Talibés are students in Senegal who are sent by their parents to specialized Koranic schools. There, however, they are often beaten by rogue Koran teachers. For their documentary, Arne Gillis, Wouter Elsen and Eneas Mentzel followed talibés at school and on the street and talked to Koran teachers and street workers.

"The children are beaten with a whip and tied up in a pen. They have to recite Koran verses in there all day long. Whoever stops for a moment, gets more beating," Idi says. As a street worker in the northern city of Saint-Louis, he tries to protect the talibés from rogue Koran teachers.

Talibé literally means 'pupil' in Arabic. Senegal is an Islamic country, and people find it important that their children grow up with Islamic values described in the Koran. Many parents, therefore, send their children to specialized Koranic schools.

But because the Senegalese government does not subsidise the Koranic schools, Islamic teachers often face a dire lack of resources: parents continue to send their children, but the teachers often do not have the opportunity to take good care of the children.

Many children have to beg in the streets for hours a day. To be able to eat, but also to raise money, which is used to keep the school running.

Unfortunately, many marabouts take advantage of this situation. They beat up children who don't know how to beg, and lead a luxurious life with their families with the raised funds. According to Human Rights Watch, there are known cases of marabouts 'earning' more than 100,000 euros a year in this way. A nice sum in a country where a third of the population makes ends meet with one euro a day. It is not uncommon for children to flee school and end up on the street.

A compelling story that offers insight into the daily life of the talibés.

Photo's © Annemie Van Roey

Eneas Mentzel

Eneas Mentzel (1976) is a freelance sound engineer

Wouter Elsen

Wouter Elsen is a freelance video reporter.

Arne Gillis

Arne Gillis is a journalist and photographer and covers Africa for the Belgian magazine MO*.
Arne Gillis
€ 2.200, allocated on 29/09/2015.
Fonds Pascal Decroos

TV (in Dutch)

  • Talibé: een jeugd in het teken van Allah, Vranckx, Canvas (Belgian public broadcaster), 17/10/2015.

MAGAZINE (in Dutch)

  • Talibé: een jeugd in het teken van Allah, Knack, 14/10/2015.