PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday commissioned the first model Almajiri boarding primary school at Gagi Village in Sokoto South Local Council of the state, saying the occasion marked an important milestone in the effort to provide equal access to basic education to all Nigerian children.
He said he was happy to perform the ceremony because it is a fulfilment of one of his campaign promises to provide equal access to basic education that fits into the modern, technology-driven world.
Known as the Tsangaya Model Boarding School, the President said it is the first school entirely dedicated to providing equal access to qualitative education for the Almajiri.
According to him, 9.5 million children are currently outside the conventional school system with the North-West geo-political zone alone accounting for about five million. He, therefore, stated that the model school, which integrates traditional Islamic education and conventional education, would provide a conducive atmosphere for the Almajiri to become productive and contribute their quota to national development.
A total of 35 Almajiri model schools, 10 of which are boarding schools and 25 day schools, are being built by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), which has spent N5 billion for over a year now.
President Jonathan said that according to the MoU signed between the Federal Government and the 19 participating states, the Federal Government is expected to provide funds for the construction and equipment, design the curriculum and develop the text-books as well as capacity building for teachers, while the states are expected to replicate the model schools and take over full responsibility for their management and sustenance after commissioning.
Apart from Plateau State, all the states in the North and Edo State in the South are participating in the project.
The President praised the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and other traditional rulers for their support.
He praised the Sultan particularly for donating a piece of land for the project and appealed to other communities to borrow a leaf from the royal father.
In his own speech, Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko said the Almajiri school has proved to be a worthy education project that ought to be promoted and that all local councils in the state would be encouraged to establish similar schools in their domain.
He said that the state government had already established Almajiri integrated model schools with a population of over 800 pupils.
“This effort is aimed at integrating Quranic school system with modern education in such a way that the traditional barriers to educational pursuits are systematically broken,” Wamakko said.
On his part, the Sultan said the greatest gift to bequeath to children is education, both Western and Islamic and praised the President for his support.
“We must revive the passion for education among our people and for the support of educational projects. We must encourage self-help and facilitate the setting up and sustenance of community schools. We must, above all, restore the culture of waqt (endowment) to support educational and religious institutions,” he said.
The Sultan added that the launch of the Almajiri Education Trust Fund, especially at the state level, should be pursued with vigour.