A day in the life of the 'talibe'

In Senegal up to 100,00 children roam the streets begging for money and scraps of food in order to survive, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2004). Many of these beggars are ‘talibes’ or Koranic students, who follow a religious teacher or ‘marabout’ to whom they are entrusted to learn the Koran. Originally, communities gave alms to children to help support religious teaching, but in many places this cultural practice has lost its value and become a means of enforced begging.

To try to reduce the practice the government is currently creating modern religious schools or ‘daaras’ in which children can learn Koranic teachings without having to go out to beg. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) run projects to help ‘marabouts’ return to their villages to get involved in alternative income-generating activities, and try to reunite children with their families. Despite these efforts, UNICEF estimates there are still up to 10,000 child beggars, many of them ‘talibes’, on the streets of Dakar alone. We documented the daily lives of some of these boys in Dakar and in Kaffrine, western Senegal.

To read more about efforts to combat the problem, go to our report, ‘Why the ‘talibe’ problem won’t go away.’