Rescuing a Child From a Gold Mine

Niger-Aichatou Bety
Aichatou Bety, program director for Combating Child Labor for Catholic Relief Services in Niger. Photo by CRS/Niger.

By Will Bartholomew 

Child labor activist Aichatou Bety was deeply disturbed some years ago when she came across a 10-year-old boy down a 90-meter hole in Niger, wearing a headlamp and looking for gold.

Last January, Bety was overjoyed to find upon her return that the child was attending classes at a vocational school that her project had helped build. “I [took] him in my hands, I [had] tears, [because] I could see how he changed,” she said.

Bety is program director for Combating Child Labor for Catholic Relief Services in Niger. Unicef estimates that 70.1 percent of children aged 5 to 14 were working in Niger in 2000, primarily in the agricultural sector or in one of the country’s many informal mines. The United Nations Development Program has listed Niger as the least developed country in the world.

Combating Child Labor is a project that was launched in 2004 by the United States Department of Labor in conjunction with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), World Vision, and PLAN Niger.   Its goal is to put more children in school and get them out of the mines and fields.

“We want to educate children so that they can be the future of the nation, think for the nation,” Bety told allAfrica. “If you let your children go to school, it is like a seed you put in the ground. They will grow up and one day you will be happy to have fruits.”

CRS’ project has focused mainly on three rural areas in Niger – Dosso, Maradi, and Tillaberi – with the goals of strengthening national institutions for combating child labor, improving access to schools and informal educational services, and raising awareness about the importance of education.

Getting children into school is especially difficult not only because of the lack of schools in rural areas, but also because children often need to work to help support their families.

“We say ‘withdraw your child from school’, but he is the only one that provides food,” Bety said.

People nevertheless support the project’s efforts, according to Bety. “School can give you a lot of opportunities… The parents are 80 percent illiterate and they see that now if you want to vote or if you want to be [involved] in decisions, it’s very important to know how to read and write.”

More work needs to be done, Bety said. “If we just stop, [the 10 year-old] will go back, because we didn’t close the hole, the hole is still open, if we [don’t] give any opportunity to these people, they will go back.”

This story reprinted with permission from all-Africa.com.

Copyright © 2007 allAfrica.com. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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2 Responses to “Rescuing a Child From a Gold Mine”

  1. Roxanne Says:

    I hope we would have Aichatou Bety to help these kids. Gold mine is never safe for children. Good thing Ms. Bety and her group are working very hard to stop child labor and bring the kids back to school.

  2. Mackenna Lipper Says:

    my heart goes out to kids like this i live n the states so i dont no how hard it would be to live like that. i dont have any money to give but if i did i would just wishing i could
    -mackannne lipper

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