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t's big business in Senegal. In the capital of Dakar alone, at least 7,600 child beggars work the streets, according to a study released in February by the ILO, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Bank. The children collect an average of 300 African francs a day, just 72 cents, reaping their keepers $2 million a year.
Most of the boysâ€”90 percent, the study foundâ€”are sent out to beg under the cover of Islam, placing the problem at the complicated intersection of greed and tradition. For among the cruelest facts of Coli's life is that he was not stolen from his family. He was brought to Dakar with their blessing to learn Islam's holy book.
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....