Wednesday, April 11, 2007


They are young school age boys usually running from ages 8-13 who have been sent by their parents to Koranic schools throughout Senegal. Typically, the maribou of the school has too many boys to take care of and its basically accepted that these little boys will have to roam the streets everyday and beg for all of their food. And they do. And they are all barefoot, skinny, tired, hungry, and make you want to cry.
I'd say on a daily basis, on average, I get asked for food or money by 40 or so of them during my walk home.
It is endless and frustrating and infuriating knowing that even if you do give them any food you might have on you, there is nothing being productively done on the macro level to stop it. Knowing that parents send their children to these schools makes it so much harder. I find that I try to give them the benefit of the doubt...
maybe they are so poor and can't feed their son,
maybe they had no education and can't get a job so they can't feed their children, and they dont' have access to family planning, or the desire to limit family size,
maybe they do have the desire but dont have the access,
maybe they think that having their children spend 2-3 years hungry but learn the Koran is worth stunting they're growth and making them beg for food and live in squalor.

The point is, it never gets any easier to see them.

I haven't wanted to write too much in this vein because I think that it can be exhausting for you all at home. You have seen the CNN reports, the Christian Children advertisements on TV, and the articles in the papers and it's always heartbreaking and emotionally draining. It just feels so much worse to actually be here and be powerless to stop it despite the work I'm here to do.

I've resigned myself to just being as polite as possible to them and give them a smile. Something they probably dont' get all the time. I know that it is part of the culture to give to the Talibes. A lot of them have regular homes they go to for scraps after meals, and that makes me feel a bit better, but maybe that is part of the problem? That it has not reached epidemic enough proportions of child neglect to warrant sever action from the top down? But does it really even matter how I feel? That is not the point.

I don't know. There are just some situations that you can't "grad school analyze" your way out of. And all of those little faces just break my heart a little bit everyday...

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