Senegal’s Shame: A Candid Discussion On Street Talibes

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Marion attending to an injured little boy

Kairo Radio’s Mohammed Lamin Sillah spoke to a German volunteer with the charity (MDG) based in Senegal on the sorrowful plight of street children otherwise known as Almudos. The charity has been helping to improve the children’s lives by providing them free healthcare. Marion a German national spend one year in Senegal supervising and undertaking sensitive task by helping the street kids have better chances in life. She spoke candidly on the trauma, suffering and hurt the Talibes go through every day to satisfy the masters and exploitative teachers.

The phenomenon of street boys is a serious menace in Senegal where the authorities are terrified of the powerful Marabouts in abolishing the exploitative practice. Marion talks about the every day dangers the children encounter, the injuries they sustain during the begging. She lamented that, some of the children are forced to bring to the master a certain amount each day. Children as young as five who cannot bring that money home may end up stealing. The photos below reveal unimaginable injuries on these very young children feet.

Talibé 4injuries on the feet a talibe

The in-depth discussion is on Kairo Radio all day today along with interludes of music or other programs. However, this vital discuss will repeat itself all day Wednesday.

Below is an extract of IPS Inter Press service reports on the situation of the talibes:

In Dakar, urban commuters are familiar with kids as young as five years old begging on street corners at all hours of the day or the night, with torn, dirty clothes, collecting donations in an empty tin can.

Here, these boys are called Talibés, which means students of an Islamic school, or daara. Traditionally, they were sent to neighbourhood houses to “learn modesty through begging,” while spending most of their day studying the Quran with their teacher, the marabout.

But times have changed, and now a number of Talibés face a harsh life as some marabouts make a living out of the exploitation of these boys.

Several daaras can be found in Yoff, a poor neighbourhood in this West African nation’s capital city.

In one, located in an unfinished building, about 20 boys are sleeping on the concrete floor. There is no need to enter; everything can be seen from the street.

A Talibé on the streets says he is 12 years old, but looks six. He spends his day repeating: “Give me alms.”

Later, he tells IPS: “I have to bring back (one dollar) to the daara or my marabout will lash me with an electrical cable.” He cannot recite a single verse of the Quran. In his tin box, he has some sugar and coins given to him by people.

“People give to these kids without realising what’s happening. These kids are invisible,” Isabelle de Guillebon, the director of Samusocial Sénégal, an NGO helping street kids, tells IPS. In a shelter in Ouakam, a booming middle-class neighbourhood of Dakar, she and her staff accumulate horror stories. On her desk is an iron cast used to restrain the wrists of the Talibés. She says many of them are victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

When nine Talibés died after a daara burned down Mar. 3 in Dakar’s Medina neighbourhood, people in Senegal were outraged. Authorities closed down the daara and returned the children to their families, including 10 from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau.

It is not the first time the government has tried to act. Several NGOs, notably Human Rights Watch, have pressured the authorities, often pointing to the crossroads of Islamic authorities and political power as a reason for inaction.

In 2005 the government passed stricter laws against begging, including stronger sentences for mistreating children.

But some 8,000 Talibés are still begging on Dakar’s street corners. And three months after the Medina tragedy, little progress has been made towards a real solution to the problem.

De Guillebon is sceptical about easy solutions as she sees that the issue is far more complex than religion and politics.

“They are not Talibés. They are street kids,” she says. For her, the so-called Talibés are just part of the 10,000 to 12,000 street children roaming the streets of Dakar.

Senegal’s ‘Religious Schools’ Places of Exploitation

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  1. Thank you Marion for exposing the truth. I am proud of you and thank you Mr Sillah for bringing this eye opening program.

  2. A heart rendering interview. So so bloody angry with these child exploiters. One good thing we have to acknowledge, Jammeh stopped the child beggars in Gambia. Kudos to Mr Sillah and the German lady, revealing and sad.

  3. Very shameful and utterly despicable…Senegal should be.better than this…Many applauded their political maturity and sense of ownership of the country, when they stood firm against self perpetuation…This demands a similar resolve to tackle these so called marabouts….They cannot continue to be indifferent to this evil practice in the name of religion or whatever.

  4. This is horrible to know. It is a case that needs equal attention like that of the child political prisoners in the Gambia.
    In whichever families these children come from in Senegal or in the sub-region, their parents cannot be innocent.

    Hope one day Africans, Gambians and Senegalese alike, compare themselves in their virtures and not in their vices.