Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.
The difference between Christian and idolatrous is giving versus demanding, enjoying versus using, sharing versus manipulating. It’s the difference between humbled gratitude versus undiscerned selfishness. But every marriage, injured by unfair expectations, can be healed through the grace of awakened sensitivity. Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.
Two biblical insights open up new possibilities for every marriage.
Privilege of Marriage
One, the privilege that marriage is: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
That is the biblical definition of marriage, from all the way back in the garden of Eden. “One flesh” is one man and one woman, walking hand in hand through their life in this world, sharing together an all-encompassing union of total belonging. No other relationship is like this. Healthy friendships have boundaries, but marriage brings a man and woman together in complete vulnerability with no shame (Genesis 2:25).
“Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.”
I want you to see the glorious privilege of marriage — your marriage. When God expelled us from the garden after Adam sinned, he didn’t take his gift of marriage back. He let us keep it. And even though a long time has elapsed since then, our marriages today are not ninety-ninth-hand, at best. Jesus saw our imperfect marriages as sacred and inviolate, at the same level as the perfect marriage of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:3–6).
So, your marriage is your little remnant of the garden of Eden. Inside the circle of your one-flesh union, where only you and your spouse completely belong, God wants you to cultivate your own personal outpost of Eden into something beautifully Christian in the world today.
But how can we do that, especially long term over the years? That leads us to the second insight.
Resource of Christ
Two, the resource that Christ is: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Life is not in you. Life is not in your spouse. The life we all long for is in Christ alone.
His life is our light, illuminating our otherwise dreary existence. His life is more than a bare power surge; his life awakens us to purpose, hope, wisdom. In Christ, we stop dying so much and start living more. In Christ, we stop being so clueless and start growing in awareness. This is just who he is and what he does.
If we believe he is our life, and open ourselves up, our marriages will change. We will stop loving our spouse too much — which, in reality, isn’t too muchbut rather wrongly, like an idol — and we will start loving Christ more. When that happens, we actually start loving our spouse better.
His Love Through Hers
The reason your spouse is not your life and your light is that he or she cannotbe those things. That wonderful person you married is, and can only be, secondary, derived, contingent, dependent, and easily exhausted — like you.
Only Christ is, and always will be, primary, original, free, powerful, and eager — unlike you both. When two sinners step inside the circle of the one-flesh union and cultivate there an even deeper union with Christ, they become relaxed about themselves and each other, they become happy about Christ, and Eden reappears in the world today — a Christian marriage.
Here is one way this insight opens my eyes. When I take my precious wife in my arms, the love I experience from her is not from her alone. It is also the love of God through her. The fact that the love of God is coming down to me through her doesn’t mean that that love stops being divine. It is still the love of God — which makes my wife all the more wondrous in my eyes.
Her love is the moment-by-moment gift of his life, and his life is the light that floods each moment with meaning I never would have grasped if the experience were limited to and defined by the human only. Realizing this, I am moved toward gratitude for her and worship of him, and I find myself on holy ground — Eden today.
First Things Put First
Not only does Christ himself make a marriage truly Christian, as we look to him, but he also guards a marriage against idolatrous instincts and impulses.
As I remember that it is Christ alone who gives my wife and me all our life and light, I don’t need my wife to be more than she can be. I can receive our life together as the glorious miracle it is, and marvel at how present Christ is with us. Our imperfections are the very place where he dwells the most meaningfully.
“Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.”
A marriage is not Christian because two Christians get married. A marriage becomes truly Christian as two Christians keep looking to Christ for the wherewithal each needs moment by moment. It isn’t a matter of practical tips, though I suppose there is a place for that — like training wheels on a child’s bike. But far more, it’s a matter of seeing him, with the eyes of faith, real-time as a husband and wife walk together through each day. It’s a matter of rejoicing that he is present with you, he is sharing his life with you, his light is banishing the darkness from the sacred circle he has given the two of you.
I’ll let C.S. Lewis have the last word: “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. . . . When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
Hackers have breached over 50,000 servers across the world to mine cryptocurrency using unusually sophisticated tools, according to a new report.
Cybersecurity firm Guardicore Labs said on May 29 that the large-scale malware effort – dubbed the “Nansh0u campaign” – has been ongoing since February, and had been spreading to over 700 new victims a day. The attack mostly targeted firms in the healthcare, telecoms, media and IT sectors.
Guardicore found 20 different malicious payloads in the malware over time, with new ones created “at least once a week” and put into use as soon as they were created. The package also installed a rootkit that prevented the malware’s removal.
The firm said it contacted the hosting provider of the attack servers and the issuer of the rootkit certificate.
“As a result, the attack servers were taken down and the certificate was revoked,” it said.
Notably, the cybersecurity firm said the attack used sophisticated tools like those used by nation states, a factor that indicates elite digital weaponry is becoming more readily accessible to cyber criminals.
The package was also written using Chinese language tools and placed on Chinese language servers, according to the firm.
“The Nansh0u campaign is not a typical crypto-miner attack. It uses techniques often seen in APTs [advanced persistent threats] such as fake certificates and privilege escalation exploits. While advanced attack tools have normally been the property of highly skilled adversaries, this campaign shows that these tools can now easily fall into the hands of less than top-notch attackers.”
The firm said the campaign demonstrates that strong credentials are vital in protecting companies’ assets.
“This campaign demonstrates once again that common passwords still comprise the weakest link in today’s attack flows. Seeing tens of thousands of servers compromised by a simple brute-force attack, we highly recommend that organizations protect their assets with strong credentials as well as network segmentation solutions,” the report concluded.
Unai Emery’s side had two golden chances to secure Champions League football, but they fluffed their lines in dramatic fashion on each occasion.
And now the post-mortem is already well underway. Is Emery the right man? How can Arsenal close the gap on the likes of Manchester City and Liverpoolwith a limited budget and just what should be done with Mesut Ozil?
Those are all questions being asked as the dust settles from a disastrous end to the 2018-19 season. It is shaping up to be a very difficult summer at the Emirates and sorting out the issues surrounding the north London club will be far from easy.
Below are Arsenal’s five biggest problems, with explanations as to why they will be so tough to solve.
An absent owner
The problems at any club always start at the top – and at the top at Arsenal there is an absent owner who has been a disaster for the Gunners.
Stan Kroenke has still not put a single penny of his own money into Arsenal since arriving on the scene in north London and his lack of ambition is seeping into every orifice of the club.
There is a lack of leadership at all levels inside the Emirates and that all stems from the way Kroenke is allowing things to be run.
Arsenal are failing off the pitch, just as much as they are on it – yet the 71-year-old billionaire just sits across the Atlantic allowing it to happen.
Kroenke has made hundreds of millions on his investment since first buying into Arsenal and none of that has been put back into the club.
During that time he has forcibly hovered up all remaining shares, shunning the offer of major investment from Alisher Usmanov, one of the world’s richest men, in the process.
The fact Kroenke didn’t even bother to attend last week’s Europa League final in Baku summed him up. Yes, his son Josh was there, but Stan’s lack of attendance was an insult to those fans who had spent so much money to follow their team.
When Kroenke arrived at Arsenal, they had reached the Champions League final a year earlier. Now, 12 years on, they are a club who very much belong in the Europa League.
Standards have been allowed to slip and that’s what happens when you have an absentee owner.
In the past 12 months Arsenal have seen their chief executive, who had just replaced manager Arsene Wenger after 22 years, jump ship a few months into the season and leave for AC Milan.
That led to the club’s highly-valued head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, leaving because he was overlooked for the technical role in the power vacuum that followed.
Raul Sanllehi was the big winner from Gazidis leaving but since he has taken charge, Arsenal have failed to land Monchi as technical director and now look set to have to wait until the the final month of the summer window to appoint Edu to the role.
It’s a situation which someone needs to get a firm grasp on, but it’s clear Kroenke will not be the man to do that.
The current set-up at the Emirates feels rudderless and with Kroenke continuing to focus on his interests in the United States, there is no sign of that changing any time soon.
A failing business model
Arsenal’s business model is based around the Champions League.
With Stan Kroenke not putting his own money in, the club has relied on Champions League funds to keep things ticking over.
But having spent the past two years in the Europa League, the coffers have run dry, very dry.
The club is now working to a failed business model. Whereas before Arsenal used to be able to celebrate the publication of their accounts, now the club will be happy that they are not so easily accessible following Kroenke’s full takeover.
It’s estimated that Arsenal’s financial performance for the year 2017-18 saw a £40 million drop in revenue from 2016-17 – with £35m of that being put down to a lack of Champions League football.
At the same time the wage bill spiralled by nearly 18 per cent, rising from £200m to £235m – a figure that takes into account the pay-offs for Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.
This was all covered though by player sales, with the club recouping big fees for the likes of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That all meant that despite Arsenal’s drop in revenue, the club made a pre-tax profit of around £70m, but given the lack of player sales this time around it’s forecast that the club could be heading towards a loss of between £60m/£70m for 2018-19.
And that is not a figure that is going to improve any time soon, with this season’s run to the Europa League final only earning the club £32m. When you compare that to what Manchester United earned from reaching the Champions League quarter-finals (£82m), it shows how costly missing out on the top four has been once again for the Gunners.
It also means that the only way the club will be able to break even going forward is by selling some of their top talent, something which will alienate an unhappy fanbase even more.
The main problem with the finances is the wage bill, which is running at unprecedented levels – with Mesut Oil the top earner on £350,000-a-week.
Without Champions league football, that wage bill is massive problem – and it was the reason why the new offer which was on the table for Aaron Ramsey was dramatically withdrawn.
Arsenal have started to reduce it, with Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck leaving this summer, but they are well aware that further cuts must be made.
Trying to find some sort of resolution to the Mesut Ozil situation is key to Arsenal’s short and long-term future.
Without Champions League football, the wage bill is completely unsustainable and at £350,000-a-week, Ozil is the club’s highest earner by some distance.
If he was playing at the top of his game and delivering on a weekly basis, that would at least be a passable situation. But the fact is Ozil is a shadow of the player he once was.
Whether that is down to Emery’s management and his style of play is up for debate, but for whatever reason the German is simply not proving to be worth the incredible amount of money that he is being paid.
He is a drain on Arsenal’s resources and there is a good chance Aaron Ramsey would still be at the Emirates right now had Ivan Gazidis not caved to Ozil’s wage demands last January.
That decision to hand Ozil a new deal has proved to be a dreadful one and Arsenal must now try and find some way of resolving a situation which is damaging for all parties.
It’s been clear for some time now that Ozil does not fit into Emery’s plans. The Spaniard’s decision to replace the 30-year-old with teenager Joe Willock in the Europa League final spoke volumes.
But the fact that Willock offered more in those last 13 minutes than Ozil did in the previous 77 showed just where the former Real Madrid man is right now.
Since signing his new contract, Ozil has contributed just two Premier League assists in open play in 18 months – all that time with strikers of the quality of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette playing in front of him.
For a player earning the amount of money Ozil is, that is just not good enough. Arsenal need more and deserve more.
Without Champions League football, Arsenal can’t sustain the type of wages they are paying their No.10. It impacts any future contract renewals and limits what they can offer any signings.
The big issue is, Ozil has stated several times he does not want to leave. He is happy in London, he will soon be marrying his girlfriend and now has more than one business interest in the capital.
So how do you get a player out who does not want to leave?
It’s a massive problem for Arsenal but one that Emery, Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham must find a solution to over the coming months because if Ozil starts next season as an Arsenal player, it will not be a good situation for anyone.
Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season – that was the second successive season that they have shipped 50 goals or more in a league campaign.
When Unai Emery arrived it was assumed that one of the first things the Spaniard would do was fix the leaky defence that Arsenal had become known for under Arsene Wenger.
But so far, Emery has been unable to do that and until he finds a solution – either through coaching or new signings – then his side are always going to fall short, as they did in Baku when they let in four second half goals against Chelsea.
Individually, Arsenal have some good defenders. Sokratis has had a good first season, while Laurent Koscielny has shown at times that he can still be a top Premier League centre-back following his return from injury.
Bernd Leno has also impressed in goal following his move from Germany last summer.
But collectively, Arsenal are still poor at the back – with the midfield still struggling to offer the sort of protection you need to be a successful side.
Improving the goals against column has to be a priority for Emery going into the new season but as was shown during his first year in charge, that is far from easy.
Unlike in attacking positions, there are not really any young players who appear ready to make the step up in defence at Arsenal – although Zech Medley has shown promise and Daniel Ballard has his admirers at the Emirates.
So you would think a large chunk of the transfer budget this summer has to be spent on bringing in better defenders who Emery can then work with at London Colney to make Arsenal a far tougher nut to crack
EVERY so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?
I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. “Taiwan? Why Taiwan?” people ask.
Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction — yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today. How did you get so lucky?”
That, at least, was my gut instinct. But now we have proof.
A team from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., has just come out with a fascinating little study mapping the correlation between performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam — which every two years tests math, science and reading comprehension skills of 15-year-olds in 65 countries — and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of G.D.P. for each participating country. In short, how well do your high school kids do on math compared with how much oil you pump or how many diamonds you dig?
The results indicated that there was a “a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population,” said Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA exams for the O.E.C.D. “This is a global pattern that holds across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment.” Oil and PISA don’t mix. (See the data map at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/9/49881940.pdf.)
As the Bible notes, added Schleicher, “Moses arduously led the Jews for 40 years through the desert — just to bring them to the only country in the Middle East that had no oil. But Moses may have gotten it right, after all. Today, Israel has one of the most innovative economies, and its population enjoys a standard of living most of the oil-rich countries in the region are not able to offer.”
So hold the oil, and pass the books. According to Schleicher, in the latest PISA results, students in Singapore, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan stand out as having high PISA scores and few natural resources, while Qatar and Kazakhstan stand out as having the highest oil rents and the lowest PISA scores. (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Syria stood out the same way in a similar 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or Timss, test, while, interestingly, students from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — also Middle East states with few natural resources — scored better.) Also lagging in recent PISA scores, though, were students in many of the resource-rich countries of Latin America, like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Africa was not tested. Canada, Australia and Norway, also countries with high levels of natural resources, still score well on PISA, in large part, argues Schleicher, because all three countries have established deliberate policies of saving and investing these resource rents, and not just consuming them.
Thomas L. Friedman Josh Haner/The New York Times
Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students. “Today’s learning outcomes at school,” says Schleicher, “are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”
Economists have long known about “Dutch disease,” which happens when a country becomes so dependent on exporting natural resources that its currency soars in value and, as a result, its domestic manufacturing gets crushed as cheap imports flood in and exports become too expensive. What the PISA team is revealing is a related disease: societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits and incentives for doing homework and honing skills.
By, contrast, says Schleicher, “in countries with little in the way of natural resources — Finland, Singapore or Japan — education has strong outcomes and a high status, at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. … Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.”
Or as my Indian-American friend K. R. Sridhar, the founder of the Silicon Valley fuel-cell company Bloom Energy, likes to say, “When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful.”
That’s why the foreign countries with the most companies listed on the Nasdaq are Israel, China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Singapore — none of which can live off natural resources.
But there is an important message for the industrialized world in this study, too. In these difficult economic times, it is tempting to buttress our own standards of living today by incurring even greater financial liabilities for the future. To be sure, there is a role for stimulus in a prolonged recession, but “the only sustainable way is to grow our way out by giving more people the knowledge and skills to compete, collaborate and connect in a way that drives our countries forward,” argues Schleicher.
In sum, says Schleicher, “knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”
Relentless Andy Ruiz Jr stuns Anthony Joshua in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history
Only boxing can offer such drama. And when it comes to the heavyweights, it happens with such thunder that it feels as if the ceiling has fallen in.
Anthony Joshua suffered his first, dramatic shock defeat of his career against challenger Andy Ruiz Jr after being stopped in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden.
Joshua was dropped four times in the fight as the Mexican-American claimed the British boxer’s three world title belts in one of the biggest underdog upsets in heavyweight history.
They will compare this to the night in 1990 when the unfavoured Buster Douglas knocked out then-undefeated Mike Tyson in the Tokyo Dome. Tyson recovered from it; now the 29-year-old Briton must haul his broken spirit and body up from the canvas and do the same.
Boxing is an unforgiving sport at the best of times. Now is the time that we will really find out where the championship material exists inside the body and soul of the champion they said could become the undisputed one.
It was going to plan for Joshua on his US debut into the third round when he floored Ruiz, but as he looked for the finish, he was knocked down himself by a counter and in truth, never really recovered his legs, or his vigour in the contest.
Down twice in that third stanza, the two fighters pawed at each other for the next three rounds, Ruiz stalking patiently for the much bigger man to open up again. It came in the seventh round, as Joshua, once again successful with his hook, was then countered by Ruiz, who went into attacking mode, throwing fast combinations from the inside to drop Joshua twice more.
After the second knockdown, his arms hanging on the ropes in his own corner, the referee Mike Griffin took the decision that the Briton was in no position to continue.
Apple is phasing out its content download and streaming service, Bloomberg reports. CEO Tim Cook will unveil a spread of new features geared to move the company’s focus away from the iPhone starting Monday at the tech giant’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
One of these changes is getting rid of iTunes, which has served since 2001 as the home for users’ music, television and podcast libraries. Going forward, three new desktop apps will be unveiled — Music, TV and Podcasts — to house and manage the data. This will match the format already used on iPhones and iPads.
Bloomberg’s report did not specify the fate of the iTunes store.
Other exciting announcements expected an increasing autonomy of the Apple Watch, which currently depends on iPhones to work, revamps to the Health and Reminders apps and a unified app strategy across devices.
IF YOU WANT to understand how cooling relations between America and China are changing global business, a good place to look is Alibaba, an internet giant. It is China’s most admired and valuable firm, worth a cool $400bn. For the past five years it has also been a hybrid that straddles the superpowers, because its shares are listed only in America. Now it is considering a $20bn flotation in Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg. The backdrop is a rising risk of American retaliation against Chinese interests and the growing clout of Hong Kong’s capital markets. A listing there would be a sign that Chinese firms are taking out insurance to lower their dependence on Western finance.
The world looked very different back in 2014, when Alibaba first went public. Although based in Hangzhou and with 91% of its sales from mainland China, it chose to list its shares in New York, home to the world’s deepest capital markets, which also permitted its complex voting structure. Wall Street banks underwrote the offering. Alibaba’s boss, Jack Ma, already a rock-star in China, was toasted in Manhattan high society as the kind of freewheeling capitalist Americans could do business with. He was not alone: 174 other Chinese firms have their main listing in America today, with a total market value of $394bn, including the tech stars Baidu and JD.com. A recent notable arrival is Luckin Coffee, a Starbucks wannabe, which floated for $4bn in May.
As Alibaba has found, however, America has become less hospitable. The firm’s profits have soared and investors have made hay. But in January 2018 Ant Financial, its payments affiliate, was blocked from acquiring MoneyGram, an American rival, on national-security grounds. In November Mr Ma’s American halo slipped when it was revealed he was a Communist Party member, like many Chinese tycoons (he is due to retire this year). Silicon Valley’s chiefs whisper that Alibaba’s global cloud business is a threat to American interests. If Alibaba invests in startups it could fall foul of a new law, known as FIRRMA, that requires foreign purchases of “critical technology” to be vetted. The firm is not yet under attack, unlike its compatriot Huawei, but the mood is tense.
The trade war between America and China has already spread from tariffs to a wide terrain encompassing legal extradition, venture capital and the global dollar-payments system. It is easy to see how an American listing could become a vulnerability. If, for example, China were to boycott Apple or Boeing, America could respond by suspending the trading of Chinese firms’ shares and stopping them from raising capital.
Mainland China’s vast but immature capital markets are not a substitute for Wall Street. Hong Kong, China’s offshore hub, is far from perfect, not least because China appears intent on gradually undermining the rule of law there. Still, it has become a plausible alternative venue for China’s global companies. It now welcomes firms with dual-share classes after a rule change in 2018. It has expanded its role as a conduit through which mainland investors can buy shares and global investors get access to China. Last year more money was raised in listings in Hong Kong ($37bn) than on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.
Hong Kong’s rise has been accompanied by an erosion of Western hegemony in Asian high-finance. A decade ago Chinese banks were peripheral. Now Wall Street firms are not as essential as they used to be. Last year seven of the top 20 equity underwriters in Asia were Chinese firms. Chinese banks are among the largest cross-border lenders in Asia. America still controls the dollar-payments system, but in time that could change, too.
With a Hong Kong listing, Alibaba would have an alternative place to raise capital. It is still expanding fast—sales grew by 51% last year. New York will continue to thrive as a financial centre, even if Chinese firms start to shy away. But the bigger message is that, as the trade war rumbles on, the immensely complex global network of financial and commercial ties is adjusting. Big hardware firms are tweaking their supply chains. Retailers are shifting their sourcing so that goods sold in America are not made in China. Banks are cutting their exposure to counterparties that could face American sanctions. And even the world’s most successful firms, such as Alibaba, feel they need a backup plan. It is a very different vision from the one Mr Ma held out when he rang a ceremonial bell at the New York Stock Exchange back in 2014.
Between December 2010 and May 2015, the Goodluck Jonathan administration embarked on the Almajiri Education Programme which saw to the construction and equipment of 157 Tsangaya (Almajiri) Model Schools across Nigeria. ABDUSSALAM AMOO visited some of the sites of the schools in North Western Nigeria recently and reports about the deterioration of facilities and abandonment of the programme.
Apart from the Almajiri Model School, Dutsin-Ma, in Katsina State, which was left to rot away after completion, some of the facilities in other Almajiri Model Schools in the North-West states of Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina and Kano are decaying fast, our investigation has revealed.
Visits to a cross-section of the schools showed that the facilities are in various degrees of decay. Some functional facilities have also been abandoned to rot away.
Behind the pupils’ hostel block at the Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, in Sokoto State, is an uncompleted staff quarter. A teacher said that the building had remained abandoned since the opening of the school.
Another one like it currently accommodates three members of staff and their families. Had it been completed, more members of staff would have been resident in the school compound as planned by the federal government.
The “Integrated Science Laboratory” at the Tsangaya Model Boarding Girls Primary School, Tsakuwa, in Kano State, has remained without facilities other than laboratory tables dumped there since inception. As a result, practical science classes are yet to start holding there.
Abandoned at the entrance of the administrative block are an uninstalled Techno Diesel Engine generator and a Frajend motorcycle. Both items have the Education Trust Fund (ETF) Special Project 2010 labels on them. They have apparently been left unused for eight years!
Headmistress, Hadiza Hassan, said the motorcycle had to be abandoned because there was no need for it while the school uses another generator donated by the Sarkin of Dawakin Kudu, Alhaji Ismail Tsantali.
A visitor to the Almajiri Integrated Model School, Tambuwal, located on Kebbe Road in Sokoto State would notice only a front fence with a gate. Contractors who handled the project left the three other sides of the fencing undone. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), however, handed over the school to the Sokoto State government in that state.
Beyond the one-quarter-fenced gate is an uncompleted gatehouse. Its builders failed to roof or ceil the building.
Close to the gatehouse is an electric transformer with two electric poles abandoned and yet to generate any power since it was delivered to the school. A security guard had earlier hinted that the cables to connect it had long been stolen, a claim the school’s headmaster, Abubakar Aliyu, corroborated.
“We don’t have electricity here. So, we make use of torchlight. The transformer was never connected to power by those who put them there. We have a generator we are using for the pumping of water alone,” Mr Aliyu said.
Toilets in the school are also without connecting channels to the sewer, forcing students to engage in open defecation there. Some toilets at Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, were also uncompleted. Its surroundings were littered with faeces when this reporter visited.
Also, despite the claim by UBEC that laboratories were part of the facilities provided in Model I schools, most of those visited had none.
At the Tsangaya Model Primary School, Harbau, in Kano, laboratory equipment for another model school was simply dumped there, according to the headmaster of the school, Shuaibu Harisu.
In schools where libraries are available, they are not being put to use. Furniture and books there were dusty. At the Almajiri Integrated Primary School, Tureta, there were no reading tables that could have even made pupils use the library conveniently.
An initial report in this series described the abandoned and dilapidated nature of facilities at the Almajiri Model School, Dutsin-Ma, in Katsina State.
Over a hundred kilometres away from Dutsin-Ma is Madrasatul Hadikatul Qur’anil Kareem, Funtua. It was completed in 2012 but the state of facilities there would give it away as one constructed several decades ago.
When we visited the school in September 2018, the neglect of the facilities was apparent. This is apart from it being restricted to the traditional Almajiri education rather than the integration of Quranic and Western education as conceived.
From the entrance, a visitor could see open ceilings apparently giving way to pressure from continuous rainfall, and a rusty water tank.
A teacher at the school, Kamal Hassan, who conducted our correspondent around the facility revealed that the water tank did not work beyond two months after it was constructed. It simply broke down.
Close to the dormant water tank is the space meant for the hand pump that was not eventually installed, according to Hassan.
The broken doors to some of the bathrooms in the school lead straight to the broken floors therein. Any bath taken there would only make the place waterlogged.
A toilet block adjourning the classroom block was said to have been uprooted after a heavy thunderstorm in July. Dried faeces that spilt out of there were still visible during this reporter’s visit.
Due to overpopulation at the Tsangaya Model Boarding Primary School, Ganduje in Kano State, the state government built an improvised pit latrine in addition to the existing toilet facilities which are functional but sometimes get flooded.
Meanwhile, a satellite dish meant for the computer room at the Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, has fallen. It was then dumped at a secluded corner inside the science laboratory.
Also, the roof of a classroom block in the school got blown off since last May and has remained open to air ever since.
Within the same school are classrooms with damaged furniture yet to be repaired. The Assistant Headmaster of the school, Ibrahim Shehu, said authorities there were waiting for government’s directive for repairs.
At Umar Musa Yar’Adua Almajirai Bilingual Model Boarding Primary School in Maraban Gwanda, Kaduna State, torn ceilings and broken windows were seen at a store near the school kitchen and staff quarters.
There were cases of leaky roofs at Almajiri Model Primary School, Hunkuyi.
But the situation of the Almajiri Integrated Model Primary School, Tureta, in Sokoto State is worse as almost every part of the compound has varying degrees of dilapidation.
The gates, flung open on the three occasions this reporter visited, make the property susceptible to vandalism. That is obvious from the broken louvres at the gatehouse to those partially missing at the Administrative Block of the school.
A supposed three bedroom apartment labelled “Amir’s Block” has severely deteriorated that this reporter initially thought it was no longer in use. Its sitting room was filled with poultry faeces.
A man who simply identified himself as a non-teaching staff told this reporter that the room fell into disuse when its roof and ceiling began leaking. The broken windows of the same room could be sighted from afar.
To the left of that rundown apartment is the cracked wall of part of the school’s kitchen. Part of its roof too had got damaged too. Damaged roofs were also seen in some classrooms and hostels.
Behind the administrative block are empty classrooms with damaged furniture. Damaged ceilings and roofs had rendered some classroom blocks and other facilities unusable.
Even in some of the occupied classes, pupils were found sitting on tables instead of benches or chairs because of the largely dilapidated classroom furniture.
Not even the staff room was spared the rot the school had become. Aside from its broken windows, chairs and tables for teachers have broken down.
A broken wall within the hostel block is also noticeable. That part makes the school vulnerable to attacks even if all doors and gates are locked.
The Headmaster of the school, Shehu Muhammad, would later explain that the school was waiting on the state government to renovate the facility.
Across the schools, pupils were seen sleeping on springs and thorn mattresses. Others were seen sleeping on mats. The situation is however different at Tsangaya Model Boarding Girls Primary School, Tsakuwa, where beddings are still in good shape.
On the poor conditions at Kano State Almajiri/Tsangaya Schools, the Coordinator, Modern Tsangaya Schools at the Kano State Qur’anic and Islamiyya Schools Management Board, Ibrahim Dankano, simply said the government was working on improving it.
“We are working on it,” he said. “Every year, we are putting it into our budget. We are requesting the government to provide the schools with all boarding facilities including beds and so on.”
But the Desk Officer, Arabic and Islamic Studies at Katsina State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Muhammad Bello and that of Almajiri Education at the Sokoto SUBEB, Dr Umar Boyi, refused to comment on the poor state of schools in their respective states despite office visits, several calls and text messages sent to them.
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Also, UBEC’s spokesman, Ossom Ossom, who promised to respond after liaising with officials of the agency is yet to do so almost a month later.
Almajiri Education Programme not built on sustainability
The Executive Director, Almajiri Child Rights Initiative, Muhammad Keana, observed that despite the laudable goal of the Almajiri Education Programme, it was not built on sustainability.
“The Jonathan administration schools programme is a very good initiative and attempts to address the Almajiri problem,” Mr Keana said. “But the idea was not built with sustainability background in terms of funding and administration of the schools.”
He noted that the facilities, even when being put to use, are not for the benefit of the Almajiri.
“The problem of abandonment is across the country,” he said. “Those that are in use are not actually addressing the need of Almajirinci issue. The ones I had visited are not being used by the so-called Almajiri children but rather by the community children.
“So, it’s more like the community school. The state governments have refused to make their own commitment to take on the finances of the schools. So, there is no budgeting for it. Therefore, the school cannot run.”
The Almajiri child activist believed that if corruption could be eradicated from the system, things would get better.
“Money is available to address these issues and increase the capacity of these schools,” Mr Keana said. “But we’ve seen that government prioritises investment in things that do not affect the lives of ordinary people. They prefer to divert money to frivolous projects even when money is budgeted for the education sector, it is not being properly utilised.”
He criticised UBEC and states for “the lack of accountability” despite the agreement reached when the schools were handed over.
On his part, an academic, Dr Abubakar Abdulkadir blamed the state governments’ indifference to the Almajiri Model Schools on lack of interest by the current Federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Some states abandoned the programme because of the lack of sincerity especially when they look at it that the current government is no longer promoting the Almajiri Education Programme anymore, unlike it was promoted by the Jonathan administration,” said Dr AbdulKadir, who teaches at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina
He also harped on creating proper planning, monitoring mechanisms, and adequate funding as the ways forward.
He shares his chilling experience after four years of living in Yakutsk, Russia.
Nigerian-born teacher Oladipo Mark Babatunde lives far away in a rural village called Oy in Khangalassky District.
It is located in Russia‘s Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the world’s largest subnational governing body by area which is known for its extreme and severe climate. Its capital - Yakutsk – is the coldest city in the world.
This Russia district is home to six ethnic groups: Yakuts, Russians, Ukrainians, Evenks, Evens and others. Babatunde falls into the latter group.
Mark Babatunde (twitter/siberian_times)
From Nigeria to Russia
Babatunde’s journey to Russia began when he met his wife-to-be, a Yakutian girl called Natalia, years ago. The two met while he was learning the Chinese language in China. He eventually decided to move to her hometown in 2014.
According to him, he was initially worried about the cold saying, “The cold was the worst thing. I wasn’t used to living like the people do here.” Winter in Yakutia is said to last for nine months with the average winter temperatures standing at minus 35 Celsius.
Mark Babatunde (twitter/emeka_okafor)
He was also worried about being the only African in the area. “I was curious, nervous and a little afraid; I feared people might not accept me,” said Babatunde.
To his surprise, he was warmly received by the people, who still shower him with gifts, according to Vesti News, a Russian TV channel. “It was not what I expected, it was very nice,” he said.
Making a life in Russia
He also got an invitation to a local English club where he met the director of a school. The school’s director invited Mark to tour his institution. There, he got a surprising offer.
He said, “They invited me to join a seminar because English is an official language in Nigeria. I was at a school in a village and they said: will you be interested in teaching Chinese here? I never expected anybody to hire me to teach Chinese there.”
Babatunde has completely settled in over four years later. He now has three kids with Natalia, two were born in China while the youngest was born in Russia. The two have been together for over 10 years now.
He teaches Chinese and English at the Oiskaya secondary school where he has a deep connection to his pupils.
“Most of my students have not traveled out of their region. They are very interested in China, Nigeria and about other countries,” he said. “My students are very intelligent, very well cultured, and have good manners. I relate to them as if they were my own children.”
Russian outlets report that he is adored by his pupils, who say he is “a great teacher and person.”
Mark Babatunde (twitter/siberian_times)
He has also gotten used to the cold, has learned to speak Russian and is now working on his Yakutian. One of his favourite treats is now a local delicacy called ‘Stroganina’, made of slices of raw fish or meat served cold.
He is currently sharing his experience online through his Youtube channel: “The Northest African in the World.” He makes his videos with the help of his friends
In his words, “There are two friends of mine who work in the local TV station. They both have professional equipment which we could use to film in a very low temperature. I don’t get any financial benefits from any of my videos. Its all just for fun.”
“Maybe one day it will be recorded in history that I was the first African to get to some of these places,” Babatunde hopes.