Abdulai Kargbo, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) pupil of the St. Edwards Secondary School, Kingtom in Freetown, on Saturday explained his ordeal about how he was used as a child miner in Freetown.
He told his ordeal during the launching ceremony of the report: “Situation of Child Miners in Sierra Leone,” at the conference hall of the Council of Churches-Sierra Leone (CCSL). The report was prepared by the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) in Sierra Leone.
Explaining in tears, the victim said when he was a little boy he was staying with his parents in the provinces when his uncle went to them and asked them [his parents] to hand him over so that he could come to the city where he would be sent to school.
Abdulai Kargbo continued, his parents agreed to let his uncle come with him to the city.
At Wellington, east of the capital, “I stayed with my uncle who is a stone miner. Before I could eat I had to break stones so that we could have money to buy food. I was always putting on tattered clothes. Some times my friends provided me with decent clothes”.
The JSS pupil maintained that, “ …after breaking the stones it took sometime before they were sold… if they did not sell we could have no good food to eat or money to take me to the hospital when I fell sick”.
“I spent little time in school because there was no money to buy my school materials and pay my fees,” he noted, adding that “during school examination I was unable to study because my head ached badly from the constant sounds from the sledge hammer”.
As the struggle went on, he continued, “I met with a school friend who I explained my ordeal to and he took me to his house where I explained to him in details. After my explanation, he showed me one youth advocacy agency which later helped me out to continue my education”.
The programme manager of Campaign for Just Mining (CJM), Suna Kumba Bundu, said during the war children were forced to work in diamond mines by warring factions; adding that “even after the war children are still found in the mines faced with harsh working conditions”.
She stated that, “CJM is a coalition of civil society and human rights organizations, Non governmental base organization as well as individual activists of the mining and extractives programme under the auspices of NMJD”.
Giving an overview of the report the executive director of NMJD, Abu Brima, said “in 2006 long after the war NMJD undertook the task of conducting a study on child miners across the country”. He stated that his organization’s efforts were aimed at determining the number of children involved in diamond mining as well as an assessment of their situations and the conditions in which they worked and lived.
In launching the report the minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs, Shirley Gbujama, said “the report is really very good for everyone to look at the way children are being used to mine in the extractive industry.
She added that these children mined under hazardous conditions which were not good for them.
The minister stated that the issue of children was paramount on the development of this country.
Earlier on in his opening remarks the chairman of the ceremony, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo who is the president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), said “the problem of child mining has to be looked into in the country”.
He noted that, “we believe that if children are the future leaders we need to train them in a conducive environment”.
Daniela Bundu, a pupil of the Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School, said the rights of children had been violated, adding “that children have the rights to education and to grow up in a healthy environment”.