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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora