The Nigerian Government has been advised to take a second look at the concept of Almajiri schools because
the “decision to create separate schools for Almajiri as a step towards rebuilding the north after the insurgency is likely to have the opposite effect.”
The advice was given by former Secretary of the Oputa Panel and the Obasanjo National Constitutional Conference, Rev. Father Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church.
Speaking on ways to resolve the Boko Haram insurgency and poverty in Northern Nigeria in the context of national reconciliation, Father Kukah warned that rather than positive effects the schools could become breeding grounds for the next generation of Boko Haram.
According to Kukah, children who attend the schools would suffer stigmatisation “by virtue of the fact that they will be perceived as being from the streets” while none of the northern elites would send their children to the schools.
Kukah spoke yesterday on “After the insurgency: some thoughts on reconciliation in Nigeria” as the Convocation Lecturer for the 43rd Convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. He pointed out that the exclusively Muslim composition of the schools would restrict the world view of the pupils.
Said the radical cleric: “But even more dangerous to the programme is the likelihood that no non-Muslim child will be allowed into the schools, thus, denying the children opportunities to interact with others. Equally dangerous is the fact that their syllabi will be set up and run by Muslim teachers. So, what all this means is that teachers, non-teaching staff and students are most likely to be Muslims. This is definitely not good enough for children of one country. Behind closed doors, the teachers whose ideology or brand of Islam may not be immediately known could turn these schools into little incubators of hate, thus, merely preparing the next generation of Boko Haram.”
Father Kukah further said the idea of government funding of the schools could also spur similar requests from other religions. “The Islamiyya School is a seminary of sorts; it is incomprehensible why, and how federal government will sink funds into this initiative without appreciating the risk that other religious bodies can start asking to be supported too. Where will we be if various religious bodies should request for the same support?” he asked.
Kukah submitted that Nigeria must “resolve the problems of poverty in the country especially in the northern states.” He, however, cautioned: “The northern states, on the other hand, must not behave as if the rest of Nigeria owes them anything special. The conditions of northerners and how to resolve the issues should not be the subject of politics and political posturing.”
The fiery clergyman called for job creation and efforts to train people in skills as a practical step because “to prepare for the future requires more than mere tokenism and symbolic gestures.”
He said Boko Haram and violence in the North arose because of roots of hatred sown many years ago with the British conquest in 1903. Following the conquest, Muslim leaders equated the colonisers with Christianity but Kukah argued that missionary activity and imperial conquest did not go hand in hand. He averred that there is a “correlation between the persistence today of a violent interpretation of Islam found in Northern Nigeria and the grief of the conquest of the Sokoto caliphate in 1903.”
Kukah further submitted that Boko Haram arose out of injustice, a failure of the moral order and failure of leadership by both political and religious leaders of the North. “Boko Haram has taken advantage and exploited a leadership vacuum that has existed among the ulama in the North,” he said.
He criticised the handling by the federal and state governments of the early days of Boko Haram, observing: “Too many misjudgements, miscalculations, wrong policy decision and choices, inertia at the highest levels inexorably sucked this movement into violence.”
Former Senate President, Dr. Ken Nnamani, chaired the Convocation Lecture where the newly appointed UNN Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Mr. Emmanuel Chukwukah Ukala (SAN), made his first appearance at a public function in the school. UNN Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bartho Okolo, announced that the 43rd Convocation would be his last as VC as he would be leaving office in a few months.
Okolo said the UNN Convocation Lecture had become notable as a thought leadership platform because of the calibre of speakers it attracts. He added: “Over the years, our convocation lecture has served as a forum for candid and cerebral discuss of topics of national and global interest. Consequently, the honour of delivering the convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria has been reserved for men and women of admirable stature and exceptional accomplishments. Over the years, our convocation lectures have been delivered by former Heads of State, ministers, technocrats and captains of industry, who met our typically stringent criteria.”
Okolo remarked that the success of the Convocation lectures mirrors the success of university management under his leadership. He stated: “As my administration prepares to step aside, I remain very proud of what we have achieved at the University of Nigeria. Even the pessimists admit that under my watch, our university has experienced an unprecedented growth in the state of infrastructure and scholarship as well as given a significant boost to the level and quality of human capital resource available to drive the operations of the university. Our environment is also cleaner and more befitting and the profile of our university has never been higher. I am strongly optimistic that if this pace of investments in infrastructure and scholarship is sustained over the years, our university would not only have regained lost grounds, but would have caught up with her peers in the global academic terrain.”
•Photo shows Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike.
Source News Express