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Forced child begging in Senegal

The sight of children begging is troublingly commonplace in many towns and cities across the world. However not all children beg for themselves and their own survival, some are forced by others into doing it. Children may be trafficked into begging by informal networks (e.g. families) or organised criminal gangs.

In parts of West Africa, children in some daaras (Koranic schools) are forced to beg by marabouts (Koranic masters).

Talibés are children aged 5 -15 years, almost exclusively boys, who study in daaras under Koranic teachers.  Most daaras do not charge the students for their studies, food or accommodation.  Instead, the Koranic teachers force the children to spend an average of five hours a day begging in the street, on top of three to seven hours learning the Koran by rote. 

The children are poorly educated and socially ill-equipped for future life. While some daaras are based in towns and provide Koranic education for students of other formal schools, most of the children attending daaras are from remote rural areas, with some trafficked from neighbouring countries. These children are highly vulnerable because they are dependent on the daara and their Koranic master. Far from their parents and villages and living in squalid conditions, these children are particularly vulnerable to disease, malnourishment and are often threatened with physical and emotional abuse if they fail to meet the established quota from begging. Recent estimates put the number of talibés begging at over 50,000.

Children who are forced to beg are commonly beaten if they fail to meet their begging “quotas” or suffer abuse from individuals they encounter as they beg.  They must work for long hours and hand over most of their income.  Children who are forced to beg by third parties tend to live apart from their families, and suffer particularly poor living conditions.  Most are denied an education.

Recent estimates put the number of talibé boys in Senegal at 50,000.


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