Dirty, underdressed, often malnourished and suffering medical problems, these children are unfortunately part of the townscape and live in hard conditions. They are sent by their families, often from distant and very poor rural areas and even across international borders, to receive Islamic education. The terms ‘education’ and ‘school’ are used loosely and what the children receive does not resemble the western ideal of education. Although one of the primary reasons for sending young boys to Daaras is so that they can receive education, they rarely follow any kind of curriculum that will enable them to find employment later in life. The result is that most of the children remain illiterate, and face a life of poverty and vulnerability once they leave the Daaras and are trapped with no education and poverty in a large urban metropolis. The living conditions are extremely harsh in the Daaras. They are sparse, informal structures with multiple children and adults living, eating, sleeping and learning in the same small space often with little or nothing in the way of sanitation and water.
The United Purpose (UP) project Action for the Respect of Children’s Rights helps 100 young boys from 3 Daaras in the region of Dakar aged between 8 and 15. The project aims to improve the wellbeing and skills of 100 street children in Dakar. UP and its project partners work with Koranic teachers, Talibé, health structures, the local authorities and a women’s group in the surrounding community called “Ndeyou daras” to identify and address key issues faced by Talibes, raise awareness on children’s rights and build children’s skills.
The implementation is led by our partner local NGO called RABEC (Réseau d'Associations pour le Bien-Être Communautaire). They have great deal of experience in child protection, youth development, reproductive health, citizenship and women’s empowerment.
Three big lines of action
Funded by Penny Appeal, Action for the Respect of Children’s rights is focused on improving livelihood conditions for the 100 Talibes in Dakar by developing their personal skills, offering educational opportunities, providing health care and giving women from the community the resources they need to raise themselves up out of poverty and to support the children.
Firstly, the projects work on the wellbeing of the children by improving their living environment, facilitating health care access and promoting creative and empowering sport activities. At the start all of the 3 Daaras were refurbished in a basic but practical way. We installed operational toilets and improved the children’s living room to enhance their comfort and safety. The health support provided helped them to be enrolled in an insurance scheme for their medical fees and organise yearly medical check-ups on site.
The sport component is provided by a local association named Sencirk which provide social circus for children in difficulties in Senegal. They work with children to build their personality and confidence through exercises like juggling, acrobatics, gymnastics and trampolining. This permits them a rare opportunity to have fun, gain confidence, feel better, work on their concentration capacities and develop resilience and teamwork.
Secondly, the children, who for the most of the time have only attended koranic schools, have access for the first time to French (i.e. literacy – Senegal is a French speaking country) and IT classes. Technical training is also provided to give them useful skills for their future, for example screen printing and bag manufacturing. Once they have basic literacy / computer skills and technical skills, they will have more opportunities to access schools for further study or identify a professional domain where they could succeed after their koranic learnings.
Finally, some women from the community benefit from capacity management building and technical training in food processing. Called “Ndeyu daara” (Mother of Daaras), they live close to the Daaras in the same dense urban neighbourhoods and help talibes as volunteers and concerned citizens to ensure their basic needs are met. To encourage the women’s economic development and children’s care in the Daaras, women’s groups are supported to develop and expand small activities and sell products from their training. One part of the fund is to be used to reinvest in the Daaras to help the children and hopefully reduce begging. The other part goes into their group to implement their own solidarity shop. Radio shows are also held to sensitize the wider population to the issues and rights around child protection and encourage community involvement.
At the end of the project, children who have returned back to their homes will be provided with help to run their personal projects and community sensitisation will be held on child protection.
Encouraging knowledge on human rights
In a country where the illiteracy rate is over 50%, the project helps to encourage child education and also human rights awareness. It has introduced knowledge of these through the sport activities. They promote values like tolerance, respect of differences, freedom and confidence to be who they are. This supports them to face the future differently and use their new skills to have a brighter life.
Bringing change to life
Ndiaga, a 14 year old talibe, said that he didn’t know how to write or read French. Through the project he has learnt how to. He remembers before United Purpose intervened, some other children told him amazing things about a computer – ‘I thought it was such an extraordinary tool, since the start of the project I have now stopped mystifying it and enjoy following the IT classes’.
The Koranic masters have noticed many changes with the children since the start of the project. For one of them, the fact they are in touch with other children for sport or technical activities is a huge thing.
“Every time they have an activity outside, I always hear them commenting on what they have done, what their friends have done and brand new things they have experienced. They have fun with others and it helps for their development. I’m also often surprised to hear them debating on their reading or writing in French’.
The Women’s group feel very empowered. With all the trainings in management and food processing, they feel more confident to coordinate their activities and support the children. Thanks to their new management skills, they have proposed in their annual action plan impactful actions for their economic development and the children’s wellbeing. They see a brighter future for themselves and have established, with the help of the Rabec, a proposal for a solidarity shop as a social business.
Sencirk : Click here for more info on Sencirk
Penny Appeal : Click here for more info on Penny Appeal