You see them everywhere in Senegal. Groups of filthy, despondent children, aged between 4 and 15, desperately begging. But these children haven’t run away from home or been abandoned. They’re ’talibes’, students at religious boarding schools. In exchange for a Koranic education, the children are forced to beg for more than 10 hours a day. Those who don’t earn enough money are ruthlessly beaten. Previously, every African village had its own school. Students used to help their teacher cultivate fields and occasionally ask neighbours for money but the majority of their day was spent studying. Rural migration changed everything. Now the children are sent to city madrassas and most of their day is allocated to begging. And when they’re not begging, they’re learning the Koran by heart and fighting off sleep and hunger as they dodge the master’s whip. We spend several weeks living alongside these children, telling their stories.
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