Traditional Qur’anic students (almajirai) in Nigeria: Fair game for unfair accusations?

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The enrolment of many boys and young men in traditional Quranic schools rather than in formal education has become an issue of growing concern in northern Nigeria. The almajirai, the students of such schools, have attracted attention in the context of increased attempts to universalise primary education and growing concerns about child welfare. They have also been discussed as potential ‘foot soldiers’ for violence in the context of Boko Haram. As systematic evidence does not exist to substantiate such claims, the link between almajirai and violence is often made with reference to the conditions of their upbringing. That the almajirai grow up defying the norms of ‘modern’ childhood is taken as proof of a violent predisposition. This chapter shows the problems of such reasoning. In terms of skills and future prospects, little differentiates the almajirai from other poor undereducated youth from rural households. Young people frequently move between different educational systems, which means few children are ‘pure’ almajirai. Lingering at the bottom of the status hierarchy, the almajirai often lack the power to refute unjustified accusations. These feed negative stereotypes, which may give rise to fresh accusations. Widespread prejudice and stigma are major concerns to the almajirai.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBoko Haram: Islamism, politics, security and the state in Nigeria
EditorsMarc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre Leiden
ISBN (Print)978-90-5448-135-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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