Photographer, UI and graphic designer Kolapo Oladapo captures stunning imagery of the poor, deprived Almajiri population living in Northern Nigeria in his series The Invisible people of the North.
By documenting his subjects’ everyday lives – from crowded market to the quiet sanctuary of their private homes – Oladapo examines the realities of children forsaken by their families and ignored by the system.
For Oladapo, this project is the first step in a long-term project focusing on the life and times of the Almajiri scattered across the North:
"The Alimajiri kids usually between age 5-15 can be found everywhere in Northern Nigeria even in the eyebrow places like malls, parks, the zoo, etc. They are handed over to Mallams (teachers) by their parents for the purpose of being taught the tenets of Islam & Arabic."
"The Mallams like pimps use the wards as beggars who file returns to them at the end of the day. If they don't meet the target, they sleep in the many abandoned infrastructures around. Places like old theaters houses, behind public toilets, market stalls & so on. Oladapo explains.
The ones that meet the target either by hook or crook get to sleep in the single room which 20-30 people sleep depending on the number of wards the Mallam takes."
Not only are the kids maltreated and beaten they are also forced to do menial jobs ranging from refuse collectors, commercial motorcyclists, local vendors, etc .
On government refusal to curb and stop the activities of the Mallams, Oladapo adds:
"I told my friend Abdul that in Lagos the government through its task force picks up children who hawk during school hours and demand explanation about why they are not in school since primary & secondary education is free.
He laughed and told me that if the government tried that here, they'll be chaos because most parents don't want their wards in "western styled" schools. They prefer them learning from the Mallams."
He concludes: "In the end it's just a vicious circle and a system meant to keep people in perpetual poverty."