Amaechi & the proposed name change of Almajiri education programme
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State is known for his outspokenness. He does not hide his voice whenever he is convinced to lend his opinion on any national discourse. He has said that the classification given to the Federal Government’s Almajiri Education Programme (AEP) was disparaging. This, he has advised that another name be well thought-out for the project.
Amaechi said this on Friday 11, May, 2012 at a special meeting on the AEP held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he canvassed that since the meaning of Almajiri meant begging, the taxonomy suggests that those who are going to gain from the programme were begging for education, instead of it being a basic right of every Nigerian child. Therefore, he outlined two names for the Federal Government (FG) to consider for the education programme. They are Migrant Education Programme or Special Education Programme.
It is only a person with good intention that education should be for all that could take the position of Amaechi who said the importance for the government and everybody to mull declaring a state of emergency in education in the North. Owing to the misgivings of the Nigerian presidents who came from that part of Nigeria for more than 35 years out of 51 years that Nigeria has existed as an independent country, these leaders from the North tolerated a situation where children of school age roamed about on the streets in the North for the lucre of the so called Alhajis. They called those they were maligning Almajiri, but are here today to blame the entire nation for the woes they inflicted on Nigerians, but most especially, to their zone. They gave paltry to the street urchins and mobilize them as their cheerers and rented crowd on any special occasion.
But it could be that these ‘left to die’ children are becoming wise, hence the Alhajis are no longer save in their hands through their hostilities, and everybody is today shouting that Almajiris need to be rehabilitated. Who caused their peril in the first place? To be frank, Amaechi’s supplement to the name regarding the Almajiri phenomenon and their education shows that he has a soft spot for these children that their own people knew how they were called Almajiri and who their true fathers and mothers were and why their number was increasing by the day irrespective that the North held power for the period mentioned above.
It is surprising that the North is beginning to recognize the need to afford all children equal right to education, but during the period they were in power, they frustrated education through incessant strikes and debasement of teachers, because they thought that education was only for the Southerners. These strikes caused a lot of people in the South-East to resort to learning trade and other, for the fear of not wasting their precious time idling while the strikes lasted. What name in Igbo should be used on such people as Almajiri in the South-West, because their numbers are also on the increase?
Today, the North is using such language as “the North is impoverished” to attract self-pity and incite vicious mindset on the youths from that region and they are in the mode of applying negative aggression on the rest Nigerians as if the poverty of anybody in Nigeria is a collective contribution; the Northern buddies in the many foreign embassies in Nigeria have also joined the North in the sudden equivocal choir of “the North is impoverished”.
But what many of these rabble-rousers of the North have not taken their time to think before they firebrand the FG to see “the poverty in the North” is that does Northerners not have Nomadic Education? When the presidents from that region were ruling Nigeria placed a ban on the importation of stockfish which was serving as the economic trade of Ndigbo and the so called Almajiris were rearing their Alhajis’ cows and goats and they were smiling to the bank with their incessant sells, no one realized that there was “poverty in the North” and that they needed the conventional education. This nation owes Ndigbo an apology.
The Northerners are cattlerearers just the same way the Southerners are farmers and fishermen, but it takes individual effort to erode poverty and come out of it. There was no special school for the Southerners to get qualitative education. Instead the Southerners paid costly school fees to get this education whereas the Northerners had all it took to get education but they were in the decline of the offer and the government was going to their house to beg them to come to school, yet to no avail. What the North will not tell their foreign brainwashed acolytes is that the South today has been devastated with all manner of pollution and emissions from oil companies and industries precisely damaging the Niger Delta region in order to keep the country moving. The people of Niger Delta have had their fishing seas and farm lands polluted, yet no one is shouting and singing the chorus that the Niger Delta is ravaged by poverty and sicknesses as a result of their ravaged environment.
Nigeria has pampered the North so much. This has made the region to look down on the rest Nigerians as if they are the true owners of Nigeria. But no wonder it is “Born to Rule” on the Northerners logo, and perhaps Born to die on the Southerners logo. Secretly they are praising two of their own for getting for them 10 Islamic Banks and 400 Islamic/Almajiri Schools. All these were gotten by their outcry for pity, to the expense of Nigeria. They have today gotten these apart from the fact that they had since been enjoying educationally disadvantage region programme. What this means is that a child in the North seeking for admission into the higher institution is liable to attain admission without even going through pre-tests to University whereas those from the South are sometimes deprived of admission even when they have glaring records that are supposed to give them admission.
Amaechi is right when he said that every child needs the basic education, but one thing is that no one forces education on anybody. The North today is enjoying Almajiri education free of charge whereas there are disadvantaged children in the South who have no one to train them get the qualitative education and there is no such free institution that will admit them to fulfill their education dream. Are these sets of children in the South not also impoverished? Is it because those in the South are not throwing bombs that make the government thinks that all are well with/in the South? Go to the motor parks at night, you will see them.
The North is also talking about the creation of Northern Ministry after the 35years they have ruled Nigeria without any checks and balance? One wonders why Nigeria is into such unintelligible Almajiri Education Programme without regard to the outbursts of the North that Western Education is a sin and they are fighting to subdue it through the act of killing innocent Nigerians in the North through the act of terrorism. Has the FG not heard that they have started to bomb the ‘Western schools’ and are killing professors, lecturers and students? Did the FG not hear that they killed Youth Corpers during the 2011 presidential election? Yet, they are shouting that “the North is impoverished”. Hogwash!
Governor Amaechi who is not versatile in Hausa or Arabic languages, out of the same ‘self-pity’ syndrome the Northerners have gradually implanted in the unsuspecting Nigerians, defined Almajiri to mean beggar, but the sincere ones among the Northerners would tell anyone who cared to listen that Almajiri means a student or a scholar under the tutelage of a learned teacher. And when the North and the marooned foreign associates cry of “the North is impoverished” they refuse to tell the world that it is not only the Moslem children there that are roving the street and are fed by the Alhajis, the Christian ones are left unattended to by the Muslim Northern governors. Should this also be of concern to the Federal government? Again, would the Christian children, Traditional Children and their Muslim fellows attend and study in the same Almajiri Education Programme?
It is laughable when the issue of Almajiri defines the meaning of “equal opportunity” by Northern leaders. They should tell Nigerians what the presidents who came from that region did with the sovereign wealth of Nigeria for 35years. The FG should be sure the North needs the school it is being given, because it may end up spending Trillions of naira on this free education yet no positive result would be recorded after. On the other hand, Amaechi might be right in his quest to change the name of Almajiri Education Programme to something civil, so that the program can go round the whole Nigeria as special Education Intrusion Programme (EIP) by the FG. Anything short of this is fraud against the Southerners.
We wish Amaechi the best.