2016 Photo Contest, Contemporary Issues, 1st prize

Talibes, Modern-day Slaves


Mário Cruz

15 June, 2015

Guinean military police approach a group of children walking through a forest near the Bissau border.

Koranic boarding schools in Senegal, known as daaras, traditionally give children between the ages of five and fifteen a religious education and teach them Arabic. But the schools are highly unregulated, and conditions in many are poor, with near-starving children living in overcrowded, unsanitary circumstances. The pupils, or talibés, are beaten and sometimes kept in chains for hours on end. Some are the victims of child-trafficking. Talibés are frequently made to beg on the streets for up to eight or nine hours a day, giving all they collect to their marabout (teacher).

Human Rights Watch reports that more than 30,000 boys are forced to beg in the Dakar region alone. Many choose to live on the streets rather than return to their daara. Parents often send their children to daaras in the hope of giving them a better education, or because they cannot afford to keep them at home. In July, the Senegalese government adopted a law prohibiting begging and trafficking, but has been accused of \inadequate progress\" at improving the situation by Human Rights Watch.


About the photographer

Mário Cruz

Mário Cruz was born in 1987, in Lisbon, Portugal. Cruz is  an independent photographer focused on social injustice and human rights issues.  He studied photojourn...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
23.0 mm

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