Talibes: Modern Day Slaves

Mario Cruz's stunning black-and-white photographs document the plight of at least 50,000 young boys in Senegal, ages 5 to 15, who are exploited in Quranic schools in Senegal.

Cruz gained rare access to the dark side of many Quranic schools in Senegal, known as daaras, and captured disturbing but stunning photographs of the lives of young boys subjected to slavelike conditions. These boys are known as talibes, an Arabic term for disciples.

What once was an honorable educational system has deteriorated in recent decades and is now blighted by the systematic exploitation of children, who are forced to beg on the streets for eight hours a day to support their supposed teachers. They return to squalid daaras rife with malaria, skin diseases and parasites and routinely endure physical abuse as part of the regime of control. Although thousands of Quranic teachers across Senegal take great care of the boys in their schools and provide a traditional education, others have used the lack of regulation to make great profits from boys' labor.

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Talibes: Modern Day Slaves will be published by FotoEvidence as a hardcover book with 70 black-and-white photographs and commentary in English and Arabic and will provide local and international NGOs working on the issue with enduring testimony and concrete evidence about the systematic exploitation of children in some daaras in Senegal.

Watch the video on Kickstarter, where you may also contribute to the crowdfunding effort to create this stunning and remarkable book that documents this form of modern-day slavery.

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