Diamonds in the Rough
Personal testimonies from ten young people working in and around a diamond mine on the outskirts of Mbuji Mayi, Democratic Republic of Congo
Chouchou - Age 15
"Up until the beginning of this year I was in school. I had reached the 5th grade. But I had to quit going to school because there was no one to pay for my school fees. My father works far away and my mother is sick. Every day I carry gravel form the mining site down to the river to sift through the gravel searching for diamonds. I do this all day long. For this work I am paid between 2000 and 2500 francs a day. One day I sifted through a pile of left over gravel that the miners had thrown away and I found a diamond. This was the first time I had ever found a diamond for myself and it made me very happy. I took it to a trader and he gave me 20000 francs for it. I went out and bought new clothes and gave some money to my mother. I enjoyed going to school, it was just that I had a problem paying for it. I would like to return to school if I could. "
Astrid - Age 12
"I come here every morning and I spend the day selling small packets of water to the men who dig in the mines. Two packets of water sells for 50 francs (GBP £0.03). I make about 550 francs (GBP £0.33) a day, which I give to my mother and also use to by shoes and clothes. My father works digging in the mines and my mother sells food to the miners. There are six children in my family. I went to school up to fourth grade but I had to stop at the beginning of this school year because we ran out of money to pay for it. My father couldn’t afford the costs. I liked school. I liked learning to read and write. I don’t like this work because it keeps me from bing in school. Sometimes men come and take water from me without paying for it. When this happens I usually cry and go and tell my mother."
Anaclé - Age 10
"I went to school up until the first grade, but I had to stop because we couldn’t afford the fees. I really liked going to school. I liked everything about it. Going to school is important because that’s where you learn how to read and write. I never learned how to read or write. I don’t like doing this work of carrying a bucket around selling beignets all day. There’s nothing here that makes me happy. I would rather be in school, but I don’t have a choice. If I could leave this work, I would go to school."
Mimi - Age 13
"I don’t come here every day. I only come when we have ripe bananas to sell. They grow a tour home and when they are ripe, my mother sends me here to sell them. My father is a diamond trader and my mother sells flour. There are seven children in the family. My older brother works in the mines, and I had two siblings die from illness. I went to school up until the fourth grade but I had to stop last year because of money problems. Now I just stay at home and help around the house. I liked going to school. I would go back if I could. It’s not very interesting here, and I’m not selling many bananas."
Mathieu - Age 10
"Every day I come to the mines to sell cigarettes, and sometimes I carry gravel to wash in the river. I sell cigarettes for fifty francs (GBP £0.03) each. On a good day, I make between 1000 and 1500 francs (GBP £0.70 - £1.06) in a day. There are five children in my family, I have four sisters and I am the only boy. My mother sells vegetables, and my father is deceased. I used to be in school, but I had to stop going after the 3rd grade because my mother didn’t have enough money to pay for my school fees. I liked school. I would have liked to continue. It’s good to work here, because I can make between 1000-1500 francs a day. But If I had a choice I would rather be in school. When I grow up I want to be a teacher or a soldier in the army."
Victor - Age 12
"I spend the whole day here selling beignets to the men who work at the mines. Sometimes I can make as much as 7000 francs (GBP £4.90) in a day. There are ten children in my family. My father works digging in the mine and my mother works baking and selling these beignets. I had to quit school two years ago because my parents could not afford it. I was very unhappy when I was told that I had to quit school. Sometimes when I’m selling, some of the men come up and steal beignets from me. It makes me cry. I don’t like this work. I walk around all day selling beignets while my friends are out going to school. I liked school a lot because studying helps you to become an important person. When I grow up I want to be an important person. I want to become the governor of this province. If I was the governor, I would change things so that people no longer suffered. I would make sure they all had enough food to eat."
Berte - Age 14
"I come here to sell cooked cassava to the men working in the mine. One ball of cooked flour sells for 50 francs (GBP £0.03). I am the second oldest in a family of seven children. My father is a civil servant and my mother grows crops. I am still attending school. I am in the third year of high school. I choose to come down to the mines as a way of earning some extra money for myelf. On a good day I can make 1000 francs (GBP £0.70). I give this to my mother and she sets it aside for me so that I can buy clothes. I’m going to continue my studies so that I can become a nurse."
Kankwenda - Age 15
*Kankwenda is deaf and could not communicate for an interview. Because of his condition he cannot attend school, he works in the mine to earn money for his family.
Noella - Age 12
“I come here to the mines to sell sweet potatoes and corn that I buy at the market. I sell three sweet potatoes for 100 francs (GBP £0.06). Sometime I make 1000-2000 (GBP £0.70 - £1.40) francs in a day. I take this money back to my family so we can buy food. My father and mother live far away in a place that’s 60 kilometers away from here. They have a field there where they grow crops. I came here to live with my older sister. She has three children of her own. There are two younger boys and I am the only child that works. I should be in the third grade but we don’t have any money for school. I had to quit school last year after the second grade. I wasn’t happy about it. Going to school would have helped me to get a job when I grow up. I would like to be a shop keeper so that I could have a good life. I don’t like being here. I see the other girls my age going to school and I have to stay home and sell food at the mines. Sometimes I spend the whole day her without selling anything and I have to return home empty handed. On those days we go to bed on an empty stomach.”
Sofie - Age 14
"I just started selling these cakes again after quitting for three months. They weren’t selling well so I had stopped doing it. I came back today to try again. I sell a cake for 100 francs (GBP £0.06). If I sell them all I’ll go home with 1000 francs (£GBP 0.60). I am the oldest of four children. My father works digging in the mines. My mother sells cakes to the workers. I give the money I make selling cakes to my mother and she uses it to buy food for the family. The worst thing is when no one buys anything. It’s hard to make money here. I was going to school and had reached the third year of secondary school. I quit going to school because we couldn’t afford it any more. I would rather be in school than doing this. Going to school gives you the opportunity to learn and to get a job when you grow up. When I grow up I would like to be a tailor. It’s a good job. If you can make nice clothes for people, it can be a good way to earn a living."