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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Congo's child miners start school
Decu (left) and Kaba ready for school.  Photo: Groupe One
Ex-mineworkers Decu (left) and Kaba get ready to go to school. Photo: Groupe One
Children in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have begun attending school this week instead of sifting for minerals in a vast open-cast mine.

Some 250 children in the province of Katanga have been given school places in and around the town of Kigoma.

The project is being run by a Belgian organisation, Groupe One, with funding from the government in Brussels and the UN children's agency, Unicef.

The plight of the children of Katanga was featured in a BBC report this year.

The report, timed to coincide with the World Day Against Child Labour, showed three boys working in Katanga's Ruashi mine, where 800 children worked digging for copper and cobalt.

Eight-year-old twins Decu and Kabu and their friend 15-year-old Cedric told the BBC how they wanted to go to school but their families could not afford the fees.

Cedric told the BBC this week he was now thrilled to be at the Maman Mbuyi school in Kigoma "to become more intelligent and to have the opportunity to improve my life".

Decu said school was much better than working at the mine.

"I already made friends and we play together," he said.

Cut-off date

A total of 250 former child miners aged between eight and 15 began school this week in Ruashi, near Kigoma.

Children dig with shovels or their bare hands
Children in Ruashi mine work long days for very little reward

Fees of $75 (40) per year for primary school pupils and $100 (53) per year for older pupils are being covered by the scheme run by Groupe One.

That money includes the cost of new uniforms, often an extra expense families cannot afford.

The scheme has a budget of $90,000 (48,000), one-third of it provided by Unicef.

Help is also being provided to the children's families to cover the loss of income.

Funding is secure until next year, but the Belgian scheme is due to wind up during 2007.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See the children working in a copper mine



SEE ALSO
DR Congo's child miner shame
12 Jun 06 |  Africa
Global child labour figures fall
04 May 06 |  Special Reports
Child workers refuse to quit jobs
22 Nov 05 |  South Asia

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