Almajiri

I recently learned a new word. We already were familiar with “madrassa,” which is an Islamic school. An “Almajiri” is also an Islamic school. The word comes from Nigeria and specifically refers to a boarding school. Almajiris are in the news because the Nigerian military recently raided a number of schools.

This has been building up for months. President Buhari spoke against the Almajirai in speeches in June and July. There was a fanfare that quickly faltered in August, about some reforms in government schools.

But for a month now, Nigeria has been rocked by raids on private schools, almajirai, and the exposure led to additional raids, with some school owners, headmasters and teachers arrested, and other owners, headmasters and teachers on the run. It turned out that stolen children were being hidden in several almajirai, kept as slaves in shackles, and, in some cases, subjected to rape in addition to beatings.

It is really frustrating trying to track this down. One reason is that fake news is not just an American phenomenon. I went to a couple of newspaper websites, for example DailyTrust, based in Abuja, and found only one article there about the raids on almajirai. That article focused on one almajiri that had been putting itself forward as a “reform school” for parents of wayward boys who were taking drugs and were discipline problems. Covering the raids on those other schools might have embarrassed the government.

Because these are mostly Islamic schools, they have a distinctive practice that seems odd to Christians. They teach humility by sending the students out into the streets to beg for money for food. This seems odd to me, particularly considering that there are plenty of child beggars in the Nigerian streets who are not going to school at all. UNICEF estimates nearly eleven million children in Nigeria are not in any kind of regular school, with 80 percent of them in the north half (the Muslim half) of Nigeria.

The reason that they are Islamic schools is because Christian schools were targeted, shot up, raided, harrassed, threatened, and burned by Boko Haram so that the only remaining Christian schools in the north half of Nigeria are in the biggest cities and located near police stations.

What the recent police raids found was that, kept hidden in many of the almajirai, were stolen children. They were mostly kids taken from Christian villiages in Boko Haram raids, and stashed in these little desolate boarding schools until they could be sold into slavery. These are overwhelmingly boys. In fact, when they were surprised to find 22 girls in one of the early raids, it made the news and got picked up as a story in Christian niche media. I posted about that last week.

In summary, I suppose I have to report this as a good news story, in that the overall picture is the Nigerian police making some progress at closing down abusive “schools” that were fronts for slave trading. In addition, several hundred young people are getting returned to their families, though, in most cases, their families cannot afford to feed them and they will end up begging again, only without any education going on.

7+
avataravataravataravataravataravataravatar

22 thoughts on “Almajiri”

  1. Oct 23 editorial praises police for recovering stolen children https://allafrica.com/stories/201910230599.html

    Oct 23 police raids

    https://www.christianpost.com/news/over-1000-victims-freed-abusive-islamic-reform-centers-northern-nigeria.html

    Oct 23

    https://www.voanews.com/africa/they-were-supposed-learn-be-good-muslims-instead-they-were-abused

    Oct 17. School of neglected beggars

    http://saharareporters.com/2019/10/17/left-rot-sad-tales-sokoto%E2%80%99s-almajiri-schools

    “UNICEF said, “Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. “Only 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.

    In the North of the country, the picture is even bleaker with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent. Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge. “In North-East and North-West states, 29 per cent and 35 per cent of Muslim children respectively receive Qur’anic education, which does not include basic skills such as literacy and numeracy. “The government considers children attending such schools to be officially out-of-school.”

    Oct 16

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7580845/500-men-boys-freed-Nigerian-Islamic-school.html

    “Police freed about 500 men and boys from a third Islamic school, many of whom had been chained to walls, molested and beaten, police sources said. 

    The raid in Katsina, northern Nigeria on Wednesday was the third such operation in less than a month, bringing the total of people freed from abusive conditions this month alone to about 1,000.  

    President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is under pressure to take urgent action to free the potentially thousands of other children who remain in similar schools across Nigeria.

    Oct 15. Police raid on a reform school

    https://guardian.ng/news/police-seal-torture-centre-as-youths-protest-against-mistreatment-in-katsina/

    “Known as Malam Bello Mai Almajiri ‘rehabilitation center’ after the name of the centre’s owner, the school before now receives wayward children and youths for correction using religious principles.

    The school, which had been operating for more than a decade, had had 360 youths who were brought in by their parents and wards from various states and countries, including Niger Republic and Cameroon.

    But following the protest, 30 of them escaped while over 200 escaped yesterday, leaving only 65 at centre, a development that made the police to seal off the facility yesterday and arrested its owner and two of his staff members.

    Speaking shortly after inspecting the school, the state Commissioner of Police (CP), Sanusi Buba said the facility was closed down, as it does not have the capacity to sustain the dissidents.

    Buba confirmed that several of the youths were sodomised and beaten like slaves and that six of them had died due to the kind of conditions under which they were kept.

    He lamented that those who were supposed to be training and correcting the youths, engaged in sodomy with them, adding that some of them escaped following the protest.

    Our preliminary investigation showed that the place belongs to Bello. He has been a Koranic teacher for a very long time and he has been around here for close to 40 years.

    From here he graduated to the level of collecting children for rehabilitation, some of them are under-aged, while others of adult age were brought here by their parents supposedly to rehabilitate them.

    Unfortunately, as you can see the place, small rooms of about six rooms, each accommodates over 40 of them with chains and subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment unbecoming of a civilised rehabilitation centre,” he said.

    He explained that when the Police attention was drawn to the development, he mobilised his men to seal off the facility, and also directed the AC CID to get details and arrest the owners of the facility including Bello.

     

    1+
    avatar
  2. Oh dear MJB, a “feel good” story? 😦

    I admire your scholarship on the actual, contemporary practices of adherents of this benighted creed.  It confirms the received knowledge on the subject, which might otherwise be dismissed as mere prejudice and superstition.

    The facts are, as you remind us, even worse than what we assume.

    6+
    avataravataravataravataravataravatar
  3. I would think slavery can only exist where it is supported by law. Or where there is corrupt cooperation/ turning a blind eye by law enforcement, and the slavery is supported and enforced by powerful extralegal organizations.

    Pardon  my ignorance, but is there anywhere “market slavery” is legal? Where you can hold legal title to another person? When I hear of modern slavery it is either actually operated by the government holding people prisoner, or a criminal operation and the government is too weak, corrupt, or unaware to stop it.

    3+
    avataravataravatar
  4. Jojo:
    I would think slavery can only exist where it is supported by law. Or where there is corrupt cooperation/ turning a blind eye by law enforcement, and the slavery is supported and enforced by powerful extralegal organizations.

    Pardon  my ignorance, but is there anywhere “market slavery” is legal? Where you can hold legal title to another person? When I hear of modern slavery it is either actually operated by the government holding people prisoner, or a criminal operation and the government is too weak, corrupt, or unaware to stop it.

    Judging by the studious disinterest of our own corrupt media, I would say it’s inevitable.

    5+
    avataravataravataravataravatar
  5. Jojo:
    I would think slavery can only exist where it is supported by law. Or where there is corrupt cooperation/ turning a blind eye by law enforcement, and the slavery is supported and enforced by powerful extralegal organizations.

    Pardon  my ignorance, but is there anywhere “market slavery” is legal? Where you can hold legal title to another person? When I hear of modern slavery it is either actually operated by the government holding people prisoner, or a criminal operation and the government is too weak, corrupt, or unaware to stop it.

    Well, the Sahara Desert nations of Africa have generally signed onto United Nations statements that make slavery illegal.   But, otherwise, they do not have laws or ordinances that make slavery illegal.   Since it is expected, condoned, and perhaps encouraged, in the Hadith, Muslims generally do not oppose slavery on principle.

    And jihadiis in particular favor slavery.  Mohammed sold the wives and children of the prisoners of war he had had murdered.  If you are going to murder people to advance the Ummah, then slavery is actually the more peaceful option.

    6+
    avataravataravataravataravataravatar
  6. Hypatia:
    Oh dear MJB, a “feel good” story? 😦

    I admire your scholarship on the actual, contemporary practices of adherents of this benighted creed.  It confirms the received knowledge on the subject, which might otherwise be dismissed as mere prejudice and superstition.

    The facts are, as you remind us, even worse than what we assume.

    Yes, sadly, a “happy news” story.   Over a thousand children were taken from almajirai to be returned to their parents.   As near as I can tell, a little over half of them were sent to those schools by their parents.   The rest were stolen children.

    At least two thousand children are on the run, hopefully to make their ways home.   In several of the raids, as soon as the police came in the front door, many students hopped out the nearest window and fled into the bush.   That is not a surprising response; in Nigeria, you probably do not trust the police, or, if you see the police arrive in force, you may expect a gun battle to soon erupt with either criminal gangs or Boko Haram.

    2+
    avataravatar
  7. MJBubba:
    As near as I can tell, a little over half of them were sent to those schools by their parents.

    “Sold” is probably not too far off the mark.

    3+
    avataravataravatar
  8. Haakon Dahl:
    Not that the NYT can be bothered about *actual* slavery taking place *right now*.

    Of course.  Conveying the news about actual contemporary slavery would not serve to advance the anti-American narrative, nor would it exacerbate the white guilt movement that floats a myriad of mischief from the multi-culti SJWs.

    5+
    avataravataravataravataravatar
  9. Jojo:
    Pardon  my ignorance, but is there anywhere “market slavery” is legal? Where you can hold legal title to another person? When I hear of modern slavery it is either actually operated by the government holding people prisoner, or a criminal operation and the government is too weak, corrupt, or unaware to stop it.

    There are degrees of slavery and, as with most things in the modern world, they are more nuanced than in classical times.  Every time I cite my paper “Slave Lives”, where I present an argument by Phil Salin that there is a continuum between coercive taxation for “public goods” which do not directly benefit the taxpayer and chattel slavery, I get a strong push-back from people calling me a “radical anarchist”—guilty as charged, milord.

    But consider the circumstance of Filipino and other foreign domestic servants in the Gulf states.  Now, there aren’t, as in the old days, Arab slavers abducting these people (mostly young women) and carrying them off.  Instead, they are recruited with promises of pay well beyond anything they can earn in their home countries, which they can remit to their families or save as a nest egg when they return.  Upon arrival, their passports are held “for security”, and they are subjected to all kinds of abuse, and may be denied freedom to return (perhaps until “they can pay for it”).  Now, there is no formal contract of indenture or title of property as a slave, but is this person a slave, in effect?  Well, I’d say, probably around 90% along the spectrum.

    Now, consider a H1-B visa worker in the tech industry in the U.S.  These people are recruited with promise of pay much greater than they can earn in their home countries, which they can remit to their families or save as a nest egg when they return.  In the U.S., they often replace or displace citizen workers who would not take the jobs except at a substantially higher salary.  The H1-B workers often live in substandard conditions: six or seven sharing a small apartment.  Critically, their visa is tied to the employer who obtained it for them.  They cannot quit and take another job without losing the visa which allows them to live and work in the U.S.  This gives the employer great leverage over these workers which it does not have with citizens or permanent residents who can quit at any time and take another job down the street.  The H-1B worker is free to quit, but then they have to leave the U.S. and pay their way home.  Are these people slaves?  Well, I’d say they are on the continuum, maybe 30% to 40% along the way to complete slavery.

    I mention these because they are not edge cases in unstable parts of Africa, but situations involving hundreds of thousands of people in “developed countries”.

    8+
    avataravataravataravataravataravataravataravatar
  10. Haakon Dahl:

    MJBubba:
    As near as I can tell, a little over half of them were sent to those schools by their parents.

    “Sold” is probably not too far off the mark.

    These are poor people.   In most cases the parents paid a few Nigerian naira (₦) and sent a younger son off to almajiri.  (The word can refer to a student as well as to the school.)   That is an easy way to reduce the number of people who need to be regularly fed.

    At the poorer almajiri, students go out and beg for their food.

    These schools are recruiting centers for Boko Haram.

    1+
    avatar
  11. Voice of America has an interesting interview with the mother of the leader of Boko Haram.   She is really sad, regrets his choice, and has not seen her son in 15 years.

    Falmata says she can never curse her son, but he has become someone who she doesn’t recognize anymore.

    “He just took his own character and went away,” she said. “This is not the character I gave him. I don’t know what this type of behavior is. It’s only God who knows.”

    https://www.voanews.com/africa/voa-interview-mother-boko-haram-leader-speaks-out

    Her son is Abubakar Shekau.   Police have reported that they killed him at least five times in the past decade.   He is known to have been shot on at least two occasions.

    …security analyst Ryan Cummings commented, “Is this his fourth or fifth death? He dies more often than an iPhone battery.”[26]

    You can read his thumbnail bio at Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abubakar_Shekau

    The VOA interview with his mother included a reference to the government school for girls at Dapchi.  Back in February, Boko Haram kidnapped a hundred girls.   They released all the Muslim girls and all the other girls who were willing to make a perfunctory conversion to Islam.

    One girl held out.  Leah Sharibu is still a Boko Haram hostage.   She would not renounce her faith in Jesus.

    Voice of America followed up with a story about the Dapchi schoolgirls.   They also found Leah Sharibu’s mother:

    These days, Rebecca often finds herself going into her daughter’s bedroom to cry.

    https://www.voanews.com/africa/fear-still-grips-dapchi-girls-school-nigeria

    4+
    avataravataravataravatar
  12. John Walker:
    Now, consider a H1-B visa worker in the tech industry in the U.S.  These people are recruited with promise of pay much greater than they can earn in their home countries, which they can remit to their families or save as a nest egg when they return.  In the U.S., they often replace or displace citizen workers who would not take the jobs except at a substantially higher salary.  The H1-B workers often live in substandard conditions: six or seven sharing a small apartment.  Critically, their visa is tied to the employer who obtained it for them.  They cannot quit and take another job without losing the visa which allows them to live and work in the U.S.  This gives the employer great leverage over these workers which it does not have with citizens or permanent residents who can quit at any time and take another job down the street.  The H-1B worker is free to quit, but then they have to leave the U.S. and pay their way home.  Are these people slaves?  Well, I’d say they are on the continuum, maybe 30% to 40% along the way to complete slavery.

    Indentured servants. Cruise ship, anybody ?

    5+
    avataravataravataravataravatar
  13. I am by no means a scholar on Africa, but under the realm of “what little I do know frightens me a great deal”, I’ve come to understand that in the US we have little to no understanding of all of the dynamics over there.  In most cases the tribe is much more important than the nation, for instance.

    I went on a 1 month church trip to Uganda in 2009.  It was 2 years after the LRA had been pushed into the Congo.  We spent 2 nights in Gulu, which had been the epicenter and HQ for the LRA in Uganda.  I knew a little about the “civil war” that had gone on, but I have to say that I was grateful to have not read this book until after I returned.  These kids were basically  at around 150% on John’s slavery continuum.

    The US gives close to $1B per year to Uganda, and yet won’t allow any goods (primarily agricultural) from there to be imported to here.  The vast majority of the money goes into the pockets of the politicians.  What infrastructure there is gets support primarily from the Chinese, Arabs, and Christian charitable organizations.  If you converse with people they will not tell you that they are Ugandan, Kenyan, or Tanzanian – they’ll tell you that they are Maasai, or Bagandan, or Acholi.

    I came back from there with a feeling of almost total helplessness.  I could provide some money to support some orphans at an orphanage we visited.  And then I found out that the same orphanage is “supported” by no less than 4 different US church groups – many of the “orphans” were just neighborhood kids who gather there during the day.

    My heart still hurts for the plight of so many of the people, but I’m at a loss as to what I can do to help other than praying for them.

    6+
    avataravataravataravataravataravatar
  14. Allow me to present a counter-point and a defense of Western Civilization — but I repeat myself.  There must be a line somewhere and indeed there is a line.  The ability to sign a contract, which Libertarians adore, would not exist without the ability to voluntarily incur a debt.  Much goodness flows from this.  There are legal restrictions on what can and what cannot be contracted.  Naturally, these restrictions on the power of contracts require a nasty ol’ state to arbitrate the thing, and THIS is why the laws which underpin the whole arrangement matter, and why one country is not the same as another merely by dint of being a country.

    God Bless America (and the Anglosphere in general), and to Hell with most of the rest.

    9+
    avataravataravataravataravataravataravataravataravatar
  15. Great Adventure:
    The US gives close to $1B per year to Uganda, and yet won’t allow any goods (primarily agricultural) from there to be imported to here.  The vast majority of the money goes into the pockets of the politicians.

    The reason Africa is poor and has always been poor is corruption.

    It is very unfortunate that large parts of Africa were colonized by Arabs and the French (and Belgium and Portugal).   Those colonial masters did nothing to root out corruption, but simply took advantage of it.

    The parts of Africa that have the most stable economies were all British colonies.   The English colonial masters were much less tolerant of corruption.

    It seems to me to be un-helpful to buy stability that does nothing to address corruption.   The U.S. is wasting our money.

    4+
    avataravataravataravatar
  16. Great Adventure:
    The US gives close to $1B per year to Uganda, and yet won’t allow any goods (primarily agricultural) from there to be imported to here.

    That was a political bargain.   Our politicians were unwilling to provide aid to foreign farmers who could then compete with American farmers.

    4+
    avataravataravataravatar
  17. MJBubba:

    These days, Rebecca often finds herself going into her daughter’s bedroom to cry.

    By happenstance, it turns out that today is a day for prayers for Leah Sharibu.

    https://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/religious-freedom-advocates-churches-believers-rally-prayer-leah-sharibu-oct-26

    They held a prayer vigil for Miss Sharibu this afternoon:

    WHO: Save the Persecuted Christians, the Leah Foundation, religious persecution survivor Mariam Ibraheem and other concerned believers

    WHAT: Global Prayer Vigil for Leah Sharibu

    WHERE: U.S. Capitol, First Street SE, Washington, D.C., Reflecting Pool (west side)

    WHEN: 1 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 26

    WHY: To pray for Leah Sharibu, a schoolgirl kidnapped and kept as a “Slave for Life” by Boko Haram for refusing to renounce her Christianity

    Read more at World Religion News: “Religious Freedom Advocates, Churches and Believers Rally in Prayer for Leah Sharibu on Oct. 26” https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=64222

    Dear God in Heaven; Father, Son and Spirit.  Please look with favor on your child Leah, a prisoner on account of her brave testimony of her faith.  Bless her with health, strength, comfort and peace.  And please bring about her rescue and restore her to freedom and her family.  We pray this in confidence that You will bring her to a bright Day of restoration.

    Amen.

    3+
    avataravataravatar
  18. MJBubba:
    The reason Africa is poor and has always been poor is corruption.

    That is part of it but it’s not the whole story. This begs the question, why is Africa corrupt? Corruption and poverty are covariants that have deeper causes. Three guesses for what those might be.

    3+
    avataravataravatar
  19. Some sensible thinkers have pointed out that the question is not why people or governments would be corrupt (acting only for their own personal immediate advantage)- that is obvious. The question is what makes an individual or government behave honorably and ethically, sacrificing the personal or short term benefit in order to achieve or maintain a larger benefit in the future. That is amazing and wonderful, and always vulnerable to backsliding.

    2+
    avataravatar
  20. Jojo:
    The question is what makes an individual or government behave honorably and ethically, sacrificing the personal or short term benefit in order to achieve or maintain a larger benefit in the future.

    Economists call it “time preference”, and it correlates strongly with that same unspeakable factor which, as noted in comment #20, also correlates with corruption and poverty.

    3+
    avataravataravatar

Leave a Reply