I posted this picture yesterday and asked if anyone knew what was going on, or if you were even curious. Sadly, I do not remember this boy’s name specifically, but he might have been Samba, Amadou, Oseina, or one of the scores of other little boys I met in Senegal, West Africa. One thing I do remember for sure, though, is that this little boy is a talibe boy. I remember that he has no one to hug him when he is sick or to wipe the blood off of his legs when the sores open up. I remember that he runs around the city finding people to give him their leftover food. I remember that he always asked me for money every time I walked by him. I remember that older boys beat him if he was not doing what they wanted him to do.
Senegal, like many countries in Africa and the Middle East, is an Islamic country. Therefore, it is of a very high value for the children to study the Koran and learn to recite it in its original language. These are very noble pursuits. I am not Muslim, but I respect someone who is striving to learn what they believe and who takes their faith seriously. In Senegal, therefore, it became very popular and good for children to go to Koranic school to memorize the Koran. This practice has been happening for years. Where this practice becomes a problem is when the shift changes from studying your faith to exploiting your children. Boys from villages all over Senegal are sent by their parents to a big city in order to study the Koran at a Koranic school. However, there are so many boys that it is believed the Koranic schools cannot afford to pay for all of them. Hence, the boys that are sent to the Koranic schools are put in rags, given buckets, and sent out to beg for hours at a time. The rest of their time is spent memorizing the Koran. People claim that it is good for the boys to learn how to beg. It is good for them to learn how to make it with nothing. But, what good is it really when a high percentage of these boys run away and end up on the street or in jail?
The highlight of meeting these boys for me was to get them to put down their buckets and play football or keep-away – remind them to be kids again for a while. I loved seeing them smile, and having them pile around my shoulders when I taught them a few words in English. I loved seeing their eyes light up when I gave them a wet wipe to clean off their faces, or when we handed them some leftover gumballs. I loved tickling them and hearing them giggle, and then turning around and catching them right before they tickled me. They are kids. They need love.
Some Links about the Talibe: