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 Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid