Fighting exploitation of street boys in West Africa
Evelyn Adamson writes at AfricaStories:
WEST AFRICA – Jean Malick,* approaching adolescence, hauls a sloshing yellow bucket to a sunny spot on the concrete. Fluffy bubbles threaten to escape over the side of the bucket as he rubs his ripped and worn T-shirt with the soapy water. Wringing out the clean shirt, he spreads it out to dry on the hot pavement. Every day nearly 100 boys like Malick flock to the shelter Christian worker Ibrahim Ndiaye* manages.
Since 2000, Ndiaye has ministered to street boys and Talibe boys (boys who study at special Quranic schools) in West Africa, aiming to improve their quality of life by feeding and clothing any who come to the center for help. For Ndiaye, working with the boys is more than just a ministry; it is what he has given his life to, because he used to live on the streets.
“My parents decided I should go to the Quranic school,” Ndiaye says about his childhood. “I stayed at school for one year, [and] after a year I wanted to leave.”
His desire to leave the Quranic school is not hard to imagine when Ndiaye explains the boys are required to beg on the streets every day and collect a certain amount of money before returning to the school. Only boys are accepted to the Quranic schools in West Africa.
“We were required to bring in between $0.80 and $1 each day. If you did not there would be a [punishment from] the teacher,” he says.
Quranic school punishments range from withholding meals to beating any boys who do not bring back the mandated amount of money.
Ndiaye ran away, but his parents refused to let him come home. He says, “If I would have gone home, they would have made me go back to the Quranic school. So I preferred to stay in [the city] and take care of myself.”
After living on the streets for a while, Ndiaye met a pastor who helped him learn to read, write and speak French, one of the official trade languages in West Africa.
Now Ndiaye dedicates his life to helping other boys gain the same advantages he was given. At the center, street boys are given a meal, treated for minor medical needs, taught to do their laundry and have the opportunity to pick up basic French in their conversations with Ndiaye.
Ndiaye grasps that to really impact change for these boys, it takes more than one encounter with them.
He says, “It takes time to change a life.”
Day in and day out, Ndiaye can be found building relationships and shaping the lives of the street boys and Talibes in West Africa through the activities he offers at the center.
In the fight against human exploitation, Ndiaye takes it one day at a time, one boy at a time.
*Name changed. Evelyn Adamson is writer living and working in Europe.
This continues the CommissionStories.com emphasis on the problem of human exploitation — forced labor, children at risk, and sex trafficking. Find more stories, videos, photo galleries, and other resources at www.commissionstories.com.