Accepted Paper:

Koran schools in West Africa: education or child trafficking?  

Author:

Jónína Einarsdóttir (University of Iceland)

Paper short abstract:

Global institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) classify the begging of Koran schools students on the streets of Dakar and other cities in Senegal as child trafficking. This paper examines the power struggle between global institutions, NGOs, civil society, state authorities, religious leaders and local communities to define what accounts as an acceptable education of children and act accordingly.

Paper long abstract:

Global institutions and non-governmental organizations in West Africa aim to counteract child trafficking and repatriate trafficked victims in the region. Muslim Bissau-Guinean boys, called almudus in Fula and talibés in Woolof, can be found in thousands begging on the streets of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and other larger towns in the country. These boys are students who attend Koran schools and beg on behalf of their teachers, called marabouts. International organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal classify the phenomenon as child trafficking. The begging boys in rags can be seen on mass media, such as television and the web, and reports about their cruel treatment and suffering are told. Happy accounts of a successful rescue and repatriation can also be found, however at times including comments on the disappointment of parents when their children are sent back home. The parents, as well as many common citizens, find it offensive that the very same term, i.e., trafficking, is used when referring to their efforts to educate their children and for illegal trade in drugs. Still, some maintain that one of the motives behind the so-called anti-trafficking activities, including repatriation, is to eliminate Islam. The aim of this paper is to examine the power struggle between global institutions, NGOs, civil society, state authorities, religious leaders and local communities to define what accounts as an acceptable education of children and act accordingly.

Panel P233
School ethnographies: inside and beyond schooling