By Dr. Aderonke Kujore
Earlier, the House of Representatives Basic Education Committee held a hearing on the bill to establish a NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR ALMAJIRI EDUCATION AND OUT OF SCHOOL CHILDREN. The hearing was contentious and highlighted opposing views from those who advocated the bill, and those who opposed that it wasn’t needed. This bill was sponsored by 18 Muslim members of the House of Representatives and backed by many Islamic organizations while it was opposed by the Ministry of Education, the Christian Association of Nigeria, and a few others.
Everyone had valid points as to why their perspectives were rational but what was clear was that no side was really listening to the other. It almost seemed like a religious divide.
Nigeria has over 15 million out-of-school children, many of whom are Almajiri, and at risk of growing to pose the risk of further serious insecurity across the country. Both sides are aware of this risk and are very concerned about it but neither side has listened long enough to the other to truly get to a point where they can work together to create a bill that is a win-win for all stakeholders.
In leadership, the ability to truly listen beyond words to hear the heart of the people is vital for creating trust and followership. Empathy, another key trait of good leaders, is often the prerequisite for proper listening.
Understanding that the risk of extremism, banditry, and terrorism stares Nigeria in the face as the days go by, both sides must summon empathy for each other and truly listen so that they can come together to broker a bill that gets support from both sides of the aisle. It cannot be the North versus South, Christian versus Muslim, or you versus me approach.
The Almajiri are Nigeria’s children just as much as the non-Almajiri. Both sides must come together to work together for the good of the children and the country at large. It is only then that the House of Representatives will be able to progress something monumental regarding Almajiri and out-of-school education.
Dr. Aderonke Kujore Adelekan is a leadership development expert, author, and philanthropist. A lot of her work is focused on raising a new generation of leaders who are ethically competent and have a spirit for serving their nation.