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What is a talibe?

A talibe hasn’t always had a negative connotation. For years, a talibe was simply a young boy sent to study the Quran. However, in the last 20 or so years, the term now describes young boys (ages 5-18) in Senegal and West Africa who beg on the streets for days on end for money, rice, and sugar to bring back to their master. They generally receive little-to-no education, are beaten and chained if they do not meet their daily quotas, and are largely forgotten by their families. Upon leaving the schools, they are commonly referred to as “lost causes” due to their physical and psychological damage as well as the minimal education they received.

Why do their families send them away?

The decision to send a child, and sometimes siblings, away to a daara is often a simple matter of economics for parents: their absence means one less mouth to feed in a large family—a family oftentimes with as many as 10 children. While the hope is their decision will benefit their child, once they are gone it becomes an out of sight, out of mind situation. Unfortunately, this means the young boys are often forgotten by their families. One of the biggest obstacles talibes face—even those rescued from corrupt Quranic schools—is assimilation back into their family. In some cases, the shattered trust cannot be repaired, and the sense of abandonment leads the talibes to withdraw from their families and from a social life altogether.

What is the government doing about it?

Until recently, the Senegalese government has done very little to combat the issue of forced begging and child exploitation by faux-marabouts. According to Human Rights Watch, in 2016 the Senegalese government enacted a program to remove the talibes from the streets, a program in French known as “the retrait.” Initially, the project helped pick up more than 1,500 talibes from the streets of Dakar and brought them to shelters. However, one year later the talibe numbers remained extremely high. With nowhere else to turn, hundreds of talibes found themselves back at their original daaras with their abusive masters. The program also failed to initiate any meaningful investigations or prosecutions of the corrupt Quranic teachers suspected of forced begging and abuse.

How can I help?

Monetary donations are the best means to aid in the recovery of the talibes. Structuring their education through safe learning and living environments is the single-most important element in their rehabilitation. Simply freeing them from corrupt and abusive situations does not eliminate the chances of them gravitating back to their abusive teachers or turning to a life on the streets. Love1Talibe’s focus is to build the infrastructure to create these safe places and begin the process of rehabilitation and integration back into society. Your donations will be used to procure the resources for these young boys to learn a trade and life skills via a safe living space for them to mature and, most importantly, be kids again!


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