For several reasons, children of school going age in parts of Africa are sometimes seen in mining pits, during school hours. However here in Busia in Uganda mining has now become a substitute for school since the rise of covid 19.
16-year-old child gold miner Annet Aita, explained her long stay out of school is having a negative toll on her as she no longer has the desire to read.
“Staying at home sometimes, you cannot have the morale to read books and you can just somehow, sometimes just forget what they taught you at school. Then you just stop even reading books because they have been telling us that we are going back to school, you are going back to school. You wait until you just get tired, and you just can’t even read a book.”
Annet is just one of the many children of school going age facing this problem. This is a disturbing example of how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the lives of millions of children
Schools in Uganda have been closed for more than 77 weeks, the longest anywhere in the world.
Many children who spoke to The Associated Press expressed hopelessness amid the protracted lockdown.
Students toil alongside adults, including some of their teachers, under the scorching sun.
A typical day can fetch just over $2, enough for a child to buy a pair of used shoes. Other children said they help to look after their families, regularly buying salt or soap.
The pandemic has manufactured “outcasts,” a lost generation of learners, according to Moses Mangeni, an official with Busia’s local government.
One of the miners Godfrey Obwin, explained, the situation did not only affect education. According to him, economic activities were also hardly hit, forcing children to join the informal mining sector for survival.
“When COVID-19 came in, schools were closed, other activities got closed. It forced the youth to come in and (get) involved in this activity to get some money for survival. It also forced younger children, because they had nothing to do at home, to also come in and do some work.”
A suggested national program to broadcast lessons via free radio sets did not materialise, and in rural areas, many children don’t have learning materials.
Schools also provide a refuge to vulnerable children as sources of meals, and vaccines are not easily available at home.