Haleemat Laguda: A Looking into the Past and Present: The Life of the Talibé Children in Senegal

A few months ago, I sat in front of my computer screen putting into words what I felt compelled to research. Over the past few weeks, I watched those words become a reality before my eyes. In Senegal, the ongoing issue of street begging and inhabitable conditions involving young talibés is more than a single-sided issue but is extremely complex. Understanding this issue requires an analysis of culture, society, politics, religion, history, migration . . . the list goes on. Similar to other ongoing issues throughout the continent, my research demonstrates a need to go beyond what is reported as a result of these multi-facets. At the start of my research, I wanted to highlight the longterm effects of being a talibé. Overtime I realized that to adequately discuss this, there is much to currently unpack about the issue.

The talibé issue in Senegal can easily be labeled a Senegalese issue, but my research has shown me that a significant portion of young tabliés in addition to the Senegal region, come from neighboring countries such as Guinea, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau. Many commonly travel far distances, are smuggled into the country and are unfamiliar with the main languages spoken in Senegal. Reflecting upon this, I’ve considered the ways that these neighboring countries have been complicit in the treatment of these children, turning a blind eye. If progress is to be made, the responsibility does not only fall on Senegalese citizens and government but also neighbors watching these issues unfold.

Another major topic to discuss is the intersection between religion and society within Senegal. It is something that I’ve struggled to comprehend and put into words myself when understanding the talibé issue. I’ve come to the working conclusion that notions of how religion should be practiced and expressed have played a role in what progress has looked like. For some individuals, street-begging is essential to the aspect of discipline, while others believe there are better alternatives. One thing for sure is that there has failed to be an adequate and useful conversation between the two groups. Moving forward, I want to see a portion of my research expand to facilitating these conversations, whether that is through social media or physical discussions.

Plateau, Dakar