In what it says is an effort to combat the phenomenon of talibés or child beggars, the Senegalese government is systematically removing child beggars from the streets of the West African capital. Earlier this month President Macky Sall told media: “I have given very firm instructions to the government to stop this unbearable image of abandoned children in the street. It’s not because they are from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds that we should leave them to say thank you in the street.”

Last week, President Macky Sall reiterated that all talibés must be taken off the streets and that those who push them to beg should be fined or imprisoned. The President has also taken to Twitter to voice his concern about child beggars.

Child beggars, also known as enfants talibés, are affiliated with Quranic schools or daara (the West African equivalent of a madrasa), where they are sent to live by poor parents who cannot afford to care for their children. Many religious leaders at these schools send the children out to the streets to beg, which has created a chronic problem of child beggars on the streets of Dakar.

A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch put the number of children at Quranic schools in Senegal at 50,000 – although not all of them are beggars. Although a 2005 law prohibits forced begging, the law is rarely applied.

Child rights activist Issa Kouyate, founder of Maison de la Gare, a shelter for street children in Senegal, told Thomson Reuters: “This is the ideal time to talk with the Koranic [Quranic] teachers and invite them to put their daaras (Islamic schools) in order.” Kouyate noted that simply removing the talibés from the streets would not stop the trafficking and exploitation of children.

Earlier this year, Senegalese game developer Ousseynou Khadim Beye developed a game called ‘Cross Dakar City,’ in which players must help a child beggar named Mamadou navigate the dangers of the capital on a journey to find his biological parents.

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