KANO | hundreds of boys are lining up waiting to get into buses which will take them away from Kano. After having noted their names and took their temperature, the largest city in the north of Nigeria evacuates these street children to protect them from the sars coronavirus.
Most of them are students of koranic schools controversial are usually seen begging in the streets, in the northern mainly muslim part of the country.
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, the local authorities have decided to evacuate some 250 000 children from the city of four million people, to return them to their villages.
“For now, we’re going to evacuate 1 595 children”, said to AFP Muhammad Sanusi Kiru, minister of Education of Kano, the first bus preparing to leave Tuesday. “It is a gradual process, we do it in phases, we recover little by little”.
The streets of this commercial city usually bustling with activity — which account for the moment 73 cases officially confirmed of coronavirus and one death — are empty for the containment decreed last week.
The government of Kano, which estimates the number of child beggars at several million throughout the State, feared a spread of the virus that could prove catastrophic in a city like Kano, the health infrastructure largely failed.
In this region, many parents send their sons from the age of six years learn the Quran from the masters of religious in nonaccredited schools, known as Almajiri.
The courses are free, but children must fend for themselves, usually through begging or by doing odd jobs.
These schools — which also serve as “houses of correction” for the young people who caused a scandal last year, when several police raids in the cities of the north have updated the inhumane conditions in which there lived many children and young men.
Some were found chained, hundreds lived crowded together in dirty rooms where torture and rape were widespread.
In an open letter in march, a nigerian NGO, Almajiri Child rights Initiative, requested that the children could be brought home, and that food aid be distributed to those who remained.
“The official schools have been suspended anywhere in the country to control the spread likely of the pandemic (…), but no similar measure has not been applied in schools Almajiri”, according to the NGO.
Taking account of the conditions “appalling,” in which these children live, “we think that there is no worse environment for them.
Kano thus imitates the neighbouring States of Kaduna and Nasarawa, which have already evacuated from the big cities hundreds of children, in the framework of a resolution taken by the 19 governors of the north, to fight against begging in the context of a health crisis.
According to the authorities of Kano, who have called on religious leaders to evacuate their students through messages broadcast on the radio, the first wave of 1 595 boys based on “voluntary”.
“Teachers who have brought these children in Kano are those who call us voluntarily to come pick them up”, ensures the minister Kiru. “We don’t force to leave the State”.
For the activist Saminu Dala, the 250 000 young beggars identified previously “represent only a tiny fraction of their real number”.
“In an emergency situation like this, you need to be strict and use the power core duties for the evacuation of these children”, by force if necessary, he told AFP.
In February, even before the coronavirus arrived in the region, the begging street had been prohibited. The police charged with enforcing the shari’a, Hisbah, had received the order to stop the religious and the parents who broke the new measure.
Only 1 500 children were initially returned to their homes, but after a few weeks, the repression was out of breath.