00.04 - 00.24 At first it's really tough. They'll hit you, and because I was homesick, I was a psychological wreck. When the homesickness was worst I wanted to flee so I could see my parents again. But I've never regretted learning the Qu'ran. I never went to a French school, but I don't regret that . The things I've learned in the Quran taught me so much about life.
00.24 - 00.47 Talibés are everywhere in Senegal – young boys forced to beg by their Islamic teachers, or their Marabouts. Locals tell us stories of abuse and exploitation by the Marabouts. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch described their practices as a modern-day variant of slavery.
We've travelled to Senegal because we want to understand the story of the Talibés. We want to know what’s behind these tales of abuse, and how the Senegalese it is perceived by the Senegalese people.
00.56 - 00.59 We are in Guediawaye, a suburb of Dakar.
1.06 – 1.10 We've been allowed to join a group of talibés on their morning begging tour.
1.19 -1.23 After a couple of hours, we asked them what they had gathered.
1.23 - 1.26 They Gave us rice.
1.34 - 1.36 How much did you earn today?
1.37 - 1.38 Isa has the money.
1.38 - 1.39 Yes I know, how much do you have?
1.40 - 1.44 You have 640 CFA. How much do you give to the marabout?
1.47 - 1.49 225 CFA.
1.52 - 1.54 Do you have to give him rice as well?
1.59 -2.02 Do you give the rice separately or do you give it all together?
2.03 - 2.05 We give him the rice together.
2.09 – 2.12 During the tour, we ask the opinion of some by-passers.
2.15 - 2.32 The fact that they have to go on the streets and have to knock on people's doors to ask for money or food, teaches the children that they shouldn't feel better than anyone else. This way everyone can be each others equals.
2.32 – 2.59 I bring my daughter to school because I have the means to pay for her education. If I didn't have these means I would have been obliged to trust her to a Marabout. I think it's very important that my kid learns so she has a decent knowledge of the world around her. But it's the lack of resources the Quranic school are facing that causes that the children have to go beg on the streets.
3.12 - 3.20 It’s noon. The children have gathered enough. They return to their Quranic schools, locally called daara, and we've been allowed in.
3.22 – 3.29 Their marabout isn’t here at the moment. But all revenues are collected and written down precisely by the Quranic teacher.
3.30 – 3.51 We store all the rice that the children collect here. Sometimes we cook a meal for everybody with it. And sometimes we give some rice to the children who can then go and visit their families.
4.13 – 4.28 The children gather for their first Quran lesson of the day, but afterwards they have to return to the streets to collect their lunch. The children form a line to collect their kitty. Apparently, the whole system is carefully considered: this isn’t just sending children out on the streets, there is a system behind it all.
4.26 – 4.41 Most of the children have host families. They'll take their bowl to them and their host families will prepare them some food. There are others without such a host family, and they go from door to door to search for food. Only five kids here do that.
4.45 – 4.54 After the visit to the daara, we travel to Saint-Louis, a five hour drive to the north of Dakar. We had heard rumours of severe abuse in this city.
4.57 – 5.04 Samba is a social worker from the safehouse ‘Maison de la Gare’. He takes us with him on his tour to several daaras in the city.
5.07 – 5.23 This daara has to cleaned thoroughly. It isn't healthy here. There are fleas, microbes and we have to build a new toilet. That's something we'll do next week.
5.23 Who's going to do that?
5.24 – 5.26 We are, we.
5.37 –5.42 The Marabout isn't present in this daara either, but his Quranic teacher allows us to film.
6.02 – 6.03 What a stench.
6.07 – 6.08 It's swarmed with worms...
06:17 – 6.21 The stench of the toilet is everywhere, and the children are covered with fleabites.
06.22 – 06.24 What's your name? Baye Khalakha
06.27 – 06.30 How many talibés do you have here?
06.31 – 06.35 We have sixty talibés here.
06.36 – 06.41 Where do they sleep? – Here
06.41 – 06.43 They sleep on the ground?
06.44 – 06.50 No, we put down a canvas for them to sleep on.
06.52 – 06.56 Could anyone recite a verse of the Quran?
06.59 – 07.01 No? Didn't he study the Quran then?
07.03 – 07.07 Hij is on the right path, but every child learns at his own speed.
07:07 – 7.11 We ask an older talibé to recite some Quran verses.
07.18 – 07.20 Continue till the end?
07.23 – 07.26 How long has he been here?
07.28 – 07.31 I have been here for five years.
07:35 – 7.47 This is supposedly a Quranic school, but even the older talibés can’t recite a single verse. When we leave, we ask Samba why parents keep on sending their children to these schools.
07.52 – 8.21 Even I studied the Quran as a kid. I leared how to pray and how to respect people. Islam is a great education. If you're a muslim, you'll study the Quran, talibé or not. It's normal here. In the vacation, after school, you go and study the Quran..
08.24 – 08.27 What's happening here?
08.27 – 08.31 First of all we have to ask permission, so we can't film here yet.
8.33 – 8.39 In the next daara, the marabout is present; and after some lengthy persuasion, he allows us to film interview him.
08.37 – 08.39 Do you send the kids out to beg?
08.40 – 08.43 Yes, the children have to beg here.
08.44 – 08.45 Why?
08.46 – 08.54 They have to beg because otherwise there wouldn't be any food here.
08.56 – 09.00 If we would have food, nobody should go beg anymore.
09.03 – 09.08 The parents nor the governnment give me money to take care of the talibés.
09.11 – 09.29 They parents give their children to me, without contributing per year or month: they run away from their responsibilities.
09.33 – 09.38 There are decent marabouts, but others just abuse the children. They let them beg.
09.39 – 9.59 The marabout we saw earlier sends his talibés out to beg for food only, not for money. That's normal. In other schools the children have to collect 250 to 300 CFA per day. If they don't succeed they get beaten, that's for sure.
10.00 – 10.03 He is a serious marabout. This should be considered as normal.
10.04 – 10.10 In what way do you think it's normal that children have to beg for food?
10.11 – 10.12 Yes, that's normal, why?
10.13 – 10.30 You heard the marabout. He told us that the parents keep on sending their children here. If you receive hundreds of children, and the parents don't give you anything, you can't feed them all. That's why they have to go beg so they have something to eat.
10.30 – 10.33 It's because of the lack of resources.
10.34 – 10.36 Indeed, the lack of resources, that's the problem.
10.37 – 10.53 Samba shows us a shocking picture of a chained talibé. He explains this child was punished this way because he fled his daara. It’s common practice. We ask Samba if he knows of any fled talibé willing to speak.
10.58 – 11.09 He puts us in contact with Idi. Every Friday night, Idi wanders in the streets of St. Louis, searching for children who fled from their daara. After some hesitation Idi agrees to take us with him that night.
11.13 – 11.21 We are leaving the island and we're on the road to the bus station. That's very close to the police station.
11.23 – 10.30 The police station is close, but still there are a lot of children, they sleep there.
11.31 – 11.35 You know, these children often sleep where others can't see them.
11.36 – 11.47 Because they're careful. But sometimes they sleep under street lamps or in parks, where people can find them.
11.48 – 11.50 Turn here.
11.51 – 11.54 We stop at the St Louis bus stop.
12.07 There is a talibé.
12.19 – 12.24 This man is from this neighbourhood, he sits here often
- I take care of the children.
12.24 – 12.27 The talibés sleep here sometimes.
12.34 – 12.37 They sleep here, in this corner.
12.38 – 12.42 They like to sleep in secluded places. If I see they are cold, I bring them some blankets.
12.44 I have seen others sleeping in this car.
12.47 – 12.54 Each child has to bring in 200 CFA. If you have 200 children, and you ask 200 CFA from each child… That’s a lot of money.
12.55 – 13.02 What would happen if they bring in less? In that case, they get a severe beating.
13.03 – 13.09 But sometimes they get the chance to compensate the next day.
13.11 – 13.13 How many children are living in these conditions?
13.14 – 13.18 How many children? He asks how many children!
13.19 – 13.21 Thousands…
13.42 – 13.44 Wake up, wake up!
13.56 – 13.57 How are you, everything okay?
13.59 – 14.00 Yes… Everything okay.
14.04 – 14.07 What are you doing here, did you flee from your daara?
14.11 – 14.17 You can tell me, don’t worry if you did flee..
14.20 – 14.23 I fled because the marabout beats me often.
14.24 – 14.26 Why does he beat you so much?
14.30 – 14.32 Because I didn't bring back enough money.
14.32 – 14.35 Did you bring in something? How much do you have to give?
14.36 200 CFA.
14.40 – 14.42 Didn’t you have 200 CFA today?
14.44 – 14.49 How did your friends manage to bring in the money?
14.50 – 14.55 I can’t bring in what I don’t have.
15.07 – 15.08 What’s up with that kid? What are you doing with that kid?
15.08 – 15.24 He says he didn’t bring in enough money, and he feared the beating, so he fled his daara. Now he is sleeping on the streets. It would be better if I take him to a rescue center, otherwise he stays on the streets. He will be kept there untill tomorrow, than we will talk with his marabout.
15.28 – 15.30 I found a talibé and I would like to bring him to the rescue center.
15.50 – 16.03 Idi takes the boy to a shelter. There are only three of them in the whole of Senegal. For Idi, the search for the kid's parents must start now, because it’s clear that he never wants to return to the Marabout who so badly abused him.
15.57 – 15.59 Look at this! How are you?
16.10 – 16.20 It is apparent that the living conditions can vary a lot between daara’s. In the morning we return to the daara in Guedyawaye to see if the conditions are equally bad there.
16.25 – 16.27 It’s five o clock in the morning.
16.43 – 16.46 After classes they have to get on the streets immediately to start begging.
16.47 – 16.57 Some children buy breakfast from a little shop around the corner. They collect some money so they can buy their own breakfast.
17.09 – 17.14 In the streets we hear that there is a Quranic school where the children don’t have to go begging.
17.16 – 17.20 But when we arrive we are forbidden to film there.
17.25 – 17.33 We continue to look for school where there is no begging. Filming is difficult because these schools don’t want to be associated with begging and abuse.
17.39 – 17.50 On the road we meet Alassane. He used to be a talibe. He’s had a rough life but he says that learning the Quran has been very important for him.
17.52 – 18.11 Life is hard in the daaras, there exists a lot of suffering. You have to work hard and sometimes you fight with the other kids. You can’t change the suffering. The only thing you can do is learn.
18.12 – 18.56 It’s hard in the beginning. You get beaten and you are homesick. Each time I was homesick, I wanted to run away. I wanted to return to my parents. They caught me and they beat me again. The marabout chained me up so I couldn’t flee again. They do so because that way you grow up with values and norms, so that in your later life you wouldn’t regret your time in the Quranic school. Sometimes, I hid the money that I begged for, without the marabout seeing it. My friends then saw it and told the marabout. I got beaten and had to return everything.
18.57 – 18.59 What did they beat you with?
18.59 – 19.19 They hit me on my back, with different kind of whips or branches. They would use thin twigs for example. They beat you whenever you do something wrong, so that you are scared of doing it again.
19.20 – 19.24 The next day we continue our journey in search of a good daara.
19.26 Pass by.
19.29 - 19.33 After a long search we find a Marabout who will allow us to film.
19.47 – 19.53 He tells us that the children don’t have to go begging because in the morning and evening they can go home to eat.
20.01 – 20.20 The saying goes: dignity is not only a matter of making children. Just as wearing beautiful clothes doesn’t automatically say you are a good person. This is my entourage, these children are my family. They are tomorrow’s future, that’s why you have to treat them right. You have to respect the rights of these children.
20.50 – 21.21 For a better world, for their future, in order to give them the best chances, they need to be educated. They need to be educated in discipline. Because discipline is the thriving force. I truly am a man of discipline.
21.22 – 21.42 And I say to you, this is a train station neighbourhood, with a lot of criminality. God forsake us. We say: “all glory to Allah’, because we succeeded in educating the children.
22.31 – 22.35 We ask Alassane what influence the Quran has had on his life.
22.35 – 22.54 When I start to work, I say the name of Allah out loud. By doing this, I gain the courage and force to do my work well. I do so whenever I start something, so I know I will succeed.
22.55 – 23.10 The daara is the most important thing in our lives. I don’t regret I learned the Quran. I didn’t go to a French school, but I don’t regret it. What I learned in Quran has taught me so much.
23.16 – 23.18 Where would you like to live, in which country?
23.21 – 23.22 No, I want to live in Italy. Why Congo?
23.26 – 23.27 Wherever life takes me, that's where I will live.
23.28 – 23.30 Name a country.
23.30 Italy, Italy!
23.47 - End Human rights organisations want to include the daara’s in the educational system of the state. That way they can be sure that the children will actually recieve an education and won’t have to go begging, and they will be fed and not abused. But untill then, the streets of Senegal will stay full of talibe.