When I was 6 years old I was in my first year of primary school, taking ballet lessons and enjoying weekends with my family by going on day trips.
Conversely, Michelle in the Philippines started panning for gold as a job in extremely cold water when she was 6 years old. Her body would go numb from the temperature but she would have to work to afford to buy food.
Her body would go numb from the temperature but she would have to work to afford to buy food.
Thousands of children in the Philippines work in small scale gold mines where they risk death because they work underwater and underground. Many are also at risk of getting diseases from working with mercury.
Mining is already known as one of the most dangerous professions there is but the likelihood of an accident occurring is 6-7 times higher in a small scale mine compared to a large scale one.
The ‘Manila Times’ also reported that some kids are given drugs so they are able to work 16 hours at a time. Instead of going to school like most other children, these child labourers are forced to work from as young as five years old or have to drop out of school to be able to afford a livelihood because their parents can’t.
I feel so privileged knowing that my parents were able to care for me and finance me as a child which allowed me to go to school and get an education. I used to believe that I could have had a better childhood if my family had a bigger house, an annual holiday destination and could afford to take me to more sport lessons. Having these kind of problems growing up would be a utopia to these kids. These children have to leave their families who can’t provide for them and are forced into working in extremely dangerous conditions for very small wages.
The child workers risk so much every time they go down into an underground or underwater mine. Some work 25 metres deep where the air is too thin to breathe in without an oxygen pump. Children have suffocated from the tunnels not being ventilated properly or have been crushed due to the mines caving in because they’re so narrow and small scale. When working underwater with a compressor helping the workers breathe, there’s always the possibility of the compressor failing which would result in the worker drowning. Decompression sickness also occurs amongst mining children, from using the breathing device too often and they are also very vulnerable to skin diseases from the bacteria in the waters.
One of the most terrifying realities of these working conditions is that young children are working with and being exposed to the liquid metal mercury. The substance is used because it attracts gold particles which separates it from the sand and other elements. Although helpful, mercury is toxic and can cause brain damage and even death when exposed to it. Young children are even more at risk of these things because their systems are still developing which means they’re more easily effected by it.
This kind of child labour is a result of poverty in the Philippines and the government not abiding by their own laws that state underwater mining and using mercury are banned. How are we letting people get away with forced child labour that puts children at so much risk of disease and death? These families need support which should allow their children to go to school and have an education which is a basic human right that these kids are missing out on.
Nowhere in the world should a child drop out of their schooling to work instead and have to provide for themselves.
Nowhere in the world should a government allow their people to get away with such an atrocity that forces their youngest generation into labour.
Nowhere in the world should a child have to mine 10 metres underwater and risk drowning.
So many of us are lucky enough to have had an up bringing that didn’t involve any type of labour. We easily take our privilege for granted and forget that so many people in the world today have it way worse than we ever will have in a lifetime. I try and remind myself of this reality every day and be grateful with what I have. These children need help and support and these mining practices need to be abolished.