Burkina Faso: The “convict children” of the career of Pissy … (Reportage)

AA/ Ouagadougou / Dramane Traoré

Hammer in his 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 makeshift shed made of worn fabrics and blankets. In the midst of several hundred people, we see teenagers and young children, some with loads 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 crush the stones. It’s thanks to this activity that our family is fed”, says the young Drissa Ouédraogo who says he is between 12 and 13 years old. “I didn’t 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 which we resell. The women and children also pay the people who go down into the hole to dig and bring out the blocks”, explains Robert Ouédraogo who is given the pleasure of serving as a guide on the spot.

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

He recognizes, all the same, that some children work in difficult conditions on the site. “There are goodwill people who come here with protective equipment. But for some time, we no longer see them. Sometimes children get injured with the hammers. But we have no choice,” he said.

Among the children encountered on the site are girls. Their task most of the time is to transport the blocks of stone from inside the hole to rise to the surface. An obstacle course, according to the young Roukiéta Sawadogo who also says she “accompanies” her mother on the site.

– “Wild Mining Site”

According to NGO data, the artisanal mining of the open-air stone quarry in this district of Ouagadougou provides a living every day for around 4,000 people, including men, women and children.

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

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

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

“Here the work is done a little on the chain. Everyone has a very specific role. The children find themselves in particular 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 are, among others, contractors working in the building sector and also individuals, because crushed granite is used in the manufacture of concrete, explained Nana.

Crushing consists of reducing the granite blocks to pieces. “That’s why the work is very difficult”, tells us Arnaud Kaboré, another child barely 15 years old.

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

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

“It is first linked to the economic situation of families which imposes the participation of the child in the family income. Children work in support of parents to increase earnings, even if their contribution is often minimal”, he said. she indicated.

– “Slavery-like” working conditions

Remarks supported by Mariam Sawadogo, the mother of Roukiéta, who believes that it is a way of “occupying” the children, and also of involving them in the search for sustenance.

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

For Oumarou Ilboudo, consultant to the Framework for Consultation of associations and NGOs active in Basic Education in Burkina-Faso (CCEB-BF), the working conditions of children on sites, whatever their nature, “are very similar to those of slavery”.

“The children present on the sites work there between 8 and 10 hours a day. Their work consists of digging, crushing, washing, transporting the ore, without any protection”, he explained in an interview granted to Anadolu Agency.

“These efforts beyond their capacity play negatively on their health, their growth and their education. More than 700,000 children have been recorded on gold panning sites (artisanal gold mining) according to a survey by the Institute National Statistics and Demography INSD”, he recalled.

The CCEB-BF, which currently has 200 member associations and NGOs, works mainly to influence education policies, hence the conduct of research/action activities to determine the shortcomings in the education sector in order to propose solutions.

Returning to the causes of child labour, Ilboudo considers that it is a multidimensional phenomenon which is based on socio-cultural values ​​and constraints relating to the education of children on the one hand, but also on the context of globalized economic situation marked by the impoverishment of families in both rural and urban areas.

Burkina Faso, like several countries, is commemorating the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2022 in Ouagadougou, under the theme “Universal social protection to end child labor”.

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

In a statement published this Sunday, the Minister in charge of Labour, Bassolma Bazié, warned that in Burkina Faso, the situation of child labor “could deteriorate further in view of the security crisis which caused on March 31, 2022 approximately 1,850,293 internally displaced persons. Among them, 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, one of the harmful consequences of which could be their recruitment into terrorism.
“Household poverty, amplified by the loss of property of populations in areas affected by terrorism, deprives children of their essential needs, in particular the right to nutrition, health, housing and education”, a- he listed, adding that “this state of affairs is not irremediable if we adopt a holistic approach by attacking the main reasons for the phenomenon while protecting child victims and those at risk through actions directed towards the ’employability of their parents’.

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Burkina Faso: The “convict children” of the career of Pissy … (Reportage)

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