In Senegal, Quranic schools (Daaras) are experiencing growing success. Students, commonly known as "Talibés children," are placed there by their families to receive religious education taught by a highly respected personality, the Marabout.
Daraas were once located at the very heart of rural communities and were pillars of local society. With successive economic crises, they have moved to urban areas, leading to the increase of "fake marabouts," more motivated by personal enrichment than by children's education.
Thus, while some Marabouts still offer appropriate support, without violence, others abuse their influence to exploit talibé children, subjecting them to begging and precarious living conditions. Malnutrition, disease, violence, and humiliation then become the daily life of these "little hands."
Once the talibé children leave their Daara, they are in their twenties. In reality, they have not acquired skills or general education. What does the future hold for them? Some may become Marabouts themselves, while others will try to make a living in low-paying jobs. For some of them, the appeal of delinquency can be tempting. In any case, it is very likely that the majority of these Talibés will never return to their family and their home village.
In the absence of official statistics, it is estimated that in Dakar alone, there is a population of nearly 200,000 talibé children in Senegal according to a mapping by the NGO Global Solidarity Initiative.
Due to the lack of regulation for Daaras in the country, cases of abuse and mistreatment are rarely prosecuted.

A Talibé in front of the blackboard orally translates specific Arabic words into Wolof, one of the languages spoken in Senegal. He recites out loud what is condemned by religion, namely offensive remarks, bad behaviors, or acts contrary to morality. Daara (Quranic school) of the Quranic teacher Oustas Amadou Faye in Dakar, February 26, 2023.

In this daara, 70 Talibés live and receive their religious education. Daara (Quranic school) of El Hadji Sidi Ba in Mbour, December 21, 2022.

A Talibé, suffering from scabies that has infected his left hand, waits his turn to take a shower and receive treatment at the infirmary of the "Pour une enfance Sénégal" Association in Mbour, December 26, 2022.

Our eyes met. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

These two Talibés help each other wash their hands using the remaining water in the barrel. Mbour, December 21, 2022.

In the early morning, older Talibés wake up in Alasan Balde's Daara in Dakar, February 26, 2023.

The Talibés rise before dawn to revise the Quran, under the guidance of the Quranic teacher Alasan Balde. It is a sacred morning routine that conditions the soul and mind for the day ahead. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

Under scorching sun and relentless heat in the late morning, these two Talibés diligently engage in their Quranic studies outside El Hadji Sidi Ba's Daara, in the Santhie neighborhood of Mbour, December 26, 2022.

The daily fate of young Talibés, forced to beg in the streets to feed themselves. Despite the prohibition of this practice and the government's efforts to eradicate begging, many Marabouts impose it illegally to instill religious values such as charity, compassion, and empathy in the Talibés. The Marabouts continue to send their disciples to beg in the streets, not only for money but also for food, which is why the Talibés carry a small bucket. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

The Quranic teacher Oustas Amadou Faye daily teaches the Quran and the principles of Islam to his Talibés, ensuring their religious education, in his Daara located in Dakar, February 26, 2023.

Moussa, a young Talibé, is suffering from an ear infection. He is being treated at the infirmary of the "Pour une enfance Sénégal" Association. The difficult living conditions for these children, often exposed to violence, illness, and lack of hygiene, pose significant risks to their health and development. Mbour, December 21, 2022.

A solitary Talibé roams the streets, from the break of dawn, carrying his bucket, begging for whatever people are willing to give him. Despite the early hour, his life on the streets has already begun, reminding us of the sad reality of forced begging for young Talibés in Senegal. Mbour, January 4, 2023.

Three Talibés sit during the Quranic teaching led by Quranic teacher Oustas Amadou Faye in his Daara. The first Talibé on the left holds a Misbaha in his mouth. It is a Muslim rosary used for reciting prayers and glorifying Allah. He holds in his hand "the tablet," or "Alluha," which is a tool for memorizing Quranic verses. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

At 5 o'clock in the morning, this young Talibé takes a break! The cool morning air, the challenges of the Arabic language, and the repetitive nature of Quranic recitation have affected his concentration. Daara of Quranic teacher Alasan Balde in Dakar, February 26, 2023.

After reciting verses from the Quran, a group of Talibés ventures into the streets of Dakar to beg, using small buckets that will be used to collect money or food, such as rice and sugar. Each Talibé is expected to bring back a predetermined amount of money or occasional food items to their Marabout daily. Despite being prohibited in Senegal, child begging in the streets remains a common practice. It should be noted that this time spent begging is the main cause of their illiteracy and lack of education in general. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

A young Talibé uses his index finger to follow and memorize the sacred verses of the Quran. He immerses himself in the study of the divine word. Daara of Quranic teacher Oustas Amadou Faye in Dakar, February 26, 2023.

Some Talibés wash their laundry after taking a shower. They receive occasional meals, healthcare, and clean clothes within the "Pour une enfance Sénégal" Association, which aims to provide aid and assistance to Talibé children. Mbour, December 28, 2022.

A young Talibé proudly shows the results of his begging. These two 25 CFA franc coins are the product of long hours spent begging in the streets of Mbour. Although the amount may not be significant, for this young Talibé, every coin counts. It represents the hope of a meal for the day and the satisfaction of his Marabout. Despite the difficult conditions they live in, they continue to work hard to meet their own needs and those of their Marabout. Mbour, February 4, 2023.

Two Talibé children in the Santhie neighborhood of Mbour, after fetching water from the well, bring back two filled jugs to their Daara. December 28, 2022.

The Daara of Quranic teacher Alasan Balde in Dakar. Although precarious, this place of knowledge and devotion has found its space amidst the bustling city. This Marabout, who was once a Talibé himself in his youth, perpetuates the tradition by dedicating his life to the religious education of other Talibés. This photo depicts the environment in which he works, surrounded by his two wives and their daughters, as well as his sons who are also among his students. Here, all Talibés are treated with the same education and respect, without distinction of their social background or family status. Alasan Balde built this Daara with his own hands on a borrowed piece of land, using reclaimed wood. Dakar, February 26, 2023.

A hand of a Talibé child, marred by scabies, clings to the bars of one of the windows of the "Pour une enfance Sénégal" Association in Mbour. This rough and injured hand bears witness to the hardships of Talibé children's lives as they struggle daily against poverty and adversity. Mbour, December 26, 2022.

 © Ines CABALLERO, All rights reserved.
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