Tensions and controversies regarding child labor in small-scale gold mining in Ghana
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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The recent resurgence in small-scale mining in Ghana has coincided with falling enrolments in schools, leading to public concerns about the participation of children and young people in mining work. The engagement of children and young people in gold mining is also perceived to diminish efforts to improve education, inviting abolitionist actions from the government. This has created tension between government and its functionaries on one hand and young workers and their families on the other. Drawing on qualitative research, this article explores controversies around young people’s involvement in small-scale mining and governments’ efforts to curtail it in Amansie West District, Ghana. We discuss the tensions between securing individual/household livelihoods and societal interest in reducing child labor. The study findings underscore not only the importance of work in the lives of young workers and their households but also its positive implications for educational pursuits as well as for future livelihood prospects. Whereas the abolitionist framework emphasizes children’s right to education, it fails to acknowledge that the income generated through work makes schooling possible for most children. We conclude that policies rooted in global ideologies of work-free childhoods are at odds with prevailing sociocultural and economic realities.