During study term, we spent one morning at a daara in Thiès. Daaras are Koranic schools and have become a widespread part of community life since the arrival of Islam in the country. Originally part of village life, parents would send children, typically boys, to work in fields around the daaras in exchange for education. The practice continues today in large urban centers like Dakar and Thiès. Parents send children to a daara to receive an education. This education is guided by a teacher known as a marabout. While not all of the children live at the daara, many do and the marabout comes to serve as both spiritual guide and parent, taking responsibility for the boys’ education but also their health and physical well being. The term talibé refers generally to a student or follower, but is often used to refer specifically to these young boys, particularly those who are sent out by their marabout to beg in order to help support the daara. The views on talibés in Senegalese society are diverse and not everyone supports the practice. Among those who do support it, there are a range of views on the best way to manage a daara.
We visited a daara in Thiès that does not send its boys out to beg, but consequently struggles to provide for them. We brought a breakfast of bread and milk. We provided some morning activities including paper airplane and paper crane construction, drawing, a variety of games from soccer and frisbee to ring-around-the-rosie and leap frog. At the end of the morning we sat and talked with the Marabout.