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Young faces in dangerous places : a critical re-appraisal of the child labour debate in Africa’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector.

Gatsinzi, Angelique (2019) Young faces in dangerous places : a critical re-appraisal of the child labour debate in Africa’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Abstract

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of child labour in the world. An estimated one third of the region’s boys and girls aged 5-17 are believed to be ‘economically active’. These staggering figures have led to an international crusade to eliminate child labour globally, focusing on hazardous work because there is shared consensus among policymakers that it is a violation of human rights and a major impediment to human capital accumulation and therefore, stands in the way of sustainable economic growth in countries where it is found. One country in the region where this problem is particularly visible, and which has been heavily scrutinised by the ILO and implementation partners in particular for having high concentrations of what is referred to in the donor lexicon as Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) is Ghana. A major focus of these assessments is artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing which, throughout Ghana and most other areas in sub-Saharan Africa, is mostly poverty-driven, providing employment to otherwise incomeless families. The campaign spearheaded by the ILO under the auspices of the WFCL agenda to eliminate child labour from ASM in Ghana and the wider sub-region builds a case around how young boys and girls carry out arduous work and are generally being exploited at sites. Recent research, however, has revealed that the child labour ‘problem’ in Ghana and rural sub-Saharan Africa more broadly is far more nuanced than has been diagnosed by donors. The ASM sector is no exception: research undertaken over the past decade has shown that the growth of its activities linked to a wider de-agrarianisation process – specifically the movement of rural families into the nonfarm economy, in response to the inability of agriculture to sustain, fully, their economic needs – to which the child labour ‘problem’ diagnosed is inextricably linked. Specifically, the ASM sector, being the region’s most important rural nonfarm activity, has become a popular ‘off farm’ destination for hundreds of thousands of families and other jobless masses. This movement has naturally contributed to the increased ‘presence’ of children at artisanal mines, where, contrary to the position of donors, work undertaken rarely extends beyond tasks similar to those carried out on family farms. The case of Ghana, the location of one of the largest and more dynamic ASM economies in sub-Saharan Africa, illustrates this very clearly. The aim of this thesis is to build on these observations by engaging more critically with the main debates on child labour with a view to articulating more comprehensively why children are pursuing ‘hazardous’ work in ASM camps across the region. It does this by analysing key policy documents, conducting observations and semi-structured interviews with policymakers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community leaders, educators, parents and children. Together, these sources of information broach a rich range of issues for analysis and allow for the exploration and construction of broader discourses in connection with the main themes and theories of this research study. This thesis provides a more comprehensive picture of the child labour phenomenon in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Findings suggest that many of the so-called ‘exploited’ children in ASM are engaging in what ILO officials themselves would consider light work akin to the chores countless young African girls and boys perform on family farms; that children’s earnings are being used to alleviate the economic hardships of their households but that work is generally taking place outside of school hours and during school vacations; and that for some children, the sole motivation for working at mines is to generate sufficient money to pay for school fees. Overall, the research study informs debates on child labour, education and family hardship in the region, and arms policymakers with information to assist in their quests to tackle child labour and associated rural poverty – two priority issues identified in most of the region’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and two central themes of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), namely Target 4.1 (‘By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes’) and Target 8.7 (‘Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Gatsinzi, Angelique
Date : 29 March 2019
Funders : University of Surrey PhD studentship
DOI : 10.15126/thesis.00850789
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID
http://www.loc.gov/loc.terms/relators/THSHilson, Gaving.m.hilson@surrey.ac.uk
Depositing User : Angelique Gatsinzi
Date Deposited : 04 Apr 2019 08:35
Last Modified : 04 Apr 2019 08:35
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/850789

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