Talibe is an Arabic term for disciple. In Senegal, what was once a respectable education system has become criminal. What tries to pass as religious teaching today has become a business for exploiting children. Everyday, talibes, who range in age from 5 to 15 years old, beg on the streets for eight hours a day and return back to an overcrowded and squalid daara, rife with skin disease, breathing problems, stomach parasites and Malaria. Little education takes place and talibes are routinely subjected to physical abuse. Mario Cruz gained rare access to the dark and violent world of the daaras where children’s dreams are suffocated by fear.
The physical abuse of talibes is well known but takes place hidden behind the doors of the daaras. The marabouts are well aware that their actions are criminal and access to daaras is heavily restricted by them. Even the police have difficulty getting access to some daaras. Talibes are unlike beggars found in other countries. They are children with marks of physical abuse and often visibly traumatized. But Senegalese society doesn’t seem to see them. They are part of daily life routine. The number of children exploited by this system of modern-day slavery is estimated to number as many as 30,000 in the Dakar region alone and 50,000 across the country.
The long tradition of sending boys to study at Quranic boarding schools in Senegal is rooted in positive values of religious and moral education but in the last decade the system has changed drastically and uncontrollably. Thousands of so-called teachers use religious education as a cover for economic exploitation of the children in their charge. With many of them having more than one daara throughout Senegal.
Mario Cruz, Talibes, Modern-day Slaves
Self-Published, in collaboration with FotoEvidence