Mauritania: Quran Teachers Turn Children to Beggars

Across the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, at junctions and under trees, you will see children known as Al Mudat [ar], aged between 4 and 14 years, carrying empty tomato cans begging pedestrians for some money. These children are not begging for money for themselves. Instead, they want the money to be able to pay their Quran teacher. They do so because their parents do not have the means to pay him in exchange for teaching them.

Meanwhile, their parents allow the abuse of their children by begging like this which exposes them to many risks like drugs. Often they turn into criminals and end up in jail. It is also noteworthy, that the only thing these children know to do is street begging.

صورة لأحد الأطفال وهو نائم في الشارع نشرتها مدونة الكاشف

Photo of one urchin sleeping in the street, published under permission from Al Kashiv blog



Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Abdou [ar] wrote a photo report about those children:

قابلت الكثيرين منهم، ممن يتجولون بداية من ساعات العصر وحتى ساعات متأخرة من الليل يحملون عبوات طماطم فارغة يجمعون فيها مايحصلون عليه من التسول في الشارع، هم مجموعات أطفال أعمارهم بين 4 و12 سنة يرسلهم معلمهم الذي يدرسهم القرءان للتسول وايصال ما جمعوه له بعد نهاية الجولة، “الحسن، عالي، آمادو…….. ” وغيرهم من الأسماء قابلتهم واستفسرت عن بعض تفاصيل حياتهم في ظل الظروف التي يعيشونها.

I have met many of them, wandering in the streets. They start from the early hours of afternoon until late at night, carrying empty tomato cans where they collect whatever they can from street begging. They are a bunch of children, aged four to 14 years, sent by their Quran teacher to beg and hand him their income. “Al Hassan, Ali, Amadou ….” and many more whom I have met and inquired about some of the details of their life and the conditions they live in.

In Stolen Dreams blog [ar] we can also read about that topic:

ان الشارع المدرسة الأم والرصيف الكرسي الذي جلسوا عليه لتلقي علم التسول… والأساور ملاذا لنوم يطارده الخوف والجدران كهف لأحلام تصارع البقاء.. يموجون في جناح الليل بين الأزقة يلاحقون سيارات فاخرة لترمي لهم دراهيم تدفع البلاء ومتجولون ضعف الطالب والمطلوب.. أوعيتهم لا تحمل ما يسمن من جوع أو يغني من عطش.
في الصباح يبدؤون رحلة الشتاء والصيف في أحياء العاصمة, تري في عيونهم قسوة الحياة وطفولة شابت قبل حصادها , وبراءة أجهضت قبل مخاضها ,ثيابهم البالية التي لا تقيهم حرارةالشمس تكفي لمداومة دون إدارة.

The street is the mother and the school and the pavement is the chair they sat on to learn street-begging … its fences are a retreat for a sleep haunted by fear and the walls are caves for dreams struggling for survival … they wander at night between streets, running after fancy cars so their owners would throw them some coins that would repel misery, their clothes do not show any sign of satiety or hydration. In the morning they commence the journey of winter and summer in the capital's street. You see in their eyes, the cruelty of life and a childhood that became senile even before it matured. An innocence that was aborted before its labor. Their shabby outfits do not protect them from the sun.

Ali interviewed by Al Kashiv blog, photo used with permission

Ali interviewed by Al Kashiv blog, photo used with permission

Mohammed Al Amine Ould Yeyha [ar] resorts to facts and figures:

قد أشار تقرير منظمة حقوق الإنسان الموريتاني في تقريره لسنة 2009 إلى (وجود حالات استمرار للرق والمتاجرة بالأشخاص، تشير إلى أطفال صغار دون السن 15 يسمون (Talibes) ويعرفون في الأوساط الاجتماعية بـ”آلمودا” يأتون من داخل البلاد وكذلك من مالي ومن السنغال وقال التقرير أنهم يتعرضون لسوء المعاملة من قبل معلمي دين يجبرونهم على التسول).

A report by the Mauritanian Organization for Human Rights in 2009, observes that there are still human trafficking cases and children under 15 years old called Talibes and known in social milieus by Al Mouda who come from within the country as well as from Mali and from Senegal. The report states that they are subject to mistreatment by religion teachers who force them to beg.

He adds:

وبالرغم من وجود هذه الظواهر التي يجرمها القانون وينتقدها العرف الموريتاني وتحرمها الشريعة الإسلامية، فإن الدولة الموريتانية ما تزال عاجزة عن توفير آلية جديدة تحد من انتشار هذه الظاهرة وتأمين حاجيات هؤلاء المتسولين أو فتح مراكز إيواء لحضانتهم، من اجل خلق إطار لتمدرس الطفل وتوفير الظروف الملائمة له.

Despite the existence of the phenomena penalized by the law and criticized by the Mauritanian traditions and forbidden by Shariaa in Islam, the Mauritanian state is still unable to provide a new mechanism to limit its spread and to provide for the needs of those street-beggars or to open centers to shelter them so as to establish a framework for schooling the child and providing the proper conditions for them.


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