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Zimbabwe’s Children have Ditched School to Make a Living

Children as young as 10 used to cool themselves from the sweltering heat in the Odzi River on their way back from school in mineral-rich Marange, a village 90km south of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe. Now, with the public education system collapsing and the pandemic taking a wrecking ball to their parents’ economic opportunities, children are spending whole days at the river, panning for gold or fishing for an evening meal. Nearby, hordes of other children work in deep, filthy pits, digging for gold in an area also known for rich diamond deposits. According to the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), thousands of children have been driven into artisanal – and dangerous – gold mining as families struggle to put food on the table. Since the Covid-19 lockdown, which closed schools, the number of children involved in small-scale gold mining has soared, according to Zela. Every morning dozens of young boys and girls cross the Odzi River, risking their safety, sometimes their young lives, for the yellow precious metal which is mined on the riverbeds and open pits in the surrounding areas.