A story about a former child worker who turned teacher and contributed to the establishment of child labour free zones in Bougouni, Mali.
I knew it was via teaching that I could prevent others from having the same fate as me. So the most noble mission was for me to become a teacher. – Noumoutieba Diarra
Bougouni’s Gold Mining Industry
Bougouni is an area known for its gold-mining industry, a traditional activity, practiced in many communities in Mali. Since recent years, the gold mining sector has exploded because of liberalization and globalization. Until 2014, still many children were working on gold panning sites. 8-years olds were often to be found working. Sometimes in the deep tunnels. They did not go to school and supported their families financially.
Teachers in the Lead
In Bougouni the teachers union SNEC has contributed to the development of child labour free zones in partnership with the local NGO ENDA. They trained teachers on the concept of child labour and the creation of child labour free zones.
Hundreds of teachers were trained. They work with the communities and the local government to eliminate child labour. The local authority, highly respected in the community, has been a great help in this process. The project made it possible to reduce the number of working children and get many children back to school.
Anti-child Labour Clubs
SNEC and ENDA set up and trained 12 anti-child labour clubs in the schools, whose role is to sensitize the pupils, parents and other children on the issues of child labour and to identify out of school children.
“Our starting point is the training of teachers in the targeted areas” says Soumeïla H Maiga, Coordinator of the project under the auspice of the SNEC. In the schools of each village, the Headteachers are trained along with teaching staff who become the focal point of the project. After the training programme, each focal point creates an anti-child labour club in its school.
SNEC and ENDA also set up Monitoring Committees, composed of the elders from the village (traditional and religious leaders, representatives of women’s associations, employers, etc.) and serve to support the awareness raised to combat child labour and the fostering of education. Joint actions on the part of the focal point, the anti-child labour club and the Monitoring Committee almost always lead to the return of a former worker to education.
Associations of Pupils’ Mothers
SNEC encourages the focal points to create Associations of Pupils’ Mothers (APM) to increase awareness. “Mothers hold a key role in education in Mali, they can influence their husbands and their children to continue education. The APMs strengthen the work of monitoring committees, focal points and anti-child labour clubs”. Says Soumeila H Maiga.
The Story of Noumoutieba Diarra
Noumoutieba Diarra, currently headmaster of the Ouroun primary school and coordinator of focal points in the region, has always been committed to the fight against school dropouts. At a young age, he had to interrupt his education, but thanks to his perseverance, now he is a proud teacher himself.
The child-labour training he received through the Stop Child Labour-project, taught him to be much more effective in re-integrating former dropouts. He learned to communicate better with colleagues and parents, and to listen carefully to everyone. He learned about Malian laws against child labour, and how to set up an anti-child labour club within his own school. After the training, Diarra totally dedicated himself to the job. He is a real role model in his village. Therefore, SNEC appointed Diarra coordinator for the focal points in the region. Diarra’s story shows how the training of teachers and their involvement in such a type of projects can help bring about significant changes on the ground.
Read his full story here.
Today in Bougouni
Today, it has become rare to find children working at the gold panning sites. Child labour is no longer acceptable in the village. The whole community has now a shared vision of education. Unions are closely involved in the community and play a beneficial role in the society. Teachers and NGOs kick-started a change in attitude and this has been completed with the help of the whole community and its leaders. Today the village chief and other members of the community are stakeholders in the child labour free zone project. Since 2014, more than 1100 children have returned to school thanks to this project.