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Almajirai in Kano’s Colony of Affliction

The Kano State Orientation Camp of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) situated in Karaye, Karaye Local Government Area, was recently “dressed up” as an isolation centre for COVID-19 patients.

But with the Almajirai becoming the unsurprising official punching bag of governors in Northern Nigeria in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre has been turned into a colony for the stray, helpless street children.

The Karaye camp, upon a visit by HumAngle on Monday, May, 18, 2020, stuck out like a sore thumb, a kind of a colony of the leprous dregs of society. It was, at the same time, a reflection of the empty gauge of empathy in the public space in the governance circle.

HumAngle was alerted of a grave situation among the Almajirai in the camp through an anonymously recorded video. On arrival at the camp, the reporter managed to get into vital viewing distance.

The children were found in no organised form. There was no evidence of medical personnel on ground. The camp was a sort of a holding camp to sort those arriving from other states and to determine who, in the crowd, would be deported to another state (considered to be his state of origin).

The camp immediately painted to the first time visitor the troubling impression of a holding camp for slaves preparatory to their being taken to the market for sale. The only difference seemed to be the energy of the children that seemed to mock their uncertain fate.

While some lay on any available space to sleep, several others ran around playing. What was in sight was not significantly different from what HumAngle saw in the recorded video.

The video clip

The video footage shows hundreds of young Almajirai reading from the Quran together while a voice lamented about their sorry plight at their bay.

Screen shot from the clip
Screen shot from the clip

“These are Almajirai taken from their schools and brought to Karaye NYSC Camp. They are here, sad and traumatised, with no access to drinking water,” the voice in the video claimed.

“We heard of no plan from the (Kano State) government to evacuate them. The boys are crying and their parents are in trauma. It is worrisome.

“The boys are more than 1,370 here. You should pray for us. Whoever (is) with (the) means to help us in releasing these children should please assist them while they are in trouble.

“Some of them are not fasting but they couldn’t get food to eat. Even for those who fast, they are not given enough food to break it with. Please pray for us,” the voice concluded.

At the camp, HumAngle saw several Almajirai and some adults who were presumably officials. There were also security personnel. No one followed the cautionary ethos and advisory by medical people in the camp.

In the camp there was neither the practice of face masking nor social distancing. The two police officers at the gate wore no face mask either. The presence of the reporter did not create any problem until the attempt to factcheck the claims in the video.

On learning that a reporter was in their midst the officials accosted him, invited the security personnel who ordered the reporter out. The official declared that they were under strict instruction not to let any journalist into the camp.

The coordinator guarding the Almajirai in the camp refused all entreaties by the reporter to use his name in any report.

The reporter also visited some Almajirai learning centres in the city and found that the state government had yet to pick up several Almajirai from their clerics.
Some clerics who spoke with HumAngle on condition of anonymity revealed that their pupils were still with them.

“The government promised to bring a bus to convey our pupils,” one cleric said and added: “We asked our pupils to pack their belongings and they did but for over a week now we have seen no bus to convey them to their destinations.”

The school, according to the teachers HumAngle held an interview with, has over 4,000 pupils.

However, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the number of Almajirai in the school has drastically reduced to less than 500 currently.

“Some of them paid for transportation to their villages,” another cleric, who also did not want his identity or the name of his centre revealed, told HumAngle.

“They can’t sustain living under the harsh condition of total lockdown with no food to beg and eat,” he said.

The cleric also informed HumAngle that some Almajirai from different schools who were taken to be reunited with their families in Katsina State were abandoned at Lambar Rimi- a village far from Katsina – with the children unable to trace their way to their families.

“Some of them have never been to their villages,” he told HumAngle. “They can’t locate their homes from the village.”

Almajirai are making their way back

HumAngle gathered that some of the Almajirai taken to isolation centres are returning to their schools. Sources said that many Almajirai were seen returning to the homes of their clerics from the isolation centre.

There are many of them who still roam the streets of Kano, particularly in the night, in spite of the official restriction of movement.

NGO supports re-uniting Almajirai with their families

Although many who are concerned about the possible spike in the spread of the novel coronavirus picked holes with the manner of the deportation of the Almajirai, an NGO, Almajiri Child Right Initiative (ACRI) has come out rooting for the exercise.

Muhammad Sabo Keana, the founder of (ACRI), believes that the relocation strategy is in line with plans to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“They (Almajirai) cannot afford to self-isolate because of hunger,” Keana told HumAngle.

“Making an effort to reunite them with their families will actually help it in controlling the pandemic.

“We sent letters to governors suggesting that. We specifically told them to relocate them or make arrangements to isolate and feed them,” he said.

Kenna added: “The relocation should have been done much earlier.

It should have been done before this time when it’s obvious that some of them are already carriers of COVID-19.”

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Aliyu Dahiru

Aliyu is an Assistant Editor at HumAngle and Head of the Radicalism and Extremism Desk. He has years of experience researching misinformation and influence operations. He is passionate about analysing jihadism in Africa and has published several articles on the topic. His work has been featured in various local and international publications.

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