The Senegalese government is struggling to clamp down on forced child begging. Forced child begging has continued to plague communities evading concerted government efforts to curtail the humanitarian menace. Reports have it that a sea of children sprawling into tens of thousands are submerged in sufferings arising from forced begging at traditional Quranic schools.
In such schools, there has been an unchecked habitual abuse of children in those boarding schools. Reports revealed the situation in these schools as about 50,000 talibé (boys studying in an Islamic school). Children residing in daaras (Quranic schools) are coerced into forced begging by their Islamic teachers to make ends meet. Such illicit ends include begging for rice, for sugar and money. The living conditions are not the best as many of these children are exposed to intolerable poverty even spilling into sexual abuse.
Some of these children beg in the comfort of lawlessness, clearly violating government legislations aimed at sieving the societies of forced begging. Children can be seen begging on highways, public building and even in front of the police and government buildings. This clearly shows legislative feebleness on the part of the government as laws drafted to combat the seeming social epidemic are never truly realized. A bill passed by the lawmaking arm of the government ended up a stillborn, dead at birth and never maturing into law.
“While it’s a step in the right direction, Senegal’s program to remove children from the streets has hardly made a dent in the alarming numbers of talibé children exploited, abused and neglected each and every day,” explained Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To deter abuse and to address this pervasive problem at its core, the government should ensure that abusive teachers face penalties or prosecution.”
So far forced begging has resulted in major calamities. A Human Rights Watch survey recorded that two talibés allegedly died as a consequence of abuse in Quranic schools. Also recorded by Human Rights Watch was five cases of executed or attempted sexual abuse by Quranic teachers or their assistants. Also found out was 28 cases where the talibés were physically molested, manifesting in beatings, imprisonments and being locked in chains in these Quaranic schools. These abuses occurred in an uninhibited volume in Dakar and four other regions.
The Human Rights Watch survey was sourced from detailed interviews conducted with talibé children, those who were previously talibé children, activists in Senegal, Islamic teachers, government officials, even UN officials. A child who deserted these talibé Quranic schools explained the unkempt misery to Human Rights Watch, “We begged for money and rice. The marabout [Quranic teacher] asked for 400 CFA [US$0.70] each day. On Wednesday, it was 500 CFA, [US$0.85], to pay the rent and electricity,” he said. “If we didn’t bring the money, or if we didn’t recite the verses, the marabout would beat us.”
“We can wait no longer to stop the exploitation and abuse of talibés, the most vulnerable sector of our population,” said Mamadou Wane, president of joint Senegalese rights groups PPDH (Protection of Human Rights ). “Now is the time to end this massive violation of children’s rights in Senegal, which continues in plain sight. We are all responsible. We all have an obligation to act collectively, with the state at the front line.”
Human Rights Watch put together a highly informative, in-depth video of the situation in Senegal. We’ve included it below to provide a compelling visual for where we are in our evolution as a human species.