On the hectic streets of Dakar, young talibes
spend their afternoons not in school but wandering the streets begging for a
hand out. Talibes are students of Islam who live with religious teachers to
obtain a religious education in exchange for labor, as it says in the Qur'an.
It is known to represent a rite of passage into adulthood, however many
teachers have taken advantage of their power and have exploited these children
so that they are forced to beg for money on the street. The talibes are
usually not allowed to leave their teachers until they are about 15 years
old, making their total time of schooling approximately 11 years.
Dealing with heaps of sad children beg you
for money on a daily basis has not been easy at all. We were told if we
feel like we can give them something it was best to give them a piece of fruit
or candy. We have also learned a few Wolof phrases to say to them like,
"Ba Beneen Yoon", which basically translates into,” next time.” I
have gotten used to them and now figure out ways to avoid making eye contact if
I do not have anything to give. However, the other day threw me for a loop.
I was walking back home after buying veggies for
dinner from the local market when the most adorable little girl put her hand
out at me. I assumed she was asking for money so I continued my way down
the alley, until I noticed that she was following me. As I turned to her
and shook my head, she grabbed my arm from across my chest, reached for my
hand, and gave me a hand shake. She just wanted to give me a proper
greeting, which is what all children (especially little girls) are taught to
do. I felt so foolish that I gave her the rest of the chocolate I had
bought earlier that day.
Living in a third world country is like
pouring a bucket of ice cold water down my back every day. Extreme poverty is
easy to ignore if you are well off in the States but here it surrounds you. My
family lives so differently than any family I know back home but every new
experience that I had had to endure has been worth it thus far. I can
only imagine what wake up calls wait for me during our week long rural stay
visits at the end of the month...