(JollofNews) – Despite efforts in combating street begging in Senegal, child beggars are increasingly visible on the streets of Dakar and other cities and towns of the West African state.
Hundreds of children at residential Quranic schools in Senegal are subjected to slavery-like conditions and severely abused.
Children, as young as five years in rags and with empty tomato paste tins in hand, are familiar sights in many busy places of Dakar, the Senegalese capital and other cities.
Child begging is seemingly becoming an insurmountable problem in Senegal as children come from across the border from Guinea Bissau, neighbouring Gambia and Mali to Senegal as the country is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial exploitation.
Internally, Quranic teachers traffic boys, commonly referred to as Talibe, by promising to teach them the Quran but subjecting them instead to force begging and physical abuse.
The beggar boys spend long hours on the streets of the cities and towns of Senegal begging for money, rice, sugar and candles. They say these things are for their teachers and some of them complain that they get beaten if they fail to deliver a daily quota, at times a quarter of a euro which is not a small sum in the West African state.
Ousman Fall is a Quranic teacher in one of the suburbs of Dakar. He claims to be taking care of over 60 talibes but lamented that the respect that traditional Quranic schools once boasted of in the majority Muslim nation of Senegal is fast-eroding as Quranic students are now seen as street beggars instead of industrious pupils.
“It is rueful that some religious teachers are seeing talibes as a good source of income and consequently blackening the image of these once respected village schools for selfish ends. Sending children down the streets is meant to instil humility in them but for some teachers, children are a money spinner,” said Fall.
But a Quranic teacher who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity admitted that the number of children begging in the streets of Senegal gives a bad impression but that it evinces the poverty level in the West African state. He pointed out that the marabouts could not adequately care for the many talibes entrusted in their care.
The issue of child begging remains socially, religiously and politically sensitive in Senegal and the government, even a year ago giving suspended sentences to some Quranic teachers, for forcing others to beg, shy away from publicising it. Quranic teachers or marabouts wield huge influence on the society as many look up towards them for guidance and solutions to some problems.
Be as it may, boys forced to beg through physical and psychological coercion are on the up in Senegal and the need to remove them from the danger of life on the streets is more alive today than ever before.