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From the SDG certificate to the streets of Senegal

Pierre Flecheux, a student at the School of Public Affairs in the Social Policy and Social Innovation stream, is currently in Senegal as part of his gap year, continuing to work on a project initiated during his participation in the SDG Certificate (now the SDG Initiative). He tells us more about his journey and his project.

You participated in the SDG certificate last year, on the Senegalese Talibé Children project. Could you tell us what your project consisted of? 

After my first volunteer work in Eastern Senegal, I came back to France with the will to continue my work for street children. In Senegal, many traditional Koranic schools send their students (the Talibés) to beg to pay for their schooling. This is a complex problem with religious, cultural, political and economic dimensions that need to be studied in depth. Our participation in the SDG certificate (now SDG Initiative) has allowed us to get a clearer picture of the situation and to propose new approaches. 

You continued to work on this project during your gap year, could you tell us more? 

It was important for me to go on the field and talk directly with the actors involved, from religious teachers to local authorities, associations and children. It goes without saying that this kind of problem cannot be solved from a classroom in Paris. By spending three months in Tambacounda, I was able to draw up a fairly precise inventory of the situation and begin discussions with the municipality to propose a new approach, focusing initially on care and hygiene rather than on education as international organizations and NGOs usually do. The important thing was to find a consensual approach to renew the dialogue and achieve results. Although the approach was welcomed by the different actors and some ministers, the project is still awaiting funding. 

What are the current issues concerning street children in Senegal? 

Let's start by saying that there are modern, official Koranic schools with an international reputation. Then let's say that this is a complex and sensitive phenomenon with multi-sectoral implications. Some parents entrust the total responsibility of their children to religious leaders without really caring about their future, others see it as a pedagogical system that strengthens the child's endurance and inculcates values of humility, others still associate it with the preservation of the culture of almsgiving. It is important to note that this is a phenomenon with significant economic dimensions as well as a cross-border dimension that adds complexity to the overall picture. 

It is estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 street children in Senegal, and the government is failing to stem this phenomenon. The situation is critical, I sincerely hope that this issue will become a central issue in the 2024 presidential election in Senegal.


Children in Tambacounda, Senegal © Pierre Flecheux

What are your plans for the future? 

Today my projects have evolved a lot, not in their content but in their form. Faced with the silence and the immobility of the authorities on the subject, I decided to create a Tiktok account in November 2022 to try to gain influence and raise awareness about the actions I was leading. Today, I can say that my account, called “@eh_toubab” has exploded. I have more than 50 million views with 550 000 subscribers. Many doors are now open to me and I hope to show that the term "influencer" is not as reductive as we think. I am currently accompanying a cultural project called "Mbegté" (joy) to allow the personal growth and development of underprivileged children in Senegal through the mobilization of celebrities and artists. I like to present the project as the Senegalese "Enfoirés" for the issue of disadvantaged children. I now intend to focus on this initiative to find the grants and funding necessary to launch this ambitious and promising project. The first charity concert should take place in November 2023.

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