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D.R. Congo, interview to a former child miner: "Our place is at school"

What is the human cost of our cobalt addiction? And what does it have to do with our students? The journey of “Through Our Voices” in DR Congo continues, and accompanying us this time is Deborah Kasongo Lukaya, 12, a student at our Pamoja school and a former miner. 

“I live in a family of 6 consisting of my dad, mom and 4 children, two boys and two girls and I am the youngest. We are originally from Lubyaya village in Kabongo territory but currently live in Kolwezi. Both my parents finished secondary school. My father went to school for biology and chemistry and my mother went to school for education, but they were both unemployed before we moved in.

A good memory I have is being recruited by Still I Rise right when I was working in the mines.

I started attending Pamoja School in March 2023. I haven’t had any major difficulties here at school yet, but when I have any I don’t panic.

I am happy to come to this school because they pay attention to us here, we come to learn how to read and write and how to communicate with others.

Near our house there is a quarry, where I used to work with my mother and sister. I used to bring sacks of earth to be washed, and then collect and choose minerals to be sold. When I used to work I would earn money, I gave it to my mother and she bought me shoes because mine were broken.

I felt bad every time I collected minerals and they were often stolen. I did not feel safe doing this hard work, my body felt very sick.

I witnessed a case of violence, when two miners were fighting, one of them hit the other in the leg with a crowbar, I felt bad when I saw such a big wound and blood.

There are still children in the mines, I tell them that the quarry is not a place for children, because a child’s place is in school.

There are many bad things happening there, from disease to death and everything else. If a child goes to the mine, he might become a delinquent or a thief like the others who are there.

When I finish my studies, I would like to become a doctor, and I also want to become a seamstress to sew clothes. Education is very important to me: when I finish my studies, I won’t have to suffer in my future life.

I had been in another school before I came here, but I didn’t understand the subjects very well, whereas here I understand everything.

When I see myself in uniform in my neighborhood, I feel happy, satisfied and lucky to receive a free and quality education in an environment where I feel protected.

I have changed completely, it doesn’t show but I have gained weight, I don’t get sick every time anymore, and I feel smarter.

And you, what can you do to help?

Join the “No more child miners” campaign and sign the petition!

Join Still I Rise’s BIG FAMILY and donate now!

Still I Rise

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