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One of the most repeated scenes in some capitals of West Africa , especially in Senegal, is the one that occurs at traffic lights. Dozens of children with their faces covered in dust, barefoot, with tattered shirts and bodies bursting with hunger, approach cars to ask for alms with empty and rusty cans in their hands . Most are not homeless or alone. Everyone has a roof to sleep on and a tutor who is supposed to take care of them.
They are the so-called Talib children (students, in Arabic), small children from rural areas to cities whose parents cannot feed or educate in a school, who are sent to the Koranic or Daaras schools , where they are under the orders of the Marabou, That kind of teacher and religious leader of Islam so common in these countries.
It is in these schools where hundreds of those Talibs (sometimes thousands) sleep on the floor, recite the tablets of the Qur'an daily and work in the marabou offices in cleaning or cooking. It is a practice of known and consensual child exploitation, which keeps children as slaves, does not adequately train them and forces them to beg from sun to sun to be able to pay for food (scarce), for the soil on which they sleep and for the supposed education they receive. But the money is administered by the Marabou. The more children you have at your disposal, the more benefits you get. It is the poverty industry. In Senegal they claim 500 CFA francs (the old French colonial currency) for each child per day, which is equivalent to 0.7 euros. Those who fail to contribute that amount will be beaten on their return to the daara . The idea instilled in them is that they have to earn their food.
The last episode (and extreme example) of this sad story was lived yesterday in Nigeria, where his police released more than 300 children last night , mostly young children, abused and chained by the ankles in one of those Koranic schools in the state northern of Kaduna, in the Muslim half of the country.
"We received information that something was happening in this center. Upon arriving here we discovered that it is not a rehabilitation center or an Islamic school," Kaduna Police Chief Ali Janga confirmed to the press after the rescue. Many of the children - mostly from Burkina Faso, Mali and other African countries - in addition to wearing ankle chains, claimed to have been sexually abused, according to police sources, and tortured while being forced to recite the Koran. These types of practices generate a traffic in children denounced by local and international organizations for years. Even some terrorist groups have paid to take these children from countries like Guinea Bissau or Benin to recruit them as future jihadists.
For its part, the owner of this alleged school said that his only activity was the teaching of Islam, and rejected as false any accusation of "torture, dehumanization and homosexuality, " according to the agency Efe. "These people are being used, dehumanized. You can see it for yourselves," continued police chief Janga, adding that "no reasonable father would take his children to a place like this."
Authorities are now trying to contact the relatives of the released minors, who were transferred last night to a Kaduna stadium , while eight people remain arrested as suspects.
The Talibs get up at five in the morning and can beg until the sun sets, where they can all eat from the same bowl some cooked rice and sleep on a miserable mat. Teaching never includes languages like English or French , which disconnects them from the education offered by the state and balks them in their future.
In northern Nigeria, especially in the states where the main law is sharia (Islamic law), these schools are usually surrounded by small shacks of mud and mud, sometimes so miserable that only one child fits. They repeat their same shirt over and over again, they have nowhere to wash and make their needs in the street.
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