He is cute, really cute with very beautiful eyes; although he looked so pale. So I could not but notice him…..he had been sitting on the floor struggling seriously with a bowl…from a distance I could only guess what he was doing. And then I moved closer. Too close I would say now, because I really didn’t bargain for what I saw. I would have guessed he was playing but for the passion and determination in his eyes as he tried to get rid of the thousands of stones, sand grains and tiny particles just to get the ‘gold’ which would not fill a small tin can. He had gone to a rice market and had packed the leakages from the floor and he was struggling to sieve through and bring out the rice.
‘Mai sunan ka? I asked him in Hausa, ‘Musa’ he replied…’Gashi’, I said, stretching my hand forward to give him a meagre N50. N50 could buy him something to fill his tiny stomach but N50 would not buy him something to enrich his body, something a growing child like him needs.
Musa is just one of the staggering numbers of children in Maiduguri who have been homeless and probably forgotten by the society. These large numbers of children in great need of so many things: shelter, clothing, food, love to mention a few roam the streets begging just to survive.
Almajirai as they are popularly called are children who come from different places in search of Islamic knowledge. Some of them come all the way from Kano, Niger, Republic of chad and several other places. Reports say that there are over 9.5 million of them in the northern region of Nigeria which counts for over 13.5% of the northern population. These children leave their family at a very young age and are entrusted in the care of Ulamas or Mallams who are supposed to impart Islamic knowledge to them. However, most often than not, they end up roaming the streets begging to fend for themselves and probably their siblings too because the Ulamas cannot afford to care for them.
By Ese Odiete
Image from hopespringsblog.wordpress.com