Laborious quarry work keeps Burkinabe teens busy as schools closed amid lockdown


At a granite quarry in Burkina Faso’s capital, miners’ children work alongside their parents as the coronavirus pandemic closed schools leaving them with no other places to go amid a lockdown.

While most of the site’s 1,000 workers are adults, a Reuters witness saw a dozen children of different ages chipping lumps of granite into smaller pieces or balancing rocks on their heads as they walked painstakingly out of the steep pit.

“It’s not a game. If you work here, you hurt all over at night,” said 18-year-old school pupil Elysee Yanogo, who was splitting granite slabs with a mallet.

He started working at the quarry with his mother after authorities ordered schools closed in March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“We don’t have information about when they are going to reopen, that’s why I follow my mother to the quarry to help her,” he said.

Yanogo can legally work at the site as he is over 16. But despite the law, some 42% of Burkinabe children between the ages of 5 and 14 engage in some form of labour including back-breaking work in quarries, gold mines and cotton fields, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Bureau of International Labour Affairs.

With schools closed, Aminata Zoundi said she had no option but to bring her 10-year-old daughter, Zenabo, to the quarry, where the girl sat beside her as Zoundi pounded stones into pebbles.

“When she’s here with me I have to find her food, make sure she doesn’t injure herself with rocks,” Zoundi said.

For children aged 3 to 6, workers can leave them at the quarry’s nursery, where they play in safer surroundings.

“It’s easier for them to work without their children,” said teacher Abdoul Kabre, who once worked in the quarry himself. He started when he was 12 years old. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)