For millions of children in East Africa, working is a daily reality. Their hard labour often seriously interferes with their education; more often than not child labourers do not go to school at all and eventually drop out. Maduka (16 years) from Tanzania used to be one of those children. He was engaged in heavy and hazardous child labour in the gold mines. Thanks to the intervention of Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ partner Rafiki SDO he managed to quit. He is enrolled in a vocational education and in his spare time, he engages with other young miners to educate them on the dangers of gold mining and to convince them to stop.
Maduka: "I used to crush ore and wash the gold dust with mercury to extract the gold. It was heavy, exhausting and unhealthy work, which made me literally sick. Because of the fine dust I have tuberculosis and the water used for washing has infected me with bilharzia.* My bosses constantly abused me and sometimes they even refused to pay me.
I started working in the mines after I finished primary school. I was fourteen years old. At home we are with seven siblings, and my parents make a living with small-scale farming and livestock farming. Besides food and shelter, there was no money for other things, such as secondary school education. My friends persuaded me to start working in the mines. The earning were quite good, about € 4.20 per day. But the constant exhaustion was unbearable, and when I contracted those diseases, all I wanted was to quit.
My chance came with the help of Rafiki SDO (Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ partner in the gold mine region of Kahama, Tanzania). I have been enrolled in vocational training in mechanics. My parents have been trained in business skills and make extra cash by selling fish, vegetables and fruit. My ambition is to become a car mechanic in high demand, so that I can help my family improve their income. But that is not all. I now also know all about the dangers of gold mining for children. In my spare time I speak to other young miners about it. I have already convinced four other children to stop the dangerous mining. "
* Bilharzia is a tropical worm infection that is transmitted through contaminated water; if untreated, it can lead to very serious complications, such as life-threatening liver damage.