Street Children in Mali


Street Children in Mali


There are about six and a half million children living in Mali, in fact 38.3% of the entire population of the country is aged 14 yrs or younger and most live in poverty, with Mali being one of the poorest countries in the world. As such 700,000 children under the age of 15yrs are economically active such is the widespread poverty, particularly in the sand strewn north of the country. As such, life is already tough for Mali's children, but its even tougher for the estimated 75000 children in Mali who have been orphaned by AIDS with many of these children heading towards city areas such as the capital Bamako in order to find ways to support themselves. There are some 4300 of these children in Bamako alone, although the figure is probably much higher.


These children have very limited life opportunities, are out of school, have no access to health care nor are ever likely to enter the official job market. In turn they are at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking ~ its a simple fact that if a child is taken from the streets and trafficked no-one apart from their fellow street kids would ever know, or even care. Around 15,000 children in Mali, many of them street children, are trafficked every few years to the Ivory Coast where they work on cotton and cocoa plantations whilst girls are similarly trafficked there mainly for domestic servitude.


Street Children in Mali


Other children end up on the streets in Mali because they have been sent to harsh Koranic schools mainly at the insistence of their fathers who not only want them schooled in Islamic tradition but also because of poverty and an inability to provide for their children. Part of this 'schooling' is to beg on the streets, an activity that is seen as an integral part of their religious education. These children are known as 'manya' and when they return to their school they hand over their spoils to the Koranic masters and those who don't return with sufficient rewards are beaten and otherwise punished.


The authorities in Mali are aware of this activity but do little or nothing to address it preferring to turn a blind eye. This harsh treatment causes many children to run away, and, unable to return home to face further beatings, they end up not just begging on the streets, but living on them. In fact around 30% of street children in Mali state they are street children following abuse by their Koranic masters. Of all these street children it is estimated that around 19% are aged under 13yrs old with the majority (46%) aged 13-16yrs, the remainder are 16yrs and over, although of course, once they reach 18yrs they are no longer classified as children, but they remain on the streets nonetheless.


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