Talibé are boys between the ages of 7 and 15 who can be seen on the streets in urban areas of Senegal carrying large tin cans and asking for food and money. These boys are sent by their families to Qur’anic schools known as daaras to learn the tenets of Islam from a Marabout or Quar’anic teacher. Begging was once a part of a talibé’s education in order to teach humility but in urban centers and towns, these young students end up spending more time on the street than in the classroom.

On Tuesday, April 20, the Coordinator of Tostan’s Child Protection Program, Muhammad Cherif Diop, was invited to attend a celebration in the area of M’bour, Senegal, honoring the day nationally recognized as Talibé Day. Organized by a local federation of Community Management Committees called And Defar Coose (Together for the Development of Thiocé), local authorities, and local organizations such as Sentinelle, the event was one of many across the country bringing awareness to the experience of these young boys.

While the event in M’bour included food and football matches for the local talibé boys, it was not all fun and games. A serious panel discussion was held for local authorities and invited guests which focused on the topic of how to improve the living conditions of talibé. Cherif Diop shared with the crowd Tostan’s approach to this issue: incorporating a session on children’s rights into the Community Empowerment Program (CEP).

Cherif Diop suggested to those in attendance that representatives of local authorities, NGOs, and associations meet regularly in M’bour to identify priorities in how to address the issue. This approach was ultimately chosen as the preferred way to proceed in order to work together to improve the lives of talibé.