The Federal Government is considering banning the Almajiri system of education and replace it with its formal system of nine years of basic education to stem the tide of growling number of street urchins, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, disclosed on Thursday.
Other groups that have caused the festering of street urchins will also be proscribed by government.
Monguno spoke to State House correspondents after the National Economic Council (NEC) was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari and a meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was held.
Monguno appeared to be expanding on President Buhari’s position urging State Governors to “enforce very vigorously” free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
The President also urged the Governors to pay special attention to security, health and agriculture in the next four years of this administration.
Said Buhari, ‘‘Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.
‘‘Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
‘‘It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.
‘‘This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum.
‘‘If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves,’’ the President said in his 24-paragraph speech at the inaugural session of NEC.
The President told the Governors that successes in the four key areas of education, security, health and agriculture would go a long in lifting Nigerians out poverty, and securing the future for sustainable growth and development.
He also pointed out that drivers of insecurity in the country included unemployment, poverty and increasing population.
At the close of the NEC meeting, Monguno gave an insight into his contributions: “I also made suggestions regarding the way forward which include, employment creation and reduction of poverty, and being the culture of impunity and looking at stabilizing certain areas of the country by giving rise to affordable education.
“This is very important because in most parts of the country we have a lot of children roaming around without any formal education. And as the President has mentioned earlier when he was inaugurating the national economic council, we need to make education compulsory and free for every child in the country.
“Because the problem we face today are rooted in the fact that a lot of people who have been denied the opportunity basically the opportunity to get formal education end up over the years, there is accumulation of large mass of human beings who end up becoming criminals, drug addicts and so on and so forth.
“And they end up becoming tools to be used by elements in the wider society who have very dangerous intentions.
“And therefore, it is very important to proscribed certain groups ultimately running around under the guise of maybe getting some kind of education that is not really formal and then begin to cause a lot of problems for society.” he added
On Almajiri groups, he said “The group I spoke about on illiteracy is the Almajiri. Ultimately, government will have to proscribe the Almajiri phenomena, because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become a problem to society.
“We are not saying that they are going to be contained in a manner, that you might think we want to do something that is harmful to them, no.
“What we want to do is to work with the state government to enforce the policy of education for every child. It is every child’s right, his entitlement so long as he is a Nigerian.
“If you recall what happened in the Western region, I think in the fifties and the sixties, when the Premier made education free and compulsory at both primary and secondary levels.
“This is what we are looking at. Let me tell you something, one of the element of national power is the population of a country. You don’t just rely on your armed forces, the location and so on and so forth. The population is a very critical element of national power. It is from the population that you get a critical mass.
“Imagine the child that was ten years old on 27th July, 2009, in 37 days time, it will exactly one year when Boko Haram erupted. We are not talking of one child, there are millions of them. So, when we look at population, as an element of National security, don’t be surprised if out of every 100 Almajiri, you have two neurologists, four architects, two lawyers, and so on and so forth.
“If you don’t start thinking short and long term, to overcome this problem, like I told you earlier on, to overcome this problem, you require collective efforts. You can’t carry this load and drop it on top of the government, even government should not work as a one-legged tripod, it has to be three-legged.
“We have to deal with the issue of these children, Almajiri, regardless of how people feel about it. We must work in sync with the rest of international communities, how many countries that operate this kind of system.
“Let be very, very sincere to ourselves, we have to look at this issue that we have been sweeping under the carpet. So, when I briefed the NEC, I alerted them on the dangers of this phenomenon and the President in inaugurating NEC also stressed that we must make education free and compulsory. We are not trying to denigrate any group of people”.