Northern governors Education (UBEC), Prof. Ahmed Mohammed Modibbo, made the allegation at the weekend.
He spoke at a lecture with the theme: “Before the Ban on the Almajiri System of Education in Nigeria”. It was organised by the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had in an attempt to address the problems of the Almajiris in the region, spent billions of Naira for the construction of more than 100 model schools, purposely for the integration of the system with basic education.
However, the schools are said to be rotting away, as they have not been put to use since they were constructed years ago.
Prof. Modibbo said the schools were abandoned by state governments because they wanted to be given cash to build the schools.
He said: “The state governors left the schools unoccupied, abandoned and vandalised because most state governments refused to even take them over, let alone fulfilling their own obligations contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government.
“The state governments were not happy with the decision of the Federal Government to undertake the project through UBEC and the Education Tax Fund (ETF), as they wanted the money to be given to them so that they could nominate contractors for the project.
“That episode was the last in the history of woeful failures to address the challenge of mainstreaming the Islamic system of education, thereby catering for the multitude of mainly children of the poor in the North who often migrate far from their homes following their itinerant malams and surviving on charity.”
Recalling the genesis of the Almajiri phenomenon in the North, Modibbo, a professor of history, said it was an off-shoot of the quest for Islamic education from the 8th century which continued to flourish through numerous Qur’anic schools.
He said Qur’anic teachers of that time were sustained by “Zakat” and other forms of taxes, managed by the religious authority, such that by 1900, there was an estimated 250,000 pupils in 20,000 schools in the region.
He said the system witnessed a “final blow” when the colonial administration halted support to Islamic education in 1922 following the establishment of the first teacher training college in Katsina.
“Since then, there have been several initiatives to address the challenges of the Islamic system of education, beginning with the 1962 special committee set up by the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who visited Egypt, Sudan and Libya to study their models and submitted recommendations in a report, but was short-lived, denied of government funding in the turmoil of 1966-68.
“Unfortunately, we missed an opportunity to establish a system that will provide not only manpower but also scholars of high standing comparable to those in other parts of the world where the system worked well.
“Today they stand shoulders high in producing scholars through such systems. Ours was subverted, truncated, left to rot and decay,” Modibbo said.
The event, which was chaired by Mallam Adamu Fika, chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), was attended by representatives of some of the governors.