News from Maison de la Gare
Meeting the Talibé Children in the Daaras Where They LiveTweeter
"Davis Projects for Peace" volunteers throw light on this hidden world, while making it a bit better
Four students at the University
of Rochester in New York conceived and led a remarkable mobilization of Senegalese
university students during the summer of 2015, in support of Maison de la Gare's
work for the begging talibé street children … "A
New Beginning for the Talibé Children".
With its long experience in this struggle, Maison de la Gare was able to help Rose Mbaye, Eyram Adedze, Ben Ouattara and Mame Coumba to understand the situation that had led to establishment of its welcome center in Saint Louis. And, to help them to take action towards eradicating the so-called education system maintained by false Quranic teachers, and to appreciate the challenges that must be overcome.
In its 2010 report "Off the Backs of the Children", Human Rights Watch described the lives of the talibé children in their daaras in this way:
“Morning to night, the landscape of Senegal’s cities is dotted with the sight of the boys - the vast majority under 12 years old and many as young as four - shuffling in small groups through the streets; weaving in and out of traffic; and waiting outside shopping centers, marketplaces, banks, and restaurants. Dressed in filthy, torn, and oversized shirts, and often barefoot, they hold out a small plastic bowl or empty can hoping for alms. On the street they are exposed to disease, the risk of injury or death from car accidents, and physical and sometimes sexual abuse by adults.
Daily life for these children is one of extreme deprivation. Despite bringing money and rice to the daara, the children are forced to beg for their meals on the street. Some steal or dig through trash in order to find something to eat. The majority suffer from constant hunger and mild to severe malnutrition. When a child falls ill, which happens often with long hours on the street and poor sanitary conditions in the daara, the teacher seldom offers healthcare assistance. The children are forced to spend even longer begging to purchase medicines to treat the stomach parasites, malaria, and skin diseases that run rampant through the daaras. Most of the urban daaras are situated in abandoned, partially constructed structures or makeshift thatched compounds. The children routinely sleep 30 to a small room, crammed so tight that, particularly during the hot season, they choose to brave the elements outside. During Senegal’s four-month winter, the talibés suffer the cold with little or no cover, and, in some cases, even a to sleep on.”
The Senegalese university students were able to see with their own eyes the children’s living conditions in Saint Louis daaras, and to appreciate the difference between a good and a bad daara. They visited seven of the daaras where the children live In the course of the project, donating sleeping mats, soap, shoes, clothing and first aid supplies. They also undertook a major clean-up of these daaras, sweeping and removing refuse, and they donated brooms and waste bins and installed mosquito nets, all to allow the children to live in slightly better conditions. In daara Serigne Abdoulaye Bâ in Pikine the volunteers washed the young talibé children’s clothing, providing an example for others to follow.
These visits also gave the students the opportunity to express directly to the Quranic teachers, the marabouts of the daaras, their lack of support for the philosophy responsible for the children’s situation. From these discussions, the idea emerged of carrying out some renovations in order to make a real difference for the children. Many of the daaras have no means of providing health care and no provision for basic hygiene. As an example, in daara Serigne Alioune Sow in the Darou area, the volunteers installed showers and built a new toilet facility.
By the end of this project, a network of new friends had developed among the university student volunteers. Together they had come to understand that the condition of the children living in these daaras is a Senegalese problem that must be resolved by the Senegalese themselves. The project transformed the volunteers’ perceptions of the situation of these very vulnerable children. And it gave the children themselves new hope that there are Senegalese men and women who are aware of their situation and are committed to giving them the chance to have a better life.