Uganda: Busia District Leaders Urge Government to Invest in Young People

25 November 2019

Busia district leaders have advocated for mining courses to be incorporated in the school curriculum. Namwamba Wilberforce Ongajo, the principal education officer of Busia said this will be a solution to irresponsible mining practices that are environmentally costly. This was in reference to the use of mercury by my miners during the concentration of gold nuggets.

He made the call during opening remarks of the inter-tertiary debates at Buteba sub-county, Busia district. Six technical and vocational institutions were in attendance.

"Our education system has not done much to prepare young people for the mining sector. Many young people are working in these mines but do not understand the sector. The issue of mercury is a serious one that is affecting our people," he emphasized.

"I call upon ActionAid Uganda to engage at the national level and advocate for mining courses to be incorporated in the national curriculum especially technical institutions," he said. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Busia district is a major source of livelihood for thousands of people in the sub-counties of Mawero, Sikuda and Buteba, with hundreds working under registered mining associations and thousands more benefiting from the value chain.

The use of mercury in processing gold by amalgamation is widespread in the eastern gold mining districts of Busia, Namayingo and Bugiri owing to the alluvial nature of the ore. The National Environment Management Authority estimates that up to 15,000 kilogrammes of mercury are used by ASMs annually.

Wandera Geoffrey, the Chairperson L.C 5 of Busia lent his voice to the same saying it is a conversation the district is seriously having to advocate for. He noted that the theme of the debates is timely especially for the young people at a time when government is prioritizing the sub-sector.

"You are lucky you can debate about such a critical sector unlike the quality of debates we had in our days. We have gold in Busia but have challenges of mercury usage, child labour, and the HIV scourge among others. These are critical issues you need to discuss," he said.

He said the country is endowed with mineral resources but we are not benefiting from them because we do not have much expertise to extract the resources more proficiently.

"Wagagai is here to mine gold and I am happy. They have their challenges but they are here. They plan to invest $53 million and set up a processing plant which is good for us," he noted. Josephine Aguttu, Secretary to Tiira Small Scale Miners Association, gave participants an overview of gold mining in the district. She noted that the trade has made young people vulnerable.

"When these young men get money from gold they go around sleeping with girls. The most happening business in Tiira now are bars where young girls have flocked to work because they attract men. The HIV scourge is real," she said.

Wandera wrapped up the day's event cautioning participants to take advantage of expatriates working here and learn from them. "Foreigners working here is not bad. Instead you should learn from them and transfer that knowledge," he said.

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