Security agencies in Dakar commenced a joint operation to put to an end to child begging in its streets. At least a dozen children aged less than 10 years have been rounded up by police and sent to various welfare centers this weekend.
The operations came barely a month after President Macky Sall announced that his government will clear the streets of Dakar of child beggers, a decade old practice of economically exploiting children by religious scholars.
Social welfare officers in Senegal say about 270 children were extracted from the streets of the capital during an earlier 15 campaign. The ‘Talibes,’ as they are locally called are sent to the busy capital to be under the guidance and protection of their Quranic teachers and scholars but are instead sent out to beg under horrible conditions. The children have quotas to meet, a failure of which they are subjected to severe corporal punishment.
Dakar has more than a thousand local Quranic Schools locally given the Arabic name for school ‘Madarassa’ or ‘Daara’ in the local dialect. The schools have more than 54,000 talibes and more than two-thirds of them forced to beg on the streets.
Senegal’s government has set aside state welfare programs, financial and healthcare aid to families of street children, said National Child Protection Director Niokhobaye Diouf.
The Senegalese government has threatened use prosecute offenders and first attempt to unite the children with their families. The children stay at the welfare centers mostly for hours to several days before being reunited with their families and often returned to their religious guardian.
The campaign has resulted to heated exchanges between the government and the powerful religious elite over prosecution of Islamic scholars who say they do not receive any help to care for the children and are only doing their best to keep them, not necessarily using them to make ends meet.
According to Maimouna Balde, the lead law enforcement officer in the campaign, in cases of recurrence, their guardians or parents will be prosecuted. Though the talibe crisis is a problem across Senegal, the operation is limited to Dakar.