The “convicted children” in Pissy’s career … (Reportage)

AA / Ouagadougou / Dramane Traoré

Hammering in her hard hands, dressed in a black T-shirt, the young Drissa Ouédraogo tries to crush blocks of large stones into several pieces, under a small temporary shed made of worn fabrics and blankets. In the midst of hundreds of people, we see teenagers and young children, some with burdens on their heads. We are at the Pissy granite quarry on the western outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, where children “accompany” their parents in search of food.

“I’m here to help my grandmother smash the stones. It’s thanks to this activity that our family gets food,” says young Drissa Ouédraogo, who says he is between 12 and 13 years old. “I did not go to school,” he notes, adding that he has “accompanied” his parents in this career for several years.

“We are here to buy crushed granite from the women and children we resell. The women and children also pay the people who go down the hole to dig and bring the blocks out,” explains Robert Ouédraogo, who gets the pleasure of To serve as a guide on site.

“People complain that children work here. For us, they follow their parents. They help their parents look for something to eat. It’s better than going and stealing,” he says in broken French.

However, he acknowledges that some children work under difficult conditions on site. “There are goodwill people who come here with protective gear. But for some time we do not see them anymore. Sometimes children get hurt. with the hammers. But we have no choice, “he said.

Among the children one encounters on the site are girls. Their job is most of the time to transport the boulders from inside the hole to get up to the surface. An obstacle course, according to the young Roukiéta Sawadogo, who also says she “accompanies” her mother on the spot.

– “Wild Mining Site”

According to NGO data, the artisanal mining in the free quarry in this district of Ouagadougou provides a livelihood every day for about 4,000 people, including men, women and children.

“I have worked here for more than 5 years. My daughter accompanies me. She is 15 years old and we work together. We need sufficient equipment to make our work easier,” Roukiéta’s mother told us today, around 50 years old.

The Pissy quarry is one of the “traditional artisanal” mining sites, the organization of work and the methods used justify being called “wild mining sites”, explains a study entitled “Child labor and the right to education in Burkina Faso: The example of Pissys career “, published in 2011 by sociologist Joséphine Wouango.

According to the sociologist, this career has existed since colonial times, and the techniques have not changed. There are four categories of workers: the “crushers” of granite blocks (adult men), the “crushers” (women), the intermediaries (adult men responsible for resale of the finished product) and children, mainly “crushers”. or street vendors.

“There is a bit of work on the chain here. Everyone has a very specific role. The children are especially in the chain of crushing and resale”, confirms Ousmane Nana, truck driver. He is responsible for delivering orders to customers who come to buy the granite.

The customers include contractors who work in the construction sector and also private individuals, because crushed granite is used to make concrete, Nana explained.

Crushing consists of reducing the granite blocks to pieces. “That is why the work is very difficult,” says Arnaud Kaboré, another child of almost 15 years.

Most of the children encountered during Anadolu Agency’s two site visits say they work with their parents.

By listening to parents and children, “it emerges that child labor in careers has more functions,” sociologist Joséphine Wouango argued in her study.

“It is first linked to the financial situation of the families, which imposes the child’s participation in the family income. Children work to support parents to increase earnings, although their contribution is often minimal,” he said.

– “Slavery-like” working conditions

Comments supported by Mariam Sawadogo, mother of Roukiéta, who believes that it is a way to “occupy” the children and also to involve them in the search for nourishment.

Children and young people also arrive at the site to “earn their money” and because they have not found any other paid work, according to sociologist Wouango.

For Oumarou Ilboudo, consultant for the framework for consulting associations and NGOs active in the field of basic education in Burkina Faso (CCEB-BF), the working conditions of children in places, regardless of their nature, are “very similar to slavery”.

“The children present in the squares work there between 8 and 10 hours a day. Their job is to dig, crush, wash, transport the ore without any kind of protection,” he explained in an interview given to Anadolu Agency.

“These efforts in addition to their capacity are having a negative impact on their health, their growth and their education. More than 700,000 children have been registered at gold panning sites (craft gold mining) according to a study by the Institute National Statistics and Demography INSD,” he recalled.

The CCEB-BF, which currently has 200 member associations and NGOs, works mainly on influencing education policies, therefore conducting research / action activities to identify the shortcomings in the education sector in order to propose solutions.

To return to the causes of child labor, Ilboudo believes that it is a multidimensional phenomenon based on socio-cultural values ​​and constraints in the education of children on the one hand, but also on the context of the globalized economic situation of impoverishment of families in both rural and urban areas.

Burkina Faso, like several countries, is celebrating World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2022 in Ouagadougou under the theme “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labor”.

“The glorification of this day aims to draw attention to the scale of child labor and the urgent need to redefine new lines, taking into account the new context of the abolition of child labor,” the government wrote in a statement.

In a statement released on Sunday, the Minister for Labor, Bassolma Bazié, warned that in Burkina Faso, the situation of child labor could be “further aggravated in the light of the security crisis which on 31 March 2022 caused some 1,850,293 internally displaced persons. children aged 5 to 17 represent a rate of 44.02% “
Bazié explained that the absence or cessation of children’s schooling automatically exposes them to the worst forms of labor or increases their vulnerability to early work, where one of the harmful consequences may be their recruitment to terrorism.
“Domestic poverty, exacerbated by the loss of property for populations in areas affected by terrorism, deprives children of their essential needs, in particular the right to nutrition, health, housing and education,” he stated, adding that “this state of affairs is not irreparable if we take a holistic approach by attacking the root causes of the phenomenon while protecting child victims and those at risk through actions aimed at “the employability of their parents”.

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