Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some Islamic schools make beggars of African kids

Like a pup, he lay curled against the cold, pressed between dozens of other children sleeping head-to-toe on the concrete floor. His T-shirt was damp with the dew that seeped through the thin walls. The older boys had yanked away the square of cloth he used to protect himself from the draft. He shivered.

It was still dark as he set out for the mouth of a freeway with the other boys, a tribe of 7-, 8- and 9-year-old beggars.

In the name of religion, Coli spent two hours a day memorizing verses from the Quran and over nine hours begging to pad the pockets of the man he called his teacher.It was getting dark. Coli had less than half the 72 cents he was told to bring back. He was afraid. He knew what happened to children who failed to meet their daily quotas.They were stripped and doused in cold water. The older boys picked them up like hammocks by their ankles and wrists. Then the teacher whipped them with an electrical cord until the cord ate their skin.

Soon after Coli left, his marabout traveled to Guinea-Bissau. He angrily demanded to know why Coli had run away.Ashamed, Coli's father promised to make up for the boy's bad behavior.

He is sending the marabout two more sons.

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