Building a Future for Senegalese Children

April 30, 2008 at 12:26 am (Uncategorized)

In the world there are 1.2 Million children trafficked to work for the benefit of others. According to the International Labor Organization, those who lure them into servitude make $15 billion annually.

At least 10 percent of these children lie in Senegal, a country in sub-Sahara Africa. These children collect an average of 300 African francs a day, just 72 cents, reaping their keepers millions every year.

Senegal is 94% Muslim. Based on Islamic tradition, many Senegalese place their children to religious schools called daaras to receive Koranic instruction. Frequently, poverty-stricken parents send children from rural villages to live in these daaras in urban centers simply because they can not provide food or shelter for them. The students in the daaras are called talibés (pronounced TAL-ee-bay), a French word derived from the Arabic word tâlib meaning “one who seeks or asks.”

In Senegal, hundreds of thousands of talibé children live in daaras, yet, instead of focusing on religious studies, the children are forced to spend the majority of each day (between 14 and 18 hours each day) begging in the streets. Because of a lack of financial resources, most Koranic teachers, or marabouts, rely on talibé beggars to support their schools. Over time, this practice has turned into a form of child exploitation, and has led to child trafficking where children are taken from their homes in Mali, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau and brought to Senegal (according to the 2007 US Report on Human Rights Practices). Additionally, talibés who fail to bring in a fixed amount of money per day from their time begging in the streets are often severely beaten and abused.

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