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.
Cheikh is an 8 or 9 year old runaway talibé from Saloum. He tells of how he spent two years in a daara in Dakar.
We begged for money and rice. The marabout asked for 400 CFA each day. On Wednesday it was 500 CFA, to pay the rent and electricity. If we didn’t bring the money, or if we didn’t recite the verses, the marabout would beat us. He hit us with an ardoise [wooden slate used to write verses of the Quran] broken in half.
As told to researchers for Human Rights Watch