Children in eastern Cameroon leave school as young as seven to work in gold mines. Moki Kindzeka travelled to the mining town of Betare-Oya where residents have an uneasy relationship with the Chinese mining community.
The road to Betare-Oya in eastern Cameroon is better than it used to be. Five years ago, it was narrow and bumpy but in the meantime the surface has been tarred and the ride is much smoother.
Simon Estil, the senior government official in Betare-Oya, says urban development in the area is being driven by gold mining. He said there used to be a market just once a week, now the market is open daily and a second one has sprung up.
Young traders used to sell fuel in cans, but now there are four fuel stations even though mining is still on a small-scale. “That is enough to make you understand how gold mining can transform a locality,” he told DW.
30-year-old Armand Zibi is digging away at a gold mine just 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the center of Betare-Oya. He said they start work at around 6 a.m and leave the mine at around 6 or 7 p.m. “Honestly speaking, we are happy,” he said.
Many traders now come to Betare-Oya, levels of theft and robbery have dropped. He said that a mine worker earns “an average of $30 (29 euros) a day.” Individual incomes like these are having an impact on life in Betare-Oya. At the local government-run nursery and primary school, the classrooms are full.
But teacher Bernice Yaya says that when the children reach the tender age of seven, around 80 or 90 percent drop out of school and head for the gold mines.
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