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Covid-19: Northern govs ban almajiri system

…Ask states to decide on border control, lockdown measures

Governors across northern states have agreed to ban the almajiri system as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This formed part of the discussion at a meeting convened via teleconference by Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, and chairman of the Northern governors’ Forum, on Tuesday.

The meeting had 17 governors in attendance.

Makut Simon Macham, director of press and public affairs to the Plateau governor, disclosed details of the meeting in a press statement issued on Tuesday night.

The statement reads in part: “On border control and lockdown measures, the Northern Governors retained their earlier decision for the States to individually decide on the measure to adopt, but reaffirmed the need for border closures to stop the inter-state spread of the disease, which is rising in the region.

“The Governors also discussed the risk that Almajiri children are exposed to because of the Coronavirus disease where they unanimously decided to totally ban the Almajiri system and evacuate the children to their parents or states of origin.

“They agreed to take a cue from Kano, Kaduna and Nasarawa States who have begun returning Almajiri children to families and States of origin, while those within their States who do not have parents are taken care of by the Government.

“They vowed never to allow the system to persist any longer because of the social challenges associated with it, including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.”

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Lalong also said he had discussed with President Muhammadu Buhari concerning the need for the region to access special funding, palliatives, testing centres and other forms of support to assist the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governors were also said to have discussed about COVID-19 testing centres within the north, advocating that all states in the region should have at least one centre.

Meanwhile, a forum of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) under the aegis of ‘Advocates for Dan Almajiri,’ has called on the Federal Government to provide for Almajiri children in its Coronavirus (COVID-19) response plan.

A position paper made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) by the forum, on Tuesday in Lokoja, said that the inclusion was necessary to prevent possible outbreak of Coronavirus disease among the Almajiri children.

The forum of five NGOs, comprising Plan International Nigeria, Street Child, Riplington Education Initiative (REI), Almajiri Child Rights Initiatives and ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), said the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases to more than 600 across Nigeria had raised great concern.

It lauded the palliative measures being rolled out by government at various levels with support from the private sector but decried the exclusion of Almajiri children.

The Almajiri children, the forum noted, are already exposed to poor health conditions with very high probability of contracting the virus if not adequately secured, given their situation.

“According to a 2014 report by UNICEF, Almajiri constitute 9.5 million of the country’s children within the ages of 3-14.

“While it is laudable that government is investing resources to maintain law and order during the pandemic, there is no evidence of special attention to issues affecting children.

“The Almajiri and other street kids are more vulnerable in periods of emergency which offer a supportive environment for potential predators, ” the statement said.

It described Almajiri as itinerant children sent by their parents from far and near across the country to Quranic teachers to mentor them in Islamic religious knowledge.

It said that most times, they are left to fend for themselves and to survive through street begging and scavenging.

“The Almajiri children are far removed from all major sources of information on COVID-19 and the opportunity of parental guidance on the messages and guidelines.

“Implication of this is that they are not able to protect themselves and will not be able to observe any social or physical distancing or access medical services should they contract the virus,” It added.

The forum also called for the expansion of the social register to include the Almajiri children in the provision and distribution of food, non-food items and cash palliatives at strategic locations close to them.

It also recommended provision of temporary shelter and proper safety, protection for children on transit in line with child protection and safeguarding principles.

The protocol, according to the Forum, should be in line with the Convention on the Rights of Children, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other conventions ratified by the country.

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Ada Ada

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