Burkina Faso is officially rated as the third poorest country in the world by the United Nations. In northern, impoverished regions of the country gold mining dominates life’s daily activities for many, particularly children.

According to a 2010 joint study conducted by Burkina Faso’s government in conjunction with UNICEF, 20,000 young children reportedly work in the country’s gold mining sites and over 80 percent of these children have never attended school in their lives. Many are thus unable to read or write and instead devote their time to gold mining. A successful day of mining can result in a sum of money, which children can take home to their parents.

The young miners collect rocks in various mining sites, most notably the Gorol Kadje mine near Dori, and fill bags with unearthed stones which are then crushed, processed and sifted for gold by young girls gathered around the sites. Images of the process are available online and depict children as young as 10 years old covered in dirt and dust, hauling and crushing bags of rocks, clad with flashlights tied to their heads.

These circumstances are slowly, but surely, being addressed. UNICEF, the government of Burkina Faso and Terre des Hommes, a charitable humanitarian organization based in Switzerland, have been working together since 2009 to help remove children from the Gorol Kadje mine and help them pursue education and other useful training and trades. The groups focus on the five regions exhibiting the highest rates of child labor.

The programs are very successful. Since these efforts began, over 200 youths have been removed from this laborious pursuit to, instead, receive vocational training in areas such as tailoring, carpentry, dressmaking and metalwork, among others. The National Agency for Employment in Dori is now enlivened by many new youths able to pursue instruction and schooling thanks to blackboards in the facility.

— Arielle Swett
Sources: UNICEF, WSJ
Photo: News Hour