Children Can No Longer Beg in the Streets of Senegal

Three weeks ago, courts in Senegal ruled that Muslim holy men were no longer allowed to enlist children to beg on their behalf. According to The New York Times, flocks of ragged young boys, known as "talibes," have traditionally spent many hours a day walking barefoot through busy streets, holding tin cans and begging for change—which they deliver to the holy men, or "marabouts."

[Talibes] could be seen in every neighborhood of this Muslim West African metropolis. Ostensibly students in schools where the Koran is taught, the boys often leave these makeshift establishments knowing little of the Muslim sacred texts, according to Human Rights Watch, which estimates that there are as many as 50,000 on the streets of Senegal.

The marabouts depend on the pitiful gleanings of the children for their own livelihood, as they testified in court here.


On the surface, this seems like a victory for human rights, though The Times notes the ban is much more popular among foreigners than among Senegalese; it might not have happened without pressure from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is to deliver a $540-million grant to the nation. As of last week, TheTimes also mentions, many children could still be seen in tattered clothes, begging for change.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Barry Pousman