Accepted paper:

Finding consensus on the 'daara modernisation' law in Senegal: a collaborative process between NGOs, state actors and religious leaders


Shona Macleod (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the role of NGOs in Senegal in building support among religious leaders and teachers for a law giving formal status to Qur'anic schools. It reflects upon the limitations of this collaboration for achieving the NGO's child protection goals but finds value in the process itself.

Paper long abstract:

In January 2017, Senegal's religious leaders and Qur'anic Teachers Associations agreed upon a draft bill of law which, if passed in parliament, will give formal status to certain daaras (traditional Qur'anic schools, often the subject of child rights concerns and development projects due to the practice of child begging which takes place in many of the schools) that meet a set of agreed criteria, allowing them to be regulated by and to receive funding from the state. As an earlier draft was rejected by religious leaders in 2014, support was gained through collaborative efforts between various international and national NGOs, the Ministry of Education, and activists within the religious associations to engage with and mobilise religious leaders and Qur'anic teachers. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with NGO staff, Qur'anic teachers and imams in Senegal in 2017/18, this paper firsts provides a narrative account of the role of different NGOs in this collaborative process. It then considers the limitations of the collaboration on two fronts. Firstly, although the bill was agreed in 2017, parliament has yet to pass it into law, perhaps because of an upcoming election. Secondly, in order for the text of the bill to be approved by religious leaders, all mention of the practice of child begging had to be removed, despite this being the focus of the programmes of many of the NGOs and their donors. The paper therefore considers the value of the collaboration to lie not in its outcomes but in the process itself.

panel C3
Unravelling, unfolding and unsettling NGOs' work, role and methodologies