Jan 13, 2020 News
“Me na wan wuk gold; me wan be gunman, gunman does mek mo money me nah frighten fuh kill.”
Each time I ponder upon my expedition to the mining communities of Guyana, this phrase would surface again and again in my head.
This response of a 10-year-old boy who had never seen a classroom disturbed me greatly after I had asked him about what he would like to become in life.
I was given the opportunity to visit a few of the most popular mines in the hinterland regions of Guyana back in 2018.
The thought of getting a firsthand glimpse of Guyana’s mining industry excited me.
My first stop was at the “Big Creek” Backdam, located between Port Kaituma and Matthew’s Ridge, North West District,
We arrived at noon and immediately booked a room located behind a shop.
Enjoying the adventure, I made my way down to a creek to freshen up, then returned to my room.
Being extremely tired from the long trip, I fell asleep but was awoken a few hours later by the pounding bass of loud soca music.
I ventured to the shop to investigate the party.
As I entered, I was greeted by the sight of drunken men and women dancing to the latest soca hits.
I bought myself a beer and sat at a table to observe the scenery but then my attention turned to the sight of drunken boys who could barely stand.
This scene left me with tons of questions in mind, “Why are these kids in a place like this imbibing alcohol?”
Early next day, I awoke and opened my window. On doing so, I recognised the same boys leaving a nearby cabin. They appeared to be still intoxicated.
I saw one of them wrapping what looked like marijuana in a piece of brown paper.
The youths lit the freshly made ‘spliff’ and shared it among themselves. They laughed and joked and soon disappeared from the area.
Later, as I prepared to check out the dredges with my guide, I enquired about the cabin.
My guide told me that, it is a called a “Kaiamu” a place where prostitutes work. I laughed and then enquired about the boys I saw leaving the cabin that morning.
I was told that they were teenagers who came from poor households and were forced to become miners at a young age.
I soon found out that the boys I had seen were only a fraction of the teenagers in “Big Creek”.
As we toured the mining camps, I saw many others working tirelessly on the dredges; including young girls who were cooks and a few who were prostitutes.
I did not get a chance to interview any of them, but what I saw was enough to convince me that there is a lost generation in “Big Creek.”
After leaving Big Creek, I visited two more mines in Region One, Five Star and Arakaka.
These mines were filled with brothels, rum shops and drugs and of course numerous children who lived a futureless life. Some have never seen a classroom in their lives but were already mothers and fathers.
Being teenaged parents without knowledge or hope of a brighter future, they are forced to raise their children in these violent and drug-filled areas.
My expedition to Region One eventually ended and I headed to Georgetown to prepare for a flight to Eteringbang, Region Seven, Cuyuni Mazaruni known as the “Big Bush” mines.
I had made friends with a young woman who hailed from that area.
She had a strong personality and appeared to be an education activist in her community.
Miss Angelica Sam asked me to pen some letters to the Government of Guyana on her behalf.
She envisioned having a school in the community for some 150 children.
I told her that such an investment in a mining community is a waste of money because they are often left as a “white elephants.”
But she was determined, and bugged me daily to pen these letters for her.
“Why are you so eager to have a school built in a gold producing area?” I asked.
Her response was “I have hope that with a little bit of education, a partially lost generation can find a path to become an adult of value.”
This motivated me not only to pen the letters but to visit these areas to prove that indeed there is a lost generation in Guyana’s mines.
I arrived at Eteringbang for a two week tour and was immediately taken to meet the parents of the 150 children.
My discovery left me dumbfounded. Many of these parents were teenage moms who are still young enough to attend school.
After meeting the parents, I decided to take a night tour of the Eteringbang Landing called “Kaiamu.”
I was dismayed by the sight of boys as young as 12 smoking drugs and drinking alcohol at the various shops.
Later that evening, I sat outside a popular “disco,” watching a group of teenage girls standing at the entrance with beers in their hands.
One of girls caught my attention, she looked extremely young.
I called her to have a chat and I discovered that she was only 13.
Even though she was that young, she was working as a prostitute.
She was reluctant to tell me her correct name and said “call me China.”
I learned next day that she lived some miles down-river.
I was told that she has eight siblings; her parents are alcoholics; her elder brothers are drug addicts and her sisters are teenage moms.
I also met a 14-year-old boy who worked in one of the nearby backdams on a land dredge.
He told me that he had never met his father and that his mom had drowned in the Cuyuni River in an attempt to save her children after their boat had capsized.
His grandfather, Jonas Hunter, said that the young man’s mother had died when he was just a baby and his father, a Barbadian miner, had returned to Barbados.
When I asked the young man about his future plans, he responded “I want to be the best “jet man” so that I can be hired by the Brazilians, because they pay good and I want a girl friend.”
During my stay, I would constantly get the same response from the children of Eteringbang.
Some wanted to be boat captains, “marack men”, dredge owners and “detector man.”
But there was one response that shook me greatly, it was the response of a ten year old lad who seemed to have deformity with his feet.
He dreamed of becoming a gunman and wasn’t afraid to kill people.
Some might say that he is only a child but activist Miss Angelica Sam said that these lost kids are being influenced by what they see around them.
The mines in Guyana have nothing else to offer but violence, drugs and alcohol.
Her plea for a school was finally acknowledged earlier this year and Eteringbang is on course to have its first school this year.
Miss Sam hopes that with the introduction of a school, the lost generation of Eteringbang can be recovered.
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