«I am Mamadou, I am 10 years old. I am from a town far from Nouakchott. I have been living in the city with my grandmother for a long time. I live with my grandmother and my brothers. I go to the Koranic school. I’ve always wanted to go to modern school, but my grandmother says I can’t because my notebooks and pens are going to be stolen. Wooden tablets are used in the Koranic school.
I wake up at 7 every morning. I take a piece of bread with coffee. Afterwards, I will look for water to bring home in 20 liter drums. Next, I go to the Koranic school. First we learn the Koran and then we go out to beg. Let’s beg twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, every day of the week, except on Thursdays and Fridays.
It is my grandmother who has asked me to beg to pay for my school.
Sometimes, I beg for a long time until I receive something. Sometimes, I just go around and then I get something. Sometimes, I get absolutely nothing. Sometimes they give me grains of rice.
Sometimes, if I come back with nothing, the marabou * hits me.
The most they have given me has been 20 Uguiyas (50 euro cents).
Beg? There is nothing good about it. Just asking is very hard.
I get tired of walking. Sometimes I have to sit a little before I can continue. Sometimes, if I’m sick, I also have to go out to beg. When you ask, there are people shouting at you, telling you to leave. Someone once told me that children like me were not beggars, that we were thieves. When they yell at me I feel absolutely nothing, I simply continue on my way.
At night, when I get home, I’m so tired that sometimes I fall asleep without dinner.
I would like to be able to help my parents, do something they like and take care of my little brothers, who are also with my grandmother. My greatest wish has always been to be able to go to school where the other children go. When I grow up, I would like to be a marabou ».
* Marabú: teacher of the coranic school.