Saturday, July 17, 2010

Child labor in the mines of Congo

Some areas of the world have trouble keeping children in school, not because the children have a lack of interest, but because their family needs them to earn an income. The children work in the Republic of Congo's mineral mines, going underground digging and chopping away, then carrying bags of the minerals up and out of the mine. The children do not keep all of the money themselves but share it with the family so they can go and buy food. The parents then become dependent on the money and encourage their children to stay out of school.

From this AFP article that we found at The West Australian, we learn more about the children's plight.

Barefoot with water up to his knees, seven-year-old Isaac sifts through sand to extract copper like hundreds of boys in southeast DR Congo, forced by poverty to quit school and work in the mines.

Isaac abandoned his maths and language classes in February, leaving the only school in Kamatanda, a small village in Katanga province, the main mining region in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since then, he has worked in a vast open copper mine in the area, helping some 2,000 "diggers" extract the mineral under a blistering sun, then to sell to businesses in Likasi, a nearby town.

There are about 400 children from Kamatanda and other surrounding villages who contribute to the effort by sorting, carrying, or cleaning the mineral.

Isaac says he earns less than four dollars (three euros) each day in the mine, "and with that I can buy clothes and contribute to the expenses at home," he explains, his face still full of childhood innocence.

He is the third child in a family of eight, and when his parents could not afford the 30 dollars needed to pay his yearly school fee he joined his brothers and sisters in the mine.

"When they quit their classes, they go back down the pits. The children want to study, but the parents lack the (financial) means," says Alphonsine Fumbi, a mother of six.

Three of Fumbi's own children previously worked as assistant diggers.

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