Burkina Faso counts cost of child labour

2016-07-09 20:27


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Ouagadougou - Covered in dust and without protective kit, two seven-year-old boys gather stones in cups.

One of them, standing in front of a pile of rock as large as he is at the Pissy open-cast granite quarry in a neighbourhood of the capital Ouagadougou, begins to hammer away at his haul.

They are among the army of chid labourers who make up Burkina Faso's young workforce.

Vast crater

As many as 60% of children aged between five and 17 are involved in some form of work, according to the National Survey of Child Labour (ENTE) compiled in 2006.

Huge numbers of young people work in sectors as diverse as cotton picking, mining and street selling in the west African country of 19 million people where 44% live below the poverty line.

Two other young mine workers, Amy, 15, and her 14-year-old sister work close to the two young boys.

"We both come on one bike. It takes more than an hour. I pedal and when I can't do it anymore, my sister takes over," said Amy.

About 1 000 people begin to descend into the vast crater that is their workplace from around 07:00, most of them wearing flimsy sandals or flip-flops.

Many of them are children whose hands are badly lacerated by the stone that they extract and is used in the construction of roads and houses. None wear gloves for their arduous work.

Working eight hours a day, six or seven days a week, they carry trays laden with stones on their heads which they then attempt to sell for about 50 US cents. They can expect to earn up to $2 dollars a day.

Poor conditions

According to the ENTE, one quarter of child labourers are engaged in dangerous work like mining.

The International Labour Organisation said just two fifths of children in Burkina Faso attend school and the quality of the education they receive is variable with overcrowding and poor conditions common.

The country's Ministry of Social Action is aiming to get 80% of children working in mining back into education by opening schools next to mines, promoting enrollment and offering vocational training.

Read more on:    burkina faso  |  west africa

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