The Central African Republic (CAR) closed schools in March in an effort to prevent more COVID-19 infections. The closure of learning institutions across the state affected numerous scholars as well as teachers. One such scholar named Papin expected schools would reopen after a few months. Currently, the schools remain closed, and Papin figured he could at least help his big brother work at the diamond mines.
Working at the Diamond Mines
Papin works six-days a week at a diamond mine in the Central African Republic (CAR). While at the mine, he hauls sacks of mud and rubble under the hot sun. Papin meets dozens of other children of his age working at the open-pit mine near the southern town of Ngoto. About 100 other miners also work at the mine using shovels and sieves to scour the red earth for diamonds.
Papin told reporters doing a story on the mine that the work is back-breaking, and he longs to return to school. The 16-year-old added that the site has few remaining trees; hence, there is little respite from the sun’s hot glare. Papin, whose name was changed to protect his identity, lastly told the reporters he preferred to be at school, thinking because work at the mine was too hard.
CAR has one of the highest child labor rates in the world. With the lockdown causing school closures in the state, the child labor rates have increased tremendously. Numerous children have enlisted to work at diamond mines in the war-torn country. According to the International Peace Information Service, child labor at diamond mines increased by 50% in months after schools were closed. The International Peace Service made these remarks after conducting research that involved monitoring of 105 mines.
Ban of Child Labor in CAR
The laws in the Central African Republic’s constitution ban child labor and state committing the offense is punishable by a levy and up to three years in jail. However, enforcement of the law is poor, and authorities in the Central African Republic say they have minimal control of what happens in the mines. They add that there is no way to eradicate the illegal activity from the mines completely.
Armed groups that control more than 60% of the country also control numerous mines. Back in 2013, the diamond-rich Central African Republic was rocked by violence. Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the then-President Francois Bozize. Afterward, the rebels took control of the nation, and to this day, the country remains beyond government control. Thousands of individuals have perished because of the conflict in the country. Additionally, one in five of CAR’s 4.5 million people has fled their homes, searching for safer shelter.
In the Lobaye region, where the diamond pit is located, diamonds are among the main income sources. But the COVID-19 has greatly affected the exports of the precious stone from the Central African Republic. Due to the pandemic, miners in the region now only make about $12 a week. As a result, the miners have sorted to enlisting their child relatives to help because they need the extra income. These miners believe their smaller relatives are better off working at the mine than staying at home going nothing.