Maison de la Gare

Mission of the organisation

Maison de la Gare's mission is to achieve integration of the begging talibe street children into formal schooling and productive participation in Senegalese society. Tens of thousands of talibe children beg on the streets of Senegal for 6 to 10 hours each day for their food and for money to give the "teacher" or Marabout who controls them. They live in unconscionable conditions in "daaras", without access to running water, rudimentary hygiene or nurture, often without shelter and subject to severe abuse. Human Rights Watch published a widely distributed description of this situation in 2010, "Off the Backs of the Children". Maison de la Gare is acting with the objective of ending talibe begging in Saint Louis, estimated to include over 7,000 boys between 3 and 19. Having started in rented quarters in the former train station or "gare", a permanent center was built in 2010 with the financial and organizational support of international partners. Programs at this Center will support the talibes of Saint Louis in obtaining a basic education or, for older talibes, learning marketable skills. The begging talibe situation is complex, deeply imbedded in the cultural and religious traditions of Senegal and Muslim West Africa. Although the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for action in its 1995 and 2006 "Concluding Observations", decisive action is politically difficult. Many initiatives have faltered by ignoring the cultural and societal realities of the situation. Maison de la Gare is working from within the present situation to effect permanent change. The organization's broad objectives are: 1. Integrate talibe children into the formal school system, through literacy classes and teaching the life skills necessary for success there. This objective includes providing literacy classes, hygiene instruction and nutritional support (allowing children to attend class when they would normally be begging for their food). It also requires documentation dossiers for individual children as necessary in the absence of any family support system. 2. Support talibes integrated into the school system with tutoring, nurturing and material support as necessary for success. This requirement will grow as more talibe are integrated into formal schooling. 3. Prepare Saint Louis talibe children, from the base of Maison de la Gare's Center, for integration into society, and support the success in Maison de la Gare's programs, through sports and arts programs, medical care, and nutritional and hygiene teaching and support. The talibes have in general NO access to medical treatment or support. Maison de la Gare has recently built an infirmary within the Center, and engages a nurse and hopes to train nursing aids. The Center's staff serves the medical needs of talibe children throughout Saint Louis, linking them to the Center and its programs and reinforcing relationships with the "Marabouts" who have control over them. 4. Prepare older talibes, age 15 and over, to be self supporting through apprenticeship programs, including tailoring and market gardening. This requires in-depth relationships with the talibe students, finding ways to reintegrate them into society, either in their home communities or in Saint Louis. 5. Collaborate actively with local, national and international initiatives working to end talibe street begging. Maison de la Gare's new Center has already made the Association a beacon for those concerned with a long term solution to the talibe problem, providing a base for establishing constructive working relationships with Marabouts around Saint Louis, the city administration, and with Amnesty International, Toscan, UNESCO and others acting for children on a national level.

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Maison de la Gare

Avenue Charles de Gaulle, opposite Maitre Babacar Seye Stadium, Balacos, Sor
Saint Louis, Saint Louis, B.P. 150