Four years after the federal government delivered on its promise to build schools for the Almajiris, the ineffective running of these schools by state governments has hampered its vision. While most of these schools are poorly managed, others have not been opened for academic activities since they were built. Now, there are talks about bringing private organisations on board to help save the disappearing vision of the scheme.One of the states that have not put the Almajiri schools built by the FG into use is Adamawa state. The Adamawa state government has said it refused to operate those schools because of their huge operational cost. On Wednesday, the Chairman of the Adamawa State Universal Education Board, Mohammed Toungo, said: “Since 2012 up till now, they [Almajiri schools] have not commenced because the recruitment of the specialised teachers to the schools has not been done because of the expensive nature of the teachers.”
In 2012, former President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Almajiri School Project. The key aim of the programme was to provide access and equity to basic education for all Almajiri children of school age. The programme was also designed to discourage and gradually eliminate itinerant begging by Almajiris in the country. With that, the scheme sought the emergence of an enabling environment that could facilitate effective integration of Islamic discipline into the basic education programme.
Despite all these good plans for the Almajiris, the project has since not lived up to expectation. The federal government said it spent N5 billion to build 35 model Almajiri primary schools in18 out of 19 northern states in the country. 10 boarding schools and 25 day schools. According to the government, these schools are different from 51 others that were being put in place by the National Universal Education Commission (UBEC).
Following the completion of these projects, the federal government handed the schools over to their respective state governments without realizing that the project would go moribund. Years after, these schools have not been operational in some states.
Although the excuse that these schools are not operational due to the huge cost of running them is debatable, there may be significant progress if the government creates a private partnership alliance. In Adamawa state, the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Foundation, funded in part by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has improved Almajiri education. Barely eight months after AUN and USAID launched the ‘Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) ’, the Adamawa state government said it has educated 22,000 children. This is way more than 420 Almajiris, the maximum number of students the schools built by the federal government would cater for.
Apparently, the federal and state governments need to revisit and restructure the Almajiri school project. The restructured version should be able to accommodate more Almajiris, even at a low cost like TELA. Thereafter, the government can make the project a Public Private Partnership (PPP). That way, more children are reached and the cost of operation is not borne by state governments alone.