Across Senegal, an estimated 50,000 boys living in traditional Quranic boarding schools, or daaras, are forced to beg for daily quotas of money, rice or sugar by their Quranic teachers, known as marabouts. Known as talibés, these children are sent by their parents to daaras to learn the holy Coran. Children in these daaras are often beaten, chained, bound, and subjected to other forms of physical or psychological abuse amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. While in 2016 the government introduced a new programme to 'remove children from the streets', it has done little to reduce the alarming numbers of children subjected to exploitation, abuse and daily neglect.
Amadou was sent to a daara to be a talibé in Dakar. After refusing to learn he was locked up for two years, being released once his 'sentence' was over. Once released, Amadou ran away during the hours of begging and sought reguge at a children's centre.
In my daara in Diourbel, I was imprisoned in a “cell” for two years because I didn’t want to learn. I did everything in that room – ate, went to the bathroom. There were many other talibés in the room with me, who had also refused to learn or tried to run away. All our legs were attached with chains, even the young ones, who were maybe 11 years old. The ones who tried to run away were punished, beaten. Finally, on December 28 , I was released, because I had served my sentence. I stayed at the daara until March , and then I took advantage of the hours of begging to run away.
As told to researchers for Human Rights Watch