The Garibou Boys

DAY 5 – JUNE 10TH, 2016

The Garibou Boys of West Africa

What began as a method to train boys in Islamic values and memorization of the Qur’an has turned into a dangerous program for child exploitation and slavery in parts of West Africa.  Garibou or Talibé boys are  found in West African cities in Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, or Guinea Bissau. These are boys, sent by their parents, for training in the Quran with a master or ‘marabout’.  The boy is supposed to memorize the entire Quran in Arabic (a language not understood by the boys) by the age of 19. By begging daily for food and money, (quotas of which must be given to the marabout), the boy also learns patience, humility, suffering and good behavior. During the planting season, children will be hired out to farmers; the marabout receives all financial benefit.

If the child fails to please the master or do his work, he is punished with physical abuse. The boys live in fear, illnesses go untreated, sexual abuse is a threat, begging in the road puts them at risk of car accidents.

Child trafficking also happens with children being escorted by adults from one country to the other. In March 2015, 2 adults were arrested from Guinea Bissau while trafficking 54 children to Dakar. Statistics vary and are difficult to confirm but at least 100 000 children are affected by this practice. Governments, under pressure from religious leaders, fail to act on laws that would protect these children.

Garibou boys are deprived of their right to a childhood. If they escape from the control of the marabout, they typically prefer to live on the street, knowing that if they return to their family, they will be taken back to the place of suffering they have known.

How to Pray

  • Pray that West African governments would enforce laws that protect the rights and education of these boys. Pray that reports of abusive marabouts would be followed up and treated with justice.
  • This regional system of Quranic training was originally different. Now, it is about financial gain for unscrupulous and false marabouts. Pray that marabouts with evil intentions will be exposed and dealt with justly.

Pray for those who want to help the Garibou boys and for more centres to provide boys fleeing from these abusive situations with shelter, medical care, proper nutrition, love and education.

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