FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

13 December 2012

Gambia: Children Scramble for Scrap Metals

It is now common to see children as young as those at primary school going age roaming the streets and dumpsites in the Kanifing Municipality scavenging for scrap metals (commonly called "Ferrai" its French name) to sell in order to and earn money for different purposes. The trade in scrap metals is attracting these young children,some of whom are going to school, to wander about and traverse the area in search of any thrown metal that they can lay their hands on to sell to ready buyers at a price of D3.00 (Three Dalasi) per kilo. The children are not the only ones in the business of scavenging for scrap metals as other unemployed able bodied young immigrants with wheelbarrows and scales also look for these objects to buy and sell to those involved in exporting them.

A small boy, name withheld, who is no longer going to school, said he started scavenging for scrap metals for almost three years now. He said he was attending Upper Basic School up to Grade 8 but was asked to drop out by the father who said he could no longer afford the cost . He said he is living with his two parents and siblings. He said the father is a tailor but that he is always complaining that customers are not coming to give him work. He said the father has told him that with his meager earnings his main priority is how to get money to pay for house rent and feed the family and not his education. He said because of the endless complaints from his father he has decided to engage in the scavenging for scrap metals to earn something to bring home to assist his parents in the upkeep of the family.

According to him, he normally gets one hundred to one hundred and fifty dalasi a day which, he said, he divides into three parts; one part goes to his father, one to his mother and the other he keeps for himself. He expressed his desire to continue with his education if he is offered a scholarship as the little money he gets from the scrap metal trade is not sufficient to support both his family and education. He also expressed his misgivings in learning a technical skill in the local workshops, claiming that the young apprentices or trainees are always mistreated by the informal adult tutors and workshop owners.

Alieu Ceesay, a young boy and resident of Bundung Jolakunda, said he has never been to a formal school but has gone to a local Quranic school called 'Daara'. He said he did not continue his Quranic education because of the treatment he was subjected to by the 'Oustass' or Quranic teacher who was always beating him. He said when he left the 'Daara' he statted having endless problems with his father who did not approve of his discontinuation of Quranic education and who became angry and had stopped doing things for him. He said it was then that he started scavenging for scrap metals and plastic bottles which have a market. According to him, the price for a kilo of scrap metal is D3.00 (Three Dalasi) and while the bottles cost D2 or D3 depending on their sizes and that the bigger 20 litre gallon can fetch up to D15. He said now his relation with the father has normalized because he supports him (father) with money towards the upkeep of the family and that he always showers praises on him and as well as urges him to continue his Quranic education.

Musa Barry, is an 18-year-old young man who lives in Nemakunku in Kombo North, Western Region. He was found at the Bakoteh Dump-site also scavenging for scrap metals. According to him, he has been engaged in this since last year. He said he was prompted into this activity to earn money in order to support his mother who is a single parent and his four young siblings. As the eldest and only son in their family, Musa said his father who is said to be in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance has abandoned them for the past three years and that the burden of maintaining the family squarely rests on his mum who sells fruits and nuts on the roadside. He said in order to alleviate the burden on his mother he has decided to do something legal to earn money to supplement the family income. He said none of his four sisters are going to school. He said the younger ones are in the 'Daara' to learn the Quran and bigger ones are at home to help in the domestic chores, adding that all of them help their mother in turns to sell fruits on plates.

Musa expressed his wish to see his young sisters going to school but that it is only poverty that is depriving them of the opportunity to acquire education to improve their lot. He said the money he earns from the scrap metal trade would not be sufficient to cater for both the upkeep of the family and the education of her sisters.

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