almajiri pupil practice but we are continuing with the Islamiyyah Schools. However, in our own case, we will make sure before we take them to their parents, they are tested or quarantined for a period of time,” Mohammad said. The governor also revealed that the state government was expediting a move to establish its own testing laboratory, where a large number of tests could be conducted in a day.
“We are establishing within 10 days our own testing laboratory in Bauchi, so that every day we will be able to test one thousand people. We have more than the required capacity to accommodate people and treat them. “Our medical team are using their own acumen to use Chloroquine, even though, in some places they say it is not protocol, me as the governor, I am taking responsibility. “I don’t want anybody to die, I have given you directives that you must use something that I have used to get well and all the six others who recovered,” he affirmed. The governor revealed that 655 contacts had been made, most of whom he said came from Kano, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja and not from the index cases recorded in the state.
The Benue Government says it has concluded plans to return to their respective states, 40 Quranic education pupils, popularly known as “Almajiri”, who sneaked into Makurdi after violating the inter-state travel
ban. Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, who is also the chairman of the COVID-19 Response Team in the state, disclosed this on Wednesday in Makurdi during an expanded meeting of the committee. Abounu said that the Almajiri, mostly teenagers, who were discovered in a one-room apartment in Wadata area of Makurdi, would be sent back to their states of origin on Thursday, April 30. He said that the state was yet to record another COVID-19 positive case after the index case, adding that more samples were being collected. The official said that the state received three trucks of rice and one truck of tomato paste from the Federal Government as palliatives, adding that more palliatives were being expected from the Dangote Group. Also speaking, Gov Samuel Ortom announced the release of additional N50 million to the COVID-19 Committee in the state. Ortom commended the committee for the work already done, but charged them to redouble their efforts to ensure that the state was free from the pandemic.
Earlier, Prof. Stephen Abah, the leader, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Benue, had said that the state was vulnerable as a result of its numerous borders and its high Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Abah said that the state needed to tighten its borders, decentralise its sample collection process and strengthen its surveillance. He also advised on decentralised treatment centres, border vigilance, protection of health workers, among other measures. He said that the state had the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, adding that efforts should be redoubled in case of critical response situations.
The Nasarawa State Government on Sunday evacuated 788 Quranic education pupils (Almajiri) to their states of origin to guard against further spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Speaking at the flag off of the exercise in Lafia, Gov. Abdullahi Sule said the evacuation was a decision reached by governors of the 19 Northern States. Gov. Sule noted that the move was to ensure that the parents of the children take proper care of them, adding that the government did it in good faith. He said that the evacuation would be in phases, with the first phase to states currently not considered high risks of the pandemic. The governor said that before now, the Almajiri system had posed a serious problem, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had further made it more dangerous. “Most of them engage in street begging and are vulnerable to contracting the virus when they receive alms from persons whose status is positive.
“Their teachers cannot keep them at home during this lockdown as they lack the capacity to feed the pupils under them,” Sule said.
The governor explained further that all the children were given some stipends to buy some food while on transit.
He said that they were being conveyed in very comfortable civilian buses under the supervision of state officials, who would hand them over to the officials of their respective states on arrival.
Halima Jabiru, the state’s Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, added that the first batch of the children would be transported to Plateau, Kaduna, Gombe, Taraba and Jigawa states.
The Taraba Government has rejected 100 Quranic education pupils otherwise known as “Almajiri”, believed to be from the state, who were repatriated from Nasarawa State. The pupils were taken to the state following an agreement by Northern States Governors that they be returned to their states of origin as part of measures to save vulnerable groups from the deadly pandemic. Dr Innocent Vakai, the Chairman of the Taraba COVID-19 Technical Committee also said the Northern Governors Forum had resolved that repatriated Almajiri must undergo tests to determine their COVID-19 status.
The repatriated pupils are also to be accompanied by officials from their state of repatriation and the results of their tests be presented to their state of origin. Vakai, who is also the Commissioner for Health in the state, added that proper documentation must be made for them to be accepted in Taraba. He said that the state had not started the repatriation of its own pupils to their states of origin.
He said the state government was in collaboration with the northern governors forum to procure mobile testing kits, adding that such would enhance capacity to conduct tests on many people in the state.
Gov. Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa says samples of 600 Almajiri pupils repatriated to the state are being tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19). Badaru said the 600 pupils were part of the over 1,000 Almajiri repatriated from Kano, Gombe, Nassarawa and Kaduna states.
He explained that all the repatriated pupils would be isolated for two-weeks and tested for the COVID-19 before being released to their respective communities. “You’re aware that about 607 Almajiri were repatriated from Kano, 69 from Gombe and recently we’ve received additional 397 from Nassarawa and 41 from Kaduna.
“All will serve mandatory quarantine for two weeks and will be tested for COVID-19 before they’re eventually released to their communities. We’ve taken the samples of over 600 of them and they are currently being tested,” he said.
The Cross River Government and Security operatives on Saturday intercepted and sent back another set of trucks carrying no fewer than 30 Quoranic education pupils “Almajiri” at the Gakem-Benue border in Cross River. Dr Betta Edu, the Chairperson, Cross River COVID-19 Taskforce, said that in quick response, she ordered that the almajiri children be taken back in the same trucks conveying them.
She said the trucks were intercepted by the Commissioner for Youths and Skills Acquisitions, Mr Signor Idiege, with a team of security operatives on enforcing the ”No Entry” directive of the government at the border. “It is important for the Federal Government to support these people where they are rather than allow them move from one part of the country to the other.
“Remember COVID-19 does not move but people move, so, if these people are coming from states that have the virus, of course, for us in Cross River, we do not want them here.
“That is the only way we can reduce the number that is building everyday and contain the virus,” she said.
The Police ice Command in Kwara on Saturday, returned no fewer than 200 suspected Almajiri (Quranic school pupils) to Katsina State. This was contained in a statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Ajayi Okasanmi, in Ilorin.
Okasanmi said that a truck, with registration number Kaduna: MKA 54 XL, conveying the Almajiri, was intercepted at Bode Sadu-Okoolowo expressway, Ilorin.
“When the driver of the truck was interrogated, he said that they were coming from Funtua in Katsina State, despite the inter-state travel ban to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
“On the instruction of the Commissioner of Police, CP Kayode Egbetokun, the truck and the 200 Almajiri were escorted by fully-armed policemen to the Niger-Kwara boundary to where they will return to Katsina,” he said.
The PPRO called for the cooperation of residents of boundary communities in the state to always volunteer information on movements of vehicles and people in their respective communities.
The Gombe State Government has sent 700 almajiris who are non-indigenes studying in Gombe State, to their states of origin across the 19 Northern states. The state Commissioner for Education, Dr Habu Dahiru, announced on Monday that the first batch of 700 almajiris had been conveyed to their various states in the North in 60 buses accompanied by security personnel.
Dahiru said that the almajiris were also given a covering letter to the Ministry of Education in their respective states. According to him, this decision of government is informed by the collective agreement of the Northern Governors’ Forum that all almajiris should be returned to their home state for better management. He said the 700 were the first batch and subsequently other batches would follow as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “We had a meeting with teachers of Islamic Almajiri schools in the state to let them know why the decision was taken.
The Plateau Government on Sunday began the evacuation of 183 Quranic education (Almajiri) pupils to their states of origin.
The exercise is part of the resolution of the northern state governments as part of efforts to save that vulnerable group of children from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during the evacuation, Secretary to the Government of State, Prof. Danladi Atu, said that the first batch of the pupils were identified and carefully profiled.
He said that the pupils were from Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano States. “The move is not punitive but to ensure that they are better cared for by their parents during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a grave danger to the pupils.
“We must protect them and guide them; they need to be with their parents and guardians to take proper care of them at this time. This order by Gov. Simon Lalong is not done in isolation; the decision was taken by the Northern States Governors Forum,” he said.