Senegal’s Koranic “scholars” face beatings: report

April 15, 2010
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Fali Ba, 10, a Talibe or Islamic student, holds a copy of the Koran at a Dara, or Koranic school, in Pikine on the outskirts of Senegal's capital Dakar, May 7, 2008/Finbarr O'Reilly

Barefoot children in tattered clothes scramble through the dusty, trash-strewn streets of Dakar, tapping on car windows and shadowing market-goers in the hopes of a few coins or a cup of rice.

The sight of young people begging is not uncommon in a country struggling with deep-rooted poverty, but in the West African state of Senegal there is a twist.

These children are students in the nation’s traditional Koranic school system being forced by teachers to panhandle on pain of severe beatings, according to an investigation by global advocacy group Human Rights Watch released on Thursday.

“There are at least 50,000 children just in urban residential daaras (Koranic schools) that are living in conditions akin to slavery,” said study author Matt Wells.

“We’re talking about quite a serious problem here in Senegal and the numbers are increasing every day,” he said of the “talibe”, or scholars.

The findings are troublesome in a mainly Muslim nation of 12 million where Koranic schools have existed for centuries, placing Senegal on a list of countries with severe forced child begging such as Pakistan, India, and Albania

Read the full story here.

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Talibes, or Islamic students, recite verses from the Koran at a Dara in Pikine on the outskirts of Senegal's capital Dakar, May 7, 2008/Finbarr O'Reilly

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