Stories of Child Slavery
Seydou* is 15 years old and has lived in the daara for seven years. Recently one of his younger brothers came to join him. Seydou usually wakes up at 6am and spends the first hour of the day learning the Koran. Then, with an empty tin can, he goes from one house to another to beg for food for his breakfast. He returns to the daara at 9am, at which time the morning courses begin.
At 1pm Seydou goes to neighbouring houses to beg for his lunch, coming back to the daara for an hour or so to rest and eat. The afternoon classes begin at 3pm. At around 5pm every day, Seydou goes to collect water for the daara with other talibés. He then studies the Koran for another three hours, before going out at 8pm to beg for his dinner.
He comes back to the daara to study the Koran some more before bed time at around 10pm. He sleeps in a small hut with a straw roof alongside seven other children. Seydou says that if he doesn’t beg, he won’t eat, and if he doesn’t bring back enough money on two or three occasions, his Koranic master will beat him. He misses his parents and would rather be at home with them than in the daara. He says that he likes learning the Koran, but would also like to know some French so that he could read road signs.
* Name has been changed.
Daara Serigne Gaye, Modern Daaras
Daara Serigne Gaye is typical of the relatively few so-called “modern daaras” which already exist in Senegal today. It is located in Dakar, and like many modern daaras established prior to the Government’s daara modernisation programme, it is financed primarily by charitable contributions and fees paid by parents.
It was established in 2001 and offers both boys and girls schooling in the Koran, Arabic and French. There are currently 64 children at the daara, aged between six and 13 years old. About half of them board at the school with the remaining children returning home to their families every evening.
The children who board see their families about once a fortnight. The school provides three meals a day for the children. None of the children are sent out to beg.
Souleymane* is a boy of eight years old and has been in the daara for three years. He is happy there. His favourite lesson is studying the Koran. Above all, he likes the atmosphere, which is like “a family.” He enjoys a good relationship with the teachers: “they are understanding, polite, they help us to understand the lessons.” Demba* is 13 years old and returns home every day after school. His favourite thing about the daara is all the friends he has made there. He likes the teachers too, “because they respect us.” Both boys want to be policemen when they grow up.
* Name has been changed.
When I was 15 I was living with my family in the village. I met a man who told me about Côte d’Ivoire. I had thought before about going there but I didn’t know how to get there and I didn’t have any money to pay for the bus. This person said that he would help me. He misled me and told me lies. I had been told by the people back in my village that Côte d’Ivoire was a very beautiful country where I could earn lots of money, so when the man offered me a job on his friends large cocoa farm, I decided to travel with the man to the farm.
When I arrived, I realised that things were not what they seemed. I was one of five workers who slept in a little house on the farm and mainly ate cassava. We had to get up early to work and came back to the house late, and once I cut myself with a machete (coupe-coupe) but I did not receive any care.
We didn’t have any contact with anyone else. When I came back to Burkina Faso I came back alone by bus. The fare was the equivalent of US$90. The conditions were slightly better on the bus coming back than they were when going. I had US$20 left when I got back to my village.
I do not have a job and I do not go to school. I would advise everybody to try to stay in this country and avoid departing on an adventure. I would never go there again because my experience was that I came back with almost no money. I had been deceived. I had told myself that going to Côte d’Ivoire would make me really rich. The reality was something else completely. We worked like animals. We were exploited.
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