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Surviving the Heat: Almajiri’s Struggle with High Temperature in Kano

by Mustapha Salisu
0 comment 5 minutes read

By Zeenat Habeeb Ahuoyiza

The scorching heat of Kano, Nigeria poses a significant challenge to a marginalized group known as Almajiris. Derived from the Arabic word “Al-Muhajirun,” which refers to a person who migrates from home in search of Islamic knowledge, Almajiris are children from impoverished rural backgrounds who leave their hometowns to study Islamic teachings under the guidance of mallamai, Qur’an teachers. Typically starting their studies between the ages of 3 and 12, they spend their early twenties in schools called tsangayu. Upon graduation, they become gardi or gardawa. In the state of Kano alone, there are approximately 300,000 Almajiris, and an estimated 8.5 million children attend Islamic schools in northern Nigeria. This system traces its origins back to the 11th century in Kanem Borno when Islam was practiced by many rulers.

Unfortunately, the Almajiri system has undergone a transformation over time. What was once a pursuit of knowledge has turned into a cycle of destitution. Many of these children are forced into begging on the streets, with some not even receiving any education in Islamic schools as promised. Imported at a tender age, some Almajiris cannot even recall their names or ages. They roam the streets with tattered clothes, barefoot, hungry, and deprived of basic necessities.

Deeply concerned about the plight of these Almajiris PRIME TIME NEWS reporter Zeenat Habeeb Ahuoyiza reports.

This reporter asserts that If we, who are relatively comfortable, struggle to endure the harsh weather conditions, what about those homeless Almajiris who eat whatever they can find, even if it’s not food? How do they survive without access to clean water? What if they can barely manage two meals a day? These questions continuously haunt me whenever I encounter them on the streets.

Motivated by this concern, PRIME TIME NEWS correspondent interviewed various individuals to gain insight into how these Almajiris are coping with the oppressive heat.

Fatimah Ibrahim, a parent, expressed her distress over the plight of the Almajiris. She highlighted that they beg for alms and work odd jobs to survive. They eat whatever is given to them, as they have no choice in the matter. “A beggar must not be a chooser,” she said. Fatimah firmly believes that the Almajiri system should be abolished as these innocent children suffer greatly. They are too young to experience such hardships, and if their purpose is truly to seek knowledge, they should be sent back to their places of origin. Knowledge can be acquired anywhere.

Muhammed, an Almajiri in his early teens from the Mallam Nurah Arabic School in Awadawaki, bitterly described his struggle to survive the harsh heat. He explained that around 40 people live in one room, forcing them to sleep outside due to the unbearable weather conditions.

“Additionally, the chances of obtaining food are low, driving them to search for sustenance themselves” he narrated.

Judging by Muhammed’s sad and pained expression, it is evident that this way of life has deeply affected him. He feels trapped in the system as it has become ingrained in his identity.

On his part, Mallam Ashir Muhammad, who owns an Arabic school and takes care of approximately 40 students. He shared his perspective on the challenges his students face in dealing with the high temperatures. Mallam Ashir revealed that he constantly prays for rainfall as it would provide some relief from the scorching heat. He explained that he has arranged sleeping arrangements for his students to ensure they don’t inconvenience one another. However, in cases where there isn’t enough space, he asks some of them to sleep outside with mosquito nets available for their protection.

Regarding water and food, Mallam Ashir mentioned that there is a well beside his house and a large drum inside where they fetch water. The drum is filled up, and that’s what they drink after eating. He occasionally provides them with food, but most of the time, they have to go out and find food for themselves.

Despite the hardships, Mallam Ashir sees the Almajiri system not as a demerit but as a significant achievement. He believes that these children have the opportunity to learn Islamic education, and he emphasizes that nothing good comes easy. Struggling is necessary to accomplish one’s goals. In his conclusion, he stated that they cannot put an end to the Almajiri system as it has become a norm in society.

Fauziyat Abdullahi, a health expert, contributed valuable insights on the effects of excessive heat on the human body. She highlighted the risks of dehydration, various illnesses, vomiting, headaches, heatstroke, increased strain on the heart due to increased blood flow to the skin, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, abdominal pain, increased irritability, and loss of concentration and mental task performance. She explained that excessive heat can lead to fainting and can be transmitted through touch.

Fauziyat recommended preventive measures such as taking heat regulatory supplements, reducing physical activity, wearing light and breathable clothing, and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. Watermelons, cucumbers, and oranges were suggested as good choices due to their high water content, which helps keep the body hydrated.

After witnessing the realities faced by the Almajiris and considering the expert advice, PRIME TIME NEWS gathered that while seeking knowledge is not inherently a bad idea, pushing or importing children at a very young age is disastrous. It exposes them to potential manipulation and can have detrimental effects on society. Therefore, if parents wish to send their children to Arabic schools, they should be fully prepared to provide for their needs and ensure their well-being, rather than burdening the children with hardships they are not equipped to handle.

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