Call to end Senegal school abuse

2010-04-15 15:56

kalahari.com

  • World Report 2012
    The 22nd annual World Report summarizes human rights conditions in more than ninety countries and... Now R337.00
    buy now
Dakar - A leading international rights group called on Senegal's government Thursday to clamp down on Islamic schools whose leaders are subjecting tens of thousands of children to forced begging and daily beatings in conditions it says are "akin to slavery".

Powerful religious leaders known as "marabouts" hold enormous political influence in this mostly Muslim West African nation. Parents often send their children to traditional Quranic schools run by marabouts, both because they hope their children will receive a religious education and because they are free.

But some marabouts are instead banking tens of thousands of dollars in annual profits by forcing droves of children as young as four into the streets to beg for change, according to a new report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch. Children who return without enough money are often beaten, the group said.

"Senegal should not stand by while tens of thousands of ... children are subjected every day to beatings, gross neglect, and, in fact, conditions akin to slavery," said Georgette Gagnon, the group's Africa director.

Senegal's government claims it has tried to address the issue, passing legislation in 2005 that criminalised the act of forcing others to beg for financial gain.

Concrete steps

"But the authorities have failed to take concrete steps to implement the law and ... not one marabout has been charged or tried solely for the crime of forced begging," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Presidential spokesperson and Religious Affairs Minister Bamba Ndiaye acknowledged children are being "exposed to danger", but he said the law alone could not immediately make the phenomenon disappear.

"You can never forget that this is a social phenomenon and, above all, a religious phenomenon ... the change has to come from the religious communities first," Ndiaye said. He added that parents also bear responsibility for sending their children to the schools and need to be educated on the risks children face.

Human Rights Watch estimates at least 50 000 boys, most between the ages of four and 12, are begging on the streets of Senegal, a country whose government has often been upheld by international donors as a democratic beacon in a region notorious for coups and war. Many of the boys are from neighbouring countries, especially Guinea-Bissau.

The tiny boys can often be seen wandering barefoot in the capital, Dakar, moving in small groups without adult supervision, swarming cars and passers-by. They are often dressed in ragged, torn clothes. Many beg late into the night, returning to sleep 30 to a room in abandoned or half-constructed buildings that offer little protection from the elements, Human Rights Watch said.

Documented myriad beatings

Religious leaders demand daily quotas of the children and beat them or abuse them psychologically when they fail to meet the quotas, the group said, adding it had documented myriad beatings, including incidents in which children were "chained, bound, and forced into stress positions as they were beaten".

The report said the children suffer from skin diseases, malaria, stomach parasites and malnutrition. And when they get sick, they are often forced to work overtime to pay for medicine, Human Rights Watch said.

Those who buy new clothes have had them confiscated by their marabouts - who give them to their own children instead.

The religious leaders, meanwhile, collect between $20 000 to $60 000 per year from their child beggars, and some gain as much as $100 000, the rights group said.

"Instead of marabouts ensuring that the boys in their care have food, education, and proper shelter, all too often the young boys become the means to provide for the marabout and his family," Gagnon said. "This is unconscionable."

More than 1 000 of the boys run away from the schools every year.

Human Rights Watch said none of the religious schools - apart from a few sponsored by the state - are regulated by government.

"The rampant abuse of these children will only be eradicated when the government stands up to religious authorities and brings offending marabouts to book," Gagnon said.

- AP
Read more on:    human rights watch  |  senegal  |  west africa
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

ONE DAY ONLY – 50% off 1000’s of toys

Get 50% of 1000’s off toys! Offer valid on selected toys. Shop now! T&C’s apply

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Mind power dominates and can help you to uncover things from a deeper level, but it can also create entanglements if you let your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.