If there is in Senegal a layer whose life is unenviable, it is the talibes. Barefooted innocents, ragged clothes, wandering the streets and begging all day long. They are children in general up to about 18 years old (less numerous, usually coming from regions and neighboring countries), they are supposed to study Koranic school with a marabout in the capital.
They get up very early in the morning, just after the dawn prayer to invest the streets, beg to sometimes obtain a sum required by the tutelary marabout. The amount can vary “between 200 and 500 FCFA, and is necessarily paid under pain of punishment”.
It is nine o’clock when we break into the Guediawaye ledge, the big agglomeration, located north of the Dakar region. This department is one of the most populated in Senegal. It is also where begging seems more visible. We are at the cornice, more precisely at the “Thursday market”. Here, the traffic is dense. Many cars come and go. Talibes take the risks by crossing the road as they see fit without worrying about the dangers that lie ahead. Beside a parking lot, four talibés are comfortably settled there.
The youngest, Abdoulaye (5 years old), Moussa (7 years old), Sidi (10 years old) and Oumar (15 years old) all come from Saloum, in the region of Kaolack.
They each have in hand a pot, containing rice, sugar, cola, candles….
Approached, they do not hesitate to confide. The taller, Oumar spoke immediately after the first question. “We are from Saloum. I was not even 8 when I came to Dakar to be talibe,”he confesses, before continuing: “I came here to learn the Koran. It was my parents who brought me here, entrusting me with the Koranic teacher”.
To the question of what daily sum is required by the Quranic teacher, Oumar explains: “The sums vary according to the ages. I pay 500 FCFA per day. There are in those who give 400, 300 and even 200 Fcfa”.
“In any case it’s too hard, especially for children,” he concluded. Moussa, as far as he was concerned, did not even know where exactly his parents were taking him. Dressed in a torn black shirt, blue jeans and handmade shoes, Moussa confesses: “When I came here, I was not told where I was going. My parents just brought me without my consent.”
This life if Moussa had the choice, he would not opt for that. In front of us, he is practically plaintive. Moreover, the boy would have liked to go to French school like many children: “It’s not easy to be talibe and if it depended only on me, I would stay with my parents to study like students”.
“Sometimes people treat us like animals or as if they do not have children,” he adds. The youngest, Abdoulaye, 5 years old confesses with a touching sadness his daily life, being a kid, Abdoulaye says he does not know who brought him to Dahara, says he ignores the reasons that pushed his parents to bring him to Dakar. “I’ve been here a long time, but I do not know how long I stayed in Dakar,” says the boy.
The talibe child must pay 400 FCFA every morning before 10 o’clock and it’s been nine hours that Abdoulaye is on the ground and he had only 135 FCFA.
Do they really have time to learn the Qur’an for which they are supposed to be brought to Dakar? “For that we get up very early in the morning to get this money or we will be struck,” says the boy, disappointed with this life of beggar. “I want to go home,” he says with a sad face.
The situation of talibe children is not at all desirable. The State should do everything to better organize the learning of the Koran. Strengthen the construction of modern dara and support the marabouts, because, according to some, it is because the parents take their children without contribution that the marabout sends them to beg to make up for their presence in the preceptor.
But it is also said that begging is a way of teaching humility to the student. But walking the streets of the capital from morning to evening, one wonders when, the talibes have time to learn the Qur’an seriously.