'Acts of Malamta': How the former Almajirai of Northern Nigeria navigate the paradoxes of their 'everyday'
Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman
(Bishop Grosseteste University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper highlights how, through various 'acts of Malamta', the former Almajirai of Northern Nigeria are able to take advantage of the 'prayer economy' to situate themselves in the urban spaces within which they exist, and to navigate and even thrive amongst its economic precarity.
Paper long abstract:
The Almajiranci system of Qur'anic education in Northern Nigeria, which has become topical in recent times, sees young boys (almajirai) often sent far away from home to live with, and study the Qur'an with a teacher (Malam); which leaves many of them sometimes ending up at the mercy of the streets. It is this condition that makes many Nigerians regard the system as a harmful and retrograde system of education and socialisation, and therefore incompatible with the creation of the modern Nigerian citizenry. The existence of the terrorist organisation 'Boko Haram' has not helped either, as many former Almajirai are assumed to be members of the organisation. This paper shows how former Almajirai - graduates of these Qur'anic schools, who are now Malamai themselves, utilise several 'acts of Malamta' to present themselves as 'prayer merchants'; thereby not only finding a way of securing their relevance and existence in these spaces, but also serving the spiritual needs of many within the society, who (can) hold both simultaneously noble and degrading stereotypes of them and the education they have undergone. This relationship unveils an undercurrent of hypocrisy, which reveals a lot about the current mainstream (mis)representations of both almajirai and the Almajiranci system by the postcolonial Nigerian society.
Entanglements of informality and religion in African cities