500 children in Busia district have abandoned school to work at the Tiira gold fields.
Tom Ekisa, the LC3 chairman of Busitema sub-county where the gold fields are located, says most of the children left school with the consent of their parents to pound stones in the mines. He says the drop outs are highest in the villages of Nakola, Angarama, Aboloyi and Akobwaiti in Tiira parish.
Ekisa says that at Tiira Secondary School, enrollment has almost dropped by half this year. The situation is similar in Tiira, Ajuckeite and Shanyonji primary schools.
The gold mining at Tiira is artisanal gold mining. Most of the people involved are subsistence miners, who often undertake the activity seasonally. They often work as families and are not officially employed by a mining company.
The miners in Tiira sell their gold to Grey Crown Resources, a Canadian mining company that owns the concession of the mine in Busitema.
The Busitema LC3 chairman says children are paid a paltry 800 shillings for a basin of gold stones pounded to powder level by hand. He says the sub-county council intends to make it expensive to engage children in this labor. The council recently passed a bylaw in which parents, whose children are found in the mines, are fined 50,000 shillings on the spot or jailed. The bylaw is yet to be implemented.