In 2005, Senegal banned a huge industry of child exploitation veiled as apprenticeship.
But though illegal, Talibés — Arabic for apprentice — are still mistreated in the West African country. Families send their children to a traditional school known as a ‘daara’ to learn Arabic and study the Quran alongside a spiritual guide or teacher referred to as a ‘marabout’. Instead, they’re often made to beg on the streets for rice, sugar and money to fatten the pockets of their mentors.
In recent years, the issue has made headline news, with Human Rights Watch report likening the experiences of the 50,000 oppressed youth to that of modern day slavery. Many of the kids – predominantly boys as young as three – are living in extreme poverty. The state of the traditional daara, often a poorly-ventilated thatched structure, exposes them to the elements as well as diseases including malaria.
Dafa Yow, an NGO founded in Belgium, works to support the education and development of these daara education centers. The “modern daaras” are significantly improving and becoming self-sustainable, teaching the Quran but also French, math, and various trade skills.
Produced by Dafa Yow
Text by Clé Hunningan