April 20 is National Talibé Day. There has been a lot of press over the past few weeks about the talibé system here in Senegal, especially as a report by Human Rights Watch was released less than a week ago, condemning the conditions these boys are subjected to. The following is quoted from an article from the Human Rights Watch website:
The 114-page report, “‘Off the Backs of the Children’: Forced Begging and Other Abuses against Talibés in Senegal,” documents the system of exploitation and abuse in which at least 50,000 boys known as talibés – the vast majority under age 12 and many as young as four – are forced to beg on Senegal’s streets for long hours, seven days a week, by often brutally abusive teachers, known as marabouts. The report says that the boys often suffer extreme abuse, neglect, and exploitation by the teachers. It is based on interviews with 175 current and former talibés, as well as some 120 other people, including marabouts, families who sent their children to these schools, Islamic scholars, government officials, and humanitarian officials.
“Senegal should not stand by while tens of thousands of talibé children are subjected every day to beatings, gross neglect, and, in fact, conditions akin to slavery,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should take the occasion of National Talibé Day, April 20, to commit to regulate all Quranic schools and hold abusive marabouts accountable.”
In Senegal’s predominantly Muslim society, where religious leaders wield immense social and political power, children have long been entrusted to marabouts who educate them in these residential Quranic schools, called daaras. Many marabouts, who serve as de facto guardians, conscientiously carry out the important tradition of providing young boys with a religious and moral education.
But research by Human Rights Watch shows that in many urban residential daaras today, other marabouts are using education as a cover for economic exploitation of the children in their charge. Many marabouts in urban daaras demand a daily quota from the children’s begging and inflict severe physical and psychological abuse on those who fail to meet it. Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of beatings, and several cases in which children had been chained, bound, and forced into stress positions as they were beaten.
In the more than 100 daaras from which Human Rights Watch interviewed current or former talibés, the marabout typically collects between US$20,000 and $60,000 a year from the boys’ begging – a substantial sum in a country where most people live on less than $2 a day. Interviews suggest that some marabouts amass upward of $100,000 a year through exploiting children in their care.
For a more complete story, you can follow this link:
It comes as no surprise to us to read articles and reports like this, since we have found what they say to be true. And we encourage prayer on behalf of these boys, not just at our center, but all over the country.
On a more happy note, I’ll leave you with several shots from a recent day at the center. The boys received “Operation Christmas Child” boxes – and I wish you could have experienced the incredible joy that we did that morning, watching them open their gifts. One boy was shaking and clutching his own arms to try and control himself, he told the founder of the center that he was “so happy he was going to cry.”