In the column Help/Assistance a child and an aid worker from one of Terre des Hommes' programmes have their say. This time it's the story of Racheal from Uganda. She worked in the gold mines and did not go to school. Until she came across social worker Racheal who made clear to her parents that vocational training is very important. Read about how she could offer Racheal a brighter future.
I really thought I didn’t have enough brains
“As long as I can remember, I have been sent down from school. I started in grade 1 when I was five years old. My parents are too old to work. I am therefore dependent on my older brother. But he did not have enough money to buy me school materials. He could not even afford the tuition fees of 13,000 shilling (approximately € 2.92) each trimester. In the end I only attended school two days per week, but even then I was sent down. I often repeated classes and was only in grade 6 when I dropped out of school altogether at the age of fifteen. I really thought I didn’t have enough brains.
I started ‘washing’ ground ore in the mines to rinse out the gold. Every day I was on my feet from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. without a break. On average I earned 3,000 shilling per day (€ 0.67). I was suffering. My lungs hurt because of the dust and the mercury affected the skin and nails of my feet, and I knew I could become infected with the dangerous bilharzia worm infection. When I thought about my future, I could only envisage a life full of suffering.”
A food stall draws in customers every day, a hairdressing salon only around Christmas
“We found Racheal about a year ago in the gold mines. There were only two girls in the mines, so she was at great risk of being raped. When I asked her why she was not attending school, she came up with the story of not having enough brains. But I kept asking questions and checked her history with the school. I also talked with her family to convince them of the importance of education, so she could develop skills for the future. Her parents agreed and Racheal was allowed to pursue vocational training. Like almost all girls, she wanted to become a hairdresser, but we told her she had better opportunities in catering. In such a small village a food stall draws in customers every day, while a hairdressing salon only around Christmas. That settled it and she chose catering.
Even though Racheal was stuck in the mines twelve hours a day, she was no longer used to the straitjacket of school. We therefore prepared her intensively on the rules and routines of the training, especially because she would receive board and lodging at the institute. Still, it was extremely hard to have to spend the first month behind the closed gate. She felt very homesick, but fortunately she did not give up. She is a bright girl who has never had a real opportunity at school because of her background. She did, however, succeed at the vocational training.
Only a week after she completed the training, she had already started work. She currently runs a food stall on the main road. Thanks to word of mouth, the food stall is a big success. And rightly so: her samosas (fried pastry filled with a spicy mix of chickpeas) are absolutely delicious.”
Terre des Hommes’ work in the Bugiri gold mines is part of the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA), a five-year joint programme (2016-2020) of Plan Netherlands, Terre des Hommes and Defence for Children-EPCAT Netherlands, in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Racheal Babirye sells samosa's in her food stall