Perspectives and experiences on young people´s work in small-scale gold mining in Amansie West District of Ghana
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The recent resurgence in small-scale mining activities in Ghana has coincided with falling standards of education. This has led to public concerns about the participation of young people of school-going age in the mining work. The continuous engagement of young people in the mining work is perceived to make efforts to improve enrolment and performance in schools futile. The response at the governmental level, therefore, has been to ensure the application of international and national legislations which seek to prevent young people's participation in mining activities. This is what has made it necessary to listen to the side of the story of the young workers in particular. This study, therefore, aims to look at the perspectives and experiences of young workers and other stakeholders on the issue. The main theoretical perspective underpinning the study is the Social Studies of Children and Childhood, with its fundamental tenets. The actor-oriented perspective positions young people as competent social actors who contribute essential social and economic resources towards the livelihoods of their households. The young participants constitute the principal informants, along with other significant adults. As a qualitative study, multiple participatory methods were used to collect data from the participants. These include individual interviews, observations, focus groups discussion, essay writing, attitude survey, and recall chart. The fieldwork was conducted in the Amansie West District, using three schools from three different communities. Four parents, three teachers, two government workers and two community leaders were recruited as adult informants in addition to ten young workers who were the main participants of the research. The study found economic hardship as the main reason for young people's participation in mining work. Other reasons such as unstable employment and/or irregular income, large household/family size, parental separation and migration, as well as reasons bordering on culture were also found to contribute to the phenomenon. The findings underscore the importance of work in the lives of young workers and their households by benefiting them in diverse ways. The decision-making process leading to young people's mining work is largely a collective (family) one. Against the backdrop of work-school incompatibility, the findings disfavour the conventional stance on abolitionism, revealing that young workers use the bulk of their mining earnings to support their education. The tension between securing individual/household livelihoods vis-a-vis broad societal interest pursued through legislations is highlighted. Young people's mining work or its abolition were found to carry implications for educational pursuit as well as both present and future livelihoods and economic prospects.