As the government undertakes a nation-wide exercise to crack down on illegal small-scale ‘galamsey,’ many teenagers are drifting into illegal business that appears to defy subjugation by national security operatives.
Many of them that the daily graphic encountered last Monday, at Tontokrom in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region, are Junior High School (JHS) leavers who have been lured into the mining pits by the financial prospects of the ‘galamsey’ trade.
And not even the imminent danger in an occupation with an alarmingly high death rate would deter them from travelling long distances to Tontokrom to descend into yawning pits and dig hard for a daily wage of between GH15 cedis and 20 cedis.
Richard Atia, a 14- year-old class Five pupil from a school in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, said after school had vacated, he decided to travel to Tontokrom to work and earn some income that would enable him to go back to school next academic year.
For Elvis Azure, a 19-year-old JHS two student also in a school at Bolgatanga, his mission at Tontokrom was to earn some income to buy books.
He also earns GH15 cedis daily for his services on the mine fields.
After writing his Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) last June, 19-year-old Eric Tiayado, travelled from Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo Region to work in the mining pits at Tontokrom.
He earns GH20 cedis per day and is looking forward to making it big in the business. He does not have any other ambitions for the future.
Agya Koo is not a teenager, but at age 24, and with three years experience as ‘galamsey’ operator, earning GH20 cedis per day, he is yet to realise his high expectation of making it big in the industry.
According to him, he used part of his income to sponsor the education of his younger sibling.
Agya Koo is not worried about the danger involved in illegal mining, especially in respect of the pits caving in and miners drowning.
“it all depends on how the pit is dug and one’s skills in swimming,” the young miner form Techiman in the rainforest belt of the Brong Ahafo Region said.
Sharing some thoughts on the issue, the Executive Director of Children’s Right International, Mr Bright Appiah, said it was very worrying to find children under 15 years involved in ‘galamsey’ activities, considering the fact that the law did not allow children in that age bracket to do hazardous work.
He said there was the need to provide alternative support and care systems that would help rescue children from the hazardous ‘galamsey’ working conditions.
Mr Appiah also said usually when children on vacation were exposed to money in the mining environment, they found it difficult to go back to school “and so there should be systems to address such issues.”
Source: Kofi Yeboah, Daily Graphic
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