The activity of “gather and sell,” also known as “galamsey,” is a form of illegal mining that is widely recognized in Ghana as the increasing use of illegal mining methods to recover gold and other mineral resources, and it has had a wide range of consequences for the communities where it is prevalent.
Considering it is against the laws of Ghana to dig on the territory that has been given to mining firms as a franchise under the current Ghanaian legislation, persons who engage in illegal mining disregard the law and continue using those sites for small-scale illegal mining activities.
They either unearth the gold after doing extensive excavations or they refine oxide or sulfide gold ores using liquid mercury.
According to an article by the International Growth Centre by Jones Mantey, out of the 11 districts, Tarkwa Nsuaem (294 sightings and 364 individual galamsey sites), Amenfi East (223 sightings and 1397 individual galamsey sights), and Preastea Huni-Valley Districts (156 sightings and 1130 individual galamsey sights) are the three primary galamsey hotspot districts.
The prevalence of illegal mining has affected not only the environment and health, but also the education of children and youth found in such communities. The majority of young people, including children, engage in galamsey primarily as porters or running errands in order to make ends meet, even though they are exposed to chemical poisoning and a higher incidence of accidents. Because they earn money on a daily basis to meet their basic needs, and in some cases, more, they have developed a negative attitude toward school.
Teenage girls, on the other hand, have either voluntarily dropped out of school or are truant to work as errand girls or porters on galamsey fields, or have been forced to do so by these galamseyers.
Although the government of Ghana has introduced Free and Basic Universal Education (FCUBE) to make education accessible to all and sundry, these children still choose money over knowledge and empowerment.
A report by 3news with the headline, “Alarming! Children opt for galamsey instead of school” shows that the number of children in school is decreasing drastically. At Piminase M/A JHS, only 12 out of 30 Form 3 students were preparing for the BECE.
The report also disclosed that most of the students who were not present could be found in the galamsey fields. It also revealed that the enrollment in the school has declined from 200 to 83 in the space of five years. (Read the entire story here:
Research by an NGO; Good Governance Africa revealed that some young boys also participate in ‘Okada’ business, transporting people around galamsey sites. The research also disclosed that primary school children also peddle basic commodities on galamsey sites.
An assistant headmaster of Bankwaso D/A primary, Alex Boachi indicated that parents play an intensive role in the choice of children choosing galamsey over education “In our community here, parents do not prioritize the education of their children. They always force their children to go to the mining site.
If you look at the register, you’ll realize the attendance of boys in class 4 up to JHS is low. Some come twice a week and use the remaining days for mining activities”. (Story available at reportghana.net/galamsey-over-education-how-some-kids-in-mining-communities-are-abandoning-the-classrom-for-gold/)
In Mensonsa D/A Junior High School in Adansi south, Ashanti Region, out of the 253 candidates registered for the BECE exam, only 248 were reportedly present. The other four allegedly quit school to work with their peers at the galamsey sites. To read more; click here ( http:rawgist.com/2015/06/16/candidates-abandon-bece-for-galamsey-activities/)
“Another report by 3news also captures the health issues that the youth are currently battling as a result of their involvement in galamsey. “The galamsey issue goes beyond the hospital and health.it is very clear to us what the impact we are seeing is. We are seeing a lot of Chronic disease in younger people in communities that they are coming from. We are seeing mercury poisoning and heavy metal infection in their systems.” (Read more here: 3news.com/youth-in-galamsey-ommunities-reporting-of-hronic-diseases-doctor/)
Another issue is the high rate at which farmers are now selling their cocoa farms to be used for galamsey is very appalling. This only means more galamsey sites which will breed a high rate of dropouts and truancy, not forgetting the issue of increased teenage pregnancy.
The youth and children should be educated on the health hazards that galamsey poses to them and also on the importance of prioritizing education. The Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, chiefs, and all other stakeholders should take this as a great reminder and actively be involved in making a change.