News / Africa

HRW: Senegal Must Crack Down on Quranic Schools' Forced Begging

FILE - A young talibe raises a begging bowl in front of the grand mosque in Touba, in the central region of Senegal, Feb. 23, 2012.
FILE - A young talibe raises a begging bowl in front of the grand mosque in Touba, in the central region of Senegal, Feb. 23, 2012.
Jennifer Lazuta
Human Rights Watch says the government of Senegal needs to do more to crack down on so-called Quranic schools that abuse young boys and force them to beg on the streets for food and spare change. The forced begging has been a problem for years in Senegal, and the government had pledged to eliminate it by 2015. But HRW says little progress has been made. 

You don’t have to go far on the streets of Dakar before being approached by barefoot young boys in tattered t-shirts, asking for money or food.

The boys, known as talibe, can be as young as four years old.  They ask for 100 CFA, or about $.20. They hold out empty tomato cans to collect coins and food.

They need to meet their daily “quota” or face serious consequences.

“Each day there are tens of thousands of boys across the country are sent out onto the streets to beg.  They generally have to bring back a set amount of money, uncooked rice and sugar, that’s handed over to the Quranic teacher.  When they fail to bring back that amount of money, they are often beaten quite brutally,” explains Matt Wells, a West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Wells has studied the talibe in Senegal since 2010 and has written several reports on the topic.

He says the boys often live in overcrowded, unsanitary rooms.  They go hungry and receive very little actual education - religious or otherwise.

Not all Quranic schools in Senegal, known as daaras, engage in such exploitation and abuse. 

30,000 currently begging

However, a government survey this year found that of the nearly 55,000 children enrolled in Quranic schools in Dakar, more than 30,000 currently practice begging.

The problem is not new in Senegal, but activists say authorities have been slow to do anything about it.  Laws that forbid forced begging are rarely enforced.  

However, on the streets of Dakar, public opinion is slowly changing.

Thirty-six-year-old Abdoulaye Badji says, “We need to find a solution for these children, because to leave them out on the streets like that, it’s truly not good.  These boys, they have no future,” he says.  “They need better housing, for example, but the government is busy with other things.  At the very least, they could recruit better teachers.”

Protecting the talibe

There have been several high profile cases of abuse in recent years.

In March 2013, eight talibe died in a fire in Dakar.  Their teacher had locked them in the school building where they were living.  Neighbors said they knew the man was locking the children inside the school.

In the aftermath of the deadly fire, the government once again pledged to crack down on child begging and to better regulate Quranic schools.

But it’s been one year and HRW says the state has only shut down one Quranic school for safety reasons.  HRW says there are hundreds more that can be easily identified as violating the rights of their students.

Senegal’s Ministry of Justice says it is aware of the talibe problem and is working on new legislation.

Awa Ndour, a representative for the Ministry of Justice’s Task Force Against Human Trafficking, says, “The fight against child begging is a process that involves many different actors, not just the government.  We are working pass a new law to regulate Quranic schools and also to ensure the 2005 law is applied,” she says.  “But there is a lot of cultural resistance to such laws in Senegal.  There is often lobbying by religious groups.  So the authorities must fight this resistance to fight child begging.”

HRW’s Wells says a law dealing specifically with the regulation of Quranic schools would be a step in the right direction.  But, he adds, the government would then have to enforce the new regulations.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs