BISHOP KUKA

IN May 2017, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, the Most Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, offered to train the estimated over ten million street urchins in the Muslim North, popularly known as Almajiris, in skill acquisitions of their choice.

*Bishop Kukah
According to Kukah at a forum for the promotion of inter-religious harmony held in Minna, Niger State: “One of the greatest concerns in Nigeria now is to get the Almajiri children off the streets.

“The (Kukah) Centre will soon sign a (Memorandum) of Understanding with a foreign partner to make sure we get the Almajiri children off the streets”.

Since then, the Bishop has been assailed by scathing criticisms, especially from Muslim groups, highly-placed political figures, opinion leaders and intellectuals of Northern origin because they feel that this offer is a ploy to convert these Muslim children to Christianity.

A Muslim rights group, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, through its Scribe, Professor Ishaq Lakin Akintola, declared: “We welcome ideas from everyone but the implementation must be in the hands of Muslims in the region. Any other thing will make the intention questionable.

“We cannot pretend to be so na├»ve as to entrust our Muslim children to Christian gospellers”.

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Even Bishop Kukah himself knows it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the Muslim community to allow him carry out this obvious humanitarian project aimed at giving meaning to the lives of today’s destitute children and tomorrow’s social time bombs.

Besides, the hawks can easily capitalise on Section 38(2) of the Constitution to ensure Kukah is not allowed to “tamper” with these Muslim pupils.

It says: “No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or take part in any religious ceremony or observance of such instruction, ceremony or observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than that of his own or a religion not approved by his parent or guardian”.

There is no way a humanitarian organisation tied to a Christian religious leader such as the Kukah Centre can dabble into the affairs of Almajiris or Islamic pupils without its being seen as a religious fishing.

This, however, in no way masks the main objective of Kukah’s intervention, which is to build the capacity of these street beggars and remove Nigeria from the odious stigma of harbouring the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

Nigeria is one of the few places in the world where the Almajiri system is operational. The system should be abolished and these children of the downtrodden given free conventional or vocational education to permanently escape poverty.

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