Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The prolonged closure of schools is driving more pupils into sand and clay mining sites.
The mining sites of Kajuna, Kasaka and Butenzi in Buwunga sub-county in, Masaka district have lately registered an overflow in the number of children involved in both artisan sand and clay extraction, as well as bricklaying activities.
Although some of the children accompany their parents to the mines, there are those that come on their own to offer cheap labour and earn some money. The children, some as young as seven years of age, are physically involved in the extraction of sand and clay; which eventually feeds into the construction industry as raw materials.
One 11-year-old, a primary five pupil who is involved in bricklaying says he has a target of laying 500 bricks a day, set for him by his parents who inducted him into the job after the closure of schools. He narrates that together with his other four siblings, they go into bricklaying sites at 8 a.m. and spend their whole day, to complement the energy of their parents who also largely survive on the same job.
Doreen, a senior one student is among the unfazed young girls involved in bricklaying at Butenzi quarry despite the hard work involved. She says her parents took her into bricklaying as a way for keeping her busy during the prolonged lockdown.
Madrine Namulema, a mother of four who also works in the mines with her children says she had to tap into the opportunity of the long holiday when children are home to support her efforts through which she raises their school fees. Namulema says she could not afford to leave the children home in the current holiday, yet they are a potential source of labour than can supplement the family’s income.
She, however, downplayed concerns of subjecting children to hard labour that have negative effects on their lives, arguing that they are doing only what they can afford and never overstretched.
Francis Kimuli, the Buwunga sub-county chairperson says local authorities have no problem seeing children occupied in work other than leaving them to loiter in the community where they can be exposed to risky behaviour.