opinionBy Hassan B. Nagado
Exactly six months ago, the Katsina State Government launched the comprehensive Allo model scheme, a scheme that was designed to prevent Almajri students from street roaming, and begging, and instead, transform them into productive human beings that have tremendous contribution to state and national development.
Six months after the declaration and launching, over 17,000 pupils of these Qur'anic schools were so far removed from the streets and enrolled into skill acquisition programme that will by the middle of this year see its first graduates.
Under the first phase of the programme, 70 Qur'anic schools were selected across the state as pilot scheme to provide skills and other support for the pupils so as to prevent them from street begging.
The scheme which has been acclaimed as a pioneer social revolution by many social workers and NGOs will ensure the acquisition of skills in various technical areas so that by July this year at least 17.000 former Almajiris will be empowered to open businesses in the areas of fashion, auto mechanics, building etc.
Already thousands of equipments meant for the programme have been acquired and training in progress. These facilities include sewing machines, barbing equipment, generators, cap making materials and laundry facilities were provided for each school with three trainers each to train the pupils.
In addition, the state government provided food items, such as maize, rice, guinea-corn, millet, beans, sugar, cooking oil and soap as well as some cash for the purchase of soup ingredients monthly to the schools.
Teachers in these schools are also being given N10,000 monthly allowance, while two women in each of the schools are employed as cooks to ensure proper feeding of the almajiris and are being paid N3,000 monthly.
In a recent inspection that Governor described the pilot scheme as a success and expressed government's desire to continue investing in the programme which he said have started yielding positive results.
Already, the state government is working hard to see to the expansion of the programme to several other Qur'anic schools as provision of large sums of money has been made for it in the 2013 budget.
A recent statistics released by the state government showed there are 8,365 Quranic schools with 460,212 student population in the state. The recent graduation of 17.000 almajiris although a few but significant efforts, it is believed that such feat will go a long way in reducing the menace of street begging.
When the state government launched the programme on the 19th of July, 2012 a new dimension to a very long social menace bedeviling communities in northern Nigerian and has defied several interventions by state governments, NGOs and other organizations came into effect.
The Almajiris, according to studies, have reached an alarming 15 million members across the region. These classes of people moving about searching for Islamic education in largely inhumane condition as they were left by their parents and teachers to carter for themselves, and sometimes for the teachers as well.
This menace has led to several efforts by states and even of recent, the federal government through the Almajiri schools project. In Katsina state this strategy is already paying dividends with the enrolment of these 17,000 almajiris.
According to Governor Ibrahim Shema the new reform is sustainable, realistic and a model that will bring the suffering of the Almajiri to end as well as take them back to the social order where they belong as responsible citizens with a lot to contribute to the development of their country.
Under the new reform millions of Almajiris will be provided with three square meals, modern learning facilities, clothing and above all the curriculum for their training includes skills acquisition so that at the end of their studies, the students will be in position to sustain themselves thereby preventing increase in street begging.
The first phase of the programme which started with 70 selected almajiri schools in three senatorial districts of Katsina, Daura and Funtua is already bearing fruits with the removal of these 17.000 street beggars off the radar of social menaces.
Unlike several other concepts what differentiates the Katsina concept is the integrated manner that both Islamic and western education could be learned side by side while trades will also be taught as part of the curriculum in these schools.
Already with these large numbers off the streets any visitor into some of these areas will see a significant reduction in the number of street beggars, which means reduction in the number of under aged children being exposed to diseases and vulnerability to anti social influences as they move searching for food and work to sustain themselves as human beings
This project has not taken up without stakeholders input, agreement and commitment which is why several Islamic scholars, students , traditional rulers, politicians and other stakeholders continue to commend the visionary thinking of the administration of Ibrahim Shehu Shema in the conceptualization and implementation of the Allo model school idea.
It is expected that by the end of 2013 over 2 million almajiri students in Katsina state will be enrolled into the Allo model school and will begin the path of dignified life that will enable them to become responsible members of their communities.
It is believed that by the end of another six months more than 20,000 more street beggars would be taken off the streets, enrolled for skills acquisition, and be trained to become part of a productive society that will help in the much transformation agenda of the federal government.
It is these kinds of interventions that Katsina state is spearheading in the fight against social injustice, poverty and unemployment and it is agreed by all stakeholders as the most viable option to rid our society of the ills of millions of youths roaming the streets in search of livelihood.
Nagado wrote in from Unguwar Dabina, Dutsin